Have you ever been involved in a class action lawsuit? Many of us have and often involuntarily. From deceptive advertising claims by the shoe company Sketchers, to the famous case of Airborne that claimed to give you immunity from colds, to the additive Olestra used in potato chips to make them zero fat – but which also caused incredible stomach cramping, class actions are useful to get companies to change deceptive or dangerous practices. Some however, are frivolous and benefit the lawyers that bring the case rather than the people who have been harmed or cheated.
My Google newsfeed sent me a story about a class action lawsuit for the PlayStation 3 – a gaming console produced by Sony. Ethan bought one a few years back from a store that sells used devices. We use it for video games, DVDs, Netflix and YouTube.
When the PlayStation 3 (PS3) came out, the U.S. Air Force took 1,700 of them, linked them together, and used them as a server for demonstration purposes in place of their air traffic control. According to the suit, the PS3 was advertised as being like a computer. Some units came with an OS port; the next wave did not. The suit alleges Sony misled consumers by removing the OS port and not telling anyone the units were no longer like the ones the Air Force linked. The law firm was paid 400k. Consumers can each receive a check for $65.
I was intrigued. This seemed like an easy $65 check for Ethan. But, as they say, the devil was in the details. The three pages of paperwork say I have to agree to a number of things. First, the PS3 must have been purchased through an “authorized retailer.” While our store was an authorized retailer, we bought it used. I did not like the implications of saying we bought it from an authorized dealer. It seemed like a lie. Second you had to say you saw advertisements claiming the PS3 is a computer. I don’t remember seeing such advertising. Third, you had to want the OS port. That was not true for us. Fourth, you must state that if you knew before hand it didn’t have an OS port, you wouldn’t have purchased it. Again, not true for us. The ethical dilemma? The only point for which we qualify is that Ethan’s PS3 doesn’t have the OS port.
Here are the facts. The law firm received a whole bunch of money and is having a hard time finding claimants. The expiration date is April 15. Sony is a huge company. They messed up by removing the port and not telling consumers that they did. $65 is a nice windfall for a 15-year-old. So what’s the big deal.
Here’s the problem. By applying for the money, we would have to enter misleading, if not false, information on the claim form. And, Ethan’s dad during Lent is buying nothing new. Can I rationalize that I get to reap the benefits of an advertising mishap? Alas, that’s not the deal. Would anyone know? No. Would Sony really care? Probably not. But someday I will be face to face with God who sees a lot more than Sony. God will know that I took an ethical, albeit small, side step to win a $65 judgment.
Jesus asks us, “What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul in the process.” If this money was needed to pay our mortgage, or put food on the table, it might be a different story. But we’ve been blessed. I don’t need to trade a small part of my soul to get the check from Sony. They can keep their money and I can keep myself unstained in this small way from the world. Sounds like a good trade to me.
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