Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Bogus Laptop Battery Length Claims

from the it-lasts-how-long? dept

Has anyone ever actually bought a laptop where the battery length claims were anything close to what you actually got? I know I haven't. I tend to read online reviews from various testers to get a better sense of how long a battery can really last, but apparently some are so annoyed by the bogus claims from PC makers that they've filed a class action lawsuit. I'm all for things that would encourage computer makers to be more honest, though these sorts of class action lawsuits always seem a little silly. Are people really significantly "harmed" if the battery life doesn't live up to expectations? These cases usually seem more like opportunities for a few lawyers to get a bunch of money out of companies. The real issue should be that the FTC should have investigated the false claims from laptop makers.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    ArcticChill (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    Expectations

    I would tend to agree to some of what consumers are concerned about. The manufacturers test their machines without all the extra software running that most users have installed. So, the reported battery life is accurate when running just Windows.

    Consider battery runtime is reduced by approx. 45mins by just running an AV software suite.

     

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    Craig Froehle (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    I have...Panasonic Toughbooks

    Every Panasonic Toughbook I or others I know have bought has had battery life almost exactly what is advertised. My ca. 2004 CF-W2 was advertised as having a 6-hour battery and, with WiFi turned off, the HDD inactive, and the screen brightness turned down, I could make it a little more than 6 hours. Maybe that's why I'm almost always disappointed when using another brand of notebook.

     

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    jsl4980 (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Need more disclosure

    The companies should adopt some EPA type ratings - like the city and highway ratings for cars. You can have a "highway" or low usage battery rating where wireless radios are off, and real low system usage. And a "city" or high usage battery rating using wireless, watching videos, or playing games.

    The Lenovo, Dell, and eeePC I've purchased have lived up to their battery promises, but only under light usage.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    It all depends on the tests.

    It all depends on the tests.

    I remember a class room that tested the number chocolate chips in a cookie and found their count was always lower than the packaging indicated. The company quickly responded and had cookie techs come to the school and really go over how they do the testing. The school got lots of cookies and very good science lesson on testing methodologies.

    Although I am sure they tested my old laptop by the time it took to die when you loaded to the BIOS screen (no hard drive or CD drive installed).

     

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    David (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Need more disclosure

    I like that idea. It is one of the most reasonable I have heard. Craig's point that he gets that advertised life if he turns everything off, is also a good point. Why should we not get the advertised use, under normal use conditions?

     

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  6.  
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    BullJustin (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Truth in Advertising

    How about "Optimal" for nothing working but the screen at lowest setting, "Factory" or "Pristine" for everything operating that is installed on it from the manufacturer (including radios and crapware), and "Expected" for everything running as a normal user would have it configured - radios on, screen bright enough to use, and HDD accessible.

    Computer and component manufacturers have stretched the truth as far as they can every time they can. It took a class action suit to make monitor manufacturers tell the truth about their usable size (called viewable area).

    I'm glad people hold manufacturers' feet to the fire when they use misleading advertising and labeling. It doesn't stop them from using other deceptive practices but at least it might stop this one.

     

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  7.  
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    ArcticChill (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: Need more disclosure

    But who sets the standard for "normal" use? Don't get me wrong, I like the idea. If at the minimum they stated battery life based on simple things like "Watch 2 dvd's back to back and you gotta plugg'r in again".

    Since consumers are becoming lazier and lazier by nature it's no wonder they sue for their own lack of research.

     

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  8.  
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    Gill Bates, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    Sue away

    What's the alternative - allow deceit and public lying to go unchallenged?

     

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  9.  
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    Urza, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    I sometimes get more...

    I actually get more than the rated battery life on my Dell Vostro 1000. I don't do anything too crazy to save battery life though...I mean, I keep my screen at the lowest brightness, but I do that with my desktop and my iPod and everything else too. I just don't like bright screens. Also helps that I run Linux - Vista does have a somewhat lower battery life.

    I believe it's rated at 4 hours. On long flights I've managed to squeeze 6 out of it, though that's with no WiFi, the CPU speed killed, and running nearly everything off of flash memory. But even under normal circumstances I usually don't get below 5 unless I'm gaming or something. Hell, I can get more than 3 hours out of it while playing World of Warcraft.

     

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    Jake W, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

    Yes, harm may have been done.

