Being a consumer-focused site, we often report about lawsuits filed against wireless carriers on behalf of customers. A few of the large carriers have had to respond to class action suits over early termination fees (ETFs), passing business taxes on to customers, and even reduced quality of service after a merger. Many times, it appears wireless carriers are unfairly charging consumers for one thing or another, or engaging in some form of bait and switch, and in those cases, lawsuits are perfectly justified. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes consumers must band together to prevent large companies from taking advantage of them. And then sometimes, consumers are just out of line and cause trouble not just for wireless carriers, but for their fellow consumers. In the last two weeks, three lawsuits have been filed against AT&T and Apple over the lack of multimedia messaging (MMS) on the iPhone. The lawsuits were filed in Louisiana, Illinois (which the plaintiffs are attempting to have classified as a class action suit), and most recently Ohio, by customers claiming that the two companies have misled the public about the availability of MMS on the iPhone. The suits claim both companies have been aggressively advertising MMS using TV, radio, newspapers, and the Internet despite the fact that MMS is actually not yet available on either the iPhone 3G or the iPhone 3GS. The most recent lawsuit says that the companies told consumers MMS would be available on June 17 when operating system 3.0 was released. This is just baffling. When iPhone OS 3.0 was announced on June 8 at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, both Apple and AT&T stated that MMS would be available “later this summer.” At no time since then has either company publicly announced a release date for MMS capability. Yes, we’re at the end of August and still have no word on MMS, but technically, summer doesn’t end until September 22, so the companies still have a little time to make good on that promise they made June 8. Aside from the sketchy information and claims of alleged infractions, these lawsuits are disturbing for a different, bigger reason. To be blunt, they’re just ludicrous. iPhones in other countries support MMS because they’re serviced by carriers other than AT&T. Is the lack of MMS on the iPhone in the United States frustrating, and also a little ridiculous considering how much time AT&T has had to prepare their network for the increased capability? Absolutely. Does it warrant some complaint? Sure, not that it will change anything or get you anywhere. As long as AT&T is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the U.S., iPhone users will be at the company’s mercy and will either just have to wait for them to get it together, or give up their iPhones and switch to another carrier. But does the lack of MMS on the iPhone warrant a lawsuit, let alone three? No. Absolutely not. Save the litigation for when the carriers are unfairly charging customers, or taking advantage of people who are less able to afford their cell phone bills, much less a lawyer. To use the courts as a forum to whine about AT&T’s lack of service, or their inability to keep up with the rest of the world is a gross misuse of the legal system. Overall, it’s just plain selfish. It’s akin to those who shoplift things they can well afford just because they can get away with it, thereby causing prices to increase for the rest of us. The people filing these lawsuits are not fighting for the greater good. Their lawsuits are nothing more than petulant foot stamping at not getting something they want, and an attempt to line their pockets while they complain. The plaintiffs are doing nothing more than causing both companies to have to spend money needlessly, which, in turn, can and probably will raise prices on the goods and services they offer. Specifically in AT&T’s case, it’s money that could be spent getting their network up to snuff to be able to offer MMS. Anyone who has a such a minor complaint about AT&T—or any other carrier, for that matter—has the best tool at their disposal to make their displeasure known: the freedom to take their business elsewhere.
Consumers suing AT&T, Apple over lack of MMS
Previous post: BBGeekcast: August 28, 2009 – Episode 79