Controversy seems to be eternally tied to Apple, its products, and its late founder Steve Jobs. Whether it’s the cult-like following Apple has, the brash manner in which Mr. Jobs carried himself, or the success of the company’s wildly popular iPods, iPhones, and iPads, there are always people taking shots at the company. I have also been one to remark negatively against the high prices for items such as the iMac or MacBook line relative to the PC alternatives. But, even I have come to the realization that certain things just cannot be ignored, such as the complete and utter dominance of the iPad compared to any number of the Android alternatives in the tablet universe. All of this beings us to the most current controversy: the class action lawsuit against Apple concerning the operation of its Siri companion on the iPhone 4 line of smartphones.
The lawsuit basically revolves around the fact that a New York man is frustrated with the fact that Siri cannot understand his accent, or takes “unacceptable” time in determining the answers he is looking for, which tend to be the ones. He points to the smooth and seemingly flawless image of the feature the advertisements for the iPhone 4 present.
To that point I say get over yourself buddy (and everyone else who hopes to benefit financially from the potential class-action suit). Everyone knows that advertisements take advantage of consumers by appealing to their sense of aesthetics and their fandom for celebrities. For decades marketers have made their advertisements in such ways to show the products featured in the best possible way. Car ads tell you the absolute best fuel economy possible even though the results will most likely be much lower. Restaurant ads often times don’t even use real food in order to make the products look “perfect”. Actors are always airbrushed and touched up in print ads to remove all noticeable blemishes. Camera, smartphone and tablet ads use simulated images to illustrate the capabilities of those products.
It’s common practice, and only someone who has lived in a cave for most of their life would think that these ads represent what they will get in real life experiences. In fact, most of the ads come with disclaimers stating this fact, regardless of how minuscule those facts may be shown.
I would also ask this guy, and everyone else who jumps on the bandwagon two simple questions:
- If you have 30 days to return the product, why would you not do so when you find the product not living up to your expectations? and
- What if your employer finds that you do not live up to their expectations of your work, could they sue you?
These are two valid questions. The first revolves around the consumers own indifference to the operation of the Siri feature. Particularly with Apple products, people who buy them get right down to business and start using them right away. If you mean to tell me that someone held the item sealed, allowing the return period to pass, I’d have a hard time believing that. Or, that if after using the product for more than a few times that people didn’t realize it didn’t work to their expected level of proficiency they continue using it rather than exchange it, I would scoff at them. When you have a full month to essentially test a product in-home risk-free, there is no reasonable excuse for not figuring out that an important feature doesn’t work as well as you would like. And if it wasn’t important enough to return it then why is it so important to cause you to sue over it?
The second question is a bit more abstract but quite poignant. The premise of this lawsuit is the “misrepresentation” of the performance of the Siri feature. When people are hired for a job, they are doing the exact same thing–selling themselves based on certain features and abilities. If anyone in the proposed class was to fall short of their advertised abilities, it would be the same as Siri not performing as advertised. Would it be ethical or even right for their employers to take them to court for “misrepresenting” themselves in the same manner?
Is this a lawsuit based on realistic expectations of the way a product should operate or is it a way of extorting a settlement from one of the largest US companies? People, especially money-hungry lawyers (and we all think many of these types of lawyers are unethical to a degree) know that large corporations would rather reach a quick, out-of-court settlement than face a long, drawn-out attention-grabbing court case. This is especially true in this age of sensationalized and immediate media coverage.
If this is a lawsuit that is truly based on the observations and expectations solely gained from viewing a television commercial, then it’s a complete joke. This is especially true if you consider all of the other examples of similar marketing tactics seen on a daily basis that this man and every single litigation attorney on the planet have allowed to exist without a peep.
What are your thoughts on the issue? Is showing the optimal performance of a product in a n advertisement unethical? Is that a good reason to sue the manufacturer when the product doesn’t perform to that standard in real-world applications?
This article was featured in Carnival of Personal Finance #364 – The Art of PF Blogging Edition