    What if I'm new to purchasing a laptop and I take the manufactuer's reported battery life at face value? If I need to make a judgment call to choose between battery life and some other feature, I have no real basis for comparison with the grossly inflated battery times. Suppose that I'm routinely on 4-6 hour airplane rides. In these cases, a 3 hour battery is practically the same as a 1 hour battery life (i.e. not long enough for the whole flight). I may choose to sacrifice processing power, screen visibility, etc., thinking I can at least use the computer during my long airplane trips. If it turns out that I'm going to spend half the trip with no laptop at all, I might just choose to get a laptop with a better "overall" feature profile, instead of sacrificing for longer battery life. I am normally against unnecessary lawsuits, but if the laptop manufacturer isn't going to refund the money I spent on their bogus claims, a lawsuit is my only recourse to get those funds back to buy a computer that I can really be happy with.

     

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  11.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Expectations

    Agree.

    But also, they rate their battery life with every power setting set to the minimum. So the screen goes blank after 10 seconds, the screen runs dim, the processor runs at slowest speed, and all the port shut down when not in use, the computer goes to sleep mode in 5 minutes, and the hard drive spins down, etc.

    My converstations with Intel engineers told me that the screen is the #1 power draw. Shut that down for most of the "Battery test" and you'll get much better results.

    So, no surprise that they test these things in the most favorable way.

    But what bothers me is that - to seem honest - they actually ship you this stuff configured the way they tested it, NOT the way most customers would prefer it. Have you ever bought a mobile phone, and while you're playing with your new phone, the screen goes dark every 10 seconds? First thing you have to configure is a reasonable backlight setting.

    And for laptops, make sure you adjust the processor speed when on battery power. The default is a low-power processor speed, which is not the reason we buy powerful PCs!

     

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  12.  
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    Matt Bennett, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    I tend to agree that the FTC investigating sooner would have been preferable. However, lacking that, I think class-action suits challenging all sorts of "up to" claims are great. In some cases you can't really guarantee a minimum rate, for instance, broadband speeds, but some standard of "reasonableness" needs to be applied. It's bullshit, and it's gone on too long.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:11pm

    consumers do not have to be "harmed" in any way for them to file a lawsuit against producers that falsely advertise the effectiveness of their products. there may be statutory prohibitions against false advertising, or common law actions such as fraud. consumers may also seek punitive damages if they can prove malice, fraud, or oppression, in an effort to deter pc producers or other product manufacturers from making false claims. the point here is not whether consumers were actually harmed. they don't need to be. the producer's actions can be harmful and against public policy.

    again, mike masnick feels the need to spew forth bs from his mouth about the law, or the intentions of lawyers. he has no legal background, and entirely learned anything he thinks he might know about the law from wikipedia. masnick, you are a courtroom jester, and your opinions ring hallow.

     

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  14.  
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    Urza, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: Expectations

    "But what bothers me is that - to seem honest - they actually ship you this stuff configured the way they tested it, NOT the way most customers would prefer it. Have you ever bought a mobile phone, and while you're playing with your new phone, the screen goes dark every 10 seconds? First thing you have to configure is a reasonable backlight setting.

    And for laptops, make sure you adjust the processor speed when on battery power. The default is a low-power processor speed, which is not the reason we buy powerful PCs!"

    I dunno...the default settings aren't scaled back _enough_ for me. First thing I did was lower the screen brightness all the way (and wish it went lower) and change the energy saving setting from scaling both cores to 800MHz to scaling one core to 600MHz and shutting the other down entirely.

    If you're the kind of person that wakes up half the passengers on a plane/train/bus with your ultra-bright laptop screen while playing WoW on your cell network card, then yea, you're gonna have poor battery life. Duh. But I've found that the manufacturers tend to do a pretty good job at estimating battery life with reasonable usage. People just aren't reasonable. They want it at full brightness even if they're in a pitch-black room.

    Oh, and if you want power, don't buy a laptop! No matter what you get, it's primary purpose is to be _portable_, not _powerful_. I did not buy a powerful laptop because I always need that much power. It's nice sometimes, but usually I would be fine with this old 667MHz Celeron box I've got sitting here. Most of the time I'm not plugged in I'm either reading websites or writing websites. If it can run notepad and firefox, I'm good. I bought my laptop because it was portable. That's _the only_ reason I have a laptop.

     

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  15.  
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    Douglas Karr, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    Harmed financially - yes!

