Nano Users Sue Apple Over Scratched iPod Screens

Lawsuit alleges that thinner iPod model has a design flaw.

Even as the iPod Nano flies off shelves, consumer complaints over Apple's wafer-thin music player continue to mount. Weeks after some Nano users griped about cracked or defective screens, a group of disgruntled buyers has filed a lawsuit against Apple Computer Inc. over claims that the device's screen can "scratch excessively during normal usage," rendering it unreadable.

According to a Reuters report, the suit alleges that Apple pushed ahead with the Nano's release on September 6 despite evidence that it was defective. Filed in San Jose, California, the lawsuit is seeking class-action status based on claims that one of the Nano's problems is the thin film of plastic resin that covers the screen. The suit contends that previous iPod versions were coated with a stronger, thicker resin that was more scratch resistant.

"Rather than admit the design flaw when consumers began to express widespread complaints ... Apple concealed the defect and advised class members that they would need to purchase additional equipment to prevent the screen from scratching excessively," according to the complaint.

Shortly after the Nano's hyped release, complaints began to mount that the screens on the device were easily cracked (see "Apple Responds To Complaints Of Big Problem With Tiny iPod"). Apple blamed the defect on a particular batch from a specific vendor that, according to the company, affected less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the Nanos that had been sold at that point. At the time, a disgruntled user launched the site as a means of complaining about the screens, which led to Apple's admission to the manufacturing problem and an offer to replace the defective devices. But the company said the Nano's screen was no more susceptible to scratching that previous versions and recommended users buy protective cases.

"A few vocal customers are saying that their iPod Nano is more susceptible to scratching than prior iPods. We have received very few calls from customers reporting this problem, and do not believe this is a widespread issue," the company said at the time.

A spokesperson for Apple could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit at press time.

The plaintiff named in the suit, Jason Tomczak, bought his Nano in September. He said the screen quickly became so scratched that he could not view it. He claims in the suit that the screen was so easily scratched that even rubbing a paper towel across it left significant marks. The suit also claims that putting the Nano in your pocket with items such as car keys, coins, a credit card or the device's headphones can render the screen hard to read. Apple has reportedly sold more than 1 million Nanos since the device's introduction.

Apple replaced Tomczak's Nano because of a battery issue, but the replacement also became so scratched that Tomczak reportedly decided to return it as well. Because Tomczak and other complainants had to a pay a $25 fee to return their Nanos, the proposed class-action suit requests the return of those fees along with the original cost of the device and a share of Apple's "unlawful or illegal" profits from the sales of iPods. The firm handling the case claims that Apple deleted postings on its Web site related to the scratching problem.

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