    What if you could have paid less for another laptop that supplied more battery time and it was accurately reported?

     

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  16.  
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    Class advocate, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:34pm

    Class action re computer manufactures

    I aggregate pending class action lawsuits. I will add this one today. In the meantime, here is a link to 14 class actions against computer manufacturers.
    http://www.classadvocate.com/?direct=y&category=product&product_level1%5B%5D =1353%3A1933

     

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  17.  
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    Brian (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 3:12pm

    Re: Sue away

    Bingo.

    This is holding a company to its advertised claim. Hopefully car MPG ratings are next.

     

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  18.  
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    Jane Doe, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    I'm expecting a check for $15 or so from Apple, the largesse of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of aggrieved plaintiffs who suffered the horror of having their IPOD Nano screens get scratched. If the check ever shows up, I'll donate the money to charity. I never understood why a bunch of windbag lawyers could proclaim me part of a class of damaged individuals.

     

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  19.  
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    CleverName, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 6:33pm

    decimal vs binary

    You remember the law suits about disk drive size ?

     

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  20.  
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    Azrael (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 1:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Expectations

    Actually 90% of all that are now using a pc would be perfectly satisfied with your Celeron.

     

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  21.  
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    brent (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 7:34am

    hey there are standards. on the battery it should tell the mAh (milliamp hours). batteries at the beginning of their lives usually hold true to this rating and for the most part are sometimes even better. Now what someone needs to do is set the computer to the lowest power settings, hook up a power supply to the terminals with an ammeter and measure the current draw and do the calculations to see if it will really last that long. Now once this ammeter is connected you could also play with power settings to get the current draw to it's lowest and then see how much you extend the battery life.

     

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  22.  
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    hegemon13, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: Sue away

    Actually, the car manufacturers would likely be immune. The rating given is the EPA rating, which must be certified by the EPA.

    In addition, fuel economy ratings are generally much closer to reality than laptop battery times. They're off by maybe 10%, where laptop battery claims may be off by 50%. The standard batter for my Dell is rated for 2.5 hrs. It lasted about 70 minutes when the battery was new and I was doing nothing but word processing.

    As for EPA ratings, I have pretty conservative driving habits (brake and accelerate gradually, don't speed, shift early to avoid revving up to high RPMs, etc), and I almost always exceed the EPA rating for my vehicle. Now, it may be partly because I drive a 5-speed. Every automatic I have owned has performed at about 10% short of the EPA rating. Still, actual fuel economy depends a LOT on driving habits.

     

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  23.  
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    Grae (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 9:19am

    ... but apparently some are so annoyed by the bogus claims from PC makers that they've filed a class action lawsuit. ...
    This is a little misleading. From the article:
    ... Girard Gibbs, a law firm that specializes in securities litigation and consumer class actions, is looking for possible plaintiffs related to the issue and is offering a “free consultation.” ...
    This is what class action lawsuits are these days: a law firm sees an opportunity to cash in and gets people to sign up. Several years ago my wife got a letter from a law firm regarding a class action lawsuit where the company being sued had lost. One plaintiff got $7,000, the rest of the members of the class got a 30 days free service from the company, and the lawyers that brought the suit to the company got $4,000,000.

    While I'm not saying that people aren't annoyed that they aren't getting what's advertised, this is definitely not something that's being initiated by the consumers.

     

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  24.  
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    Gregory Alan Baker, Feb 5th, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Someone send me info on the suit as I wanna join it. Mine lasted 2 months period and my new adaptors broke in less than 4 months shorting out and stuff. They are garbage-together I spent $100.00 bucks and could sure use it now. By the way-I am presently being sued by 2 advertising firms for phone book ads I cancelled before they went to print-I'm tired of eating shit !!!

     

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  25.  
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    Eworld (profile), Nov 29th, 2010 @ 5:52pm

    laptop battery

    There are two ratings on every battery: volts and milliamp-hour (mAh). The voltage of the new battery should always match the voltage of your original. Some of our batteries will have higher amp-hour ratings than the original battery found in your device. (for example: LG LW20-EV3MK Laptop Battery), This is indicative of a longer run-time (higher capacity) and will not cause any incompatibilities. Remember: in some cases, the voltage will differ from the original battery. This often happens when both a Li-Ion battery and a Ni-Mh battery are available for the laptop.

     

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