SAN FRANCISCO,AP-Andrew Westley had high hopes for his iPod, when he purchased the digital music player in 2001 and loaded more than five hours” worth of music for a cross-country flight. But the music died before the San Francisco attorney reached the East Coast — despite claims by Apple Computer Inc. that a fully charged iPod would play continuously for eight or more hours. Disappointed, Westley called a consumer rights attorney and later became one of eight people who sued the computer maker in 2003 over the iPod”s battery failures.
As part of a tentative settlement announced this week, Apple agreed to give $50 vouchers and extended service warranties to as many as 2 million customers whose older iPods had batteries that needed to be replaced or didn”t fully charge.
"I like Apple”s products. I want to own their products and have confidence they stand buy their products," said Westley, 45, who also owns an iMac and volumes of Apple software. "This settlement helps me have confidence again that if I”m going to sink a bunch of money into their stuff, they”ll do the right thing."
The settlement applies to consumers nationwide who bought versions of the digital music player through May 2004. Last year, Apple changed its iPod and now advertises battery life of up to 12 hours for its 20-gig model.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple confirmed the settlement agreement Thursday but would not comment.
Sales of the iPod have soared since its debut in 2001. With some versions of the device costing $400, the iPod has been a windfall for Apple.
According to the settlement”s terms, people who fill out a claim form are entitled to receive $50 redeemable toward the purchase of any Apple products or services except iTunes downloads or iTunes gift certificates. They can redeem the voucher within 18 months of final settlement approval at any bricks-and-mortar Apple Store or online.
Consumers who had battery troubles can also get their battery or iPod replaced. Apple sells replacement batteries for $99, and it also replaces or repairs defective products that are returned within one year. The class-action settlement, if approved by a judge later this summer, extends the warranty to two years.
Consumers who file a claim must have a receipt.
A judge in California”s Superior Court for San Mateo County initially approved the settlement last month and consumers began receiving notifications by e-mail and letters this week. A judge will hold another hearing Aug. 25 to give final approval.
"We think all the terms of the settlement are going to stick," said Eric H. Gibbs, a partner at San Francisco law firm Girard Gibbs & De Bartolomeo LLP, which represented several plaintiffs.
It”s unclear how many consumers will file claims. Plaintiffs” attorneys did virtually no advertising when they filed the suit, but details spread to Internet sites and blogs.
Within a year, lawyers had received e-mails and calls from more than 12,000 angry iPod owners.
Consumers will be notified of the tentative settlement in three ways: by e-mail, by letters, and through advertisements in USA Today and Parade Magazine in the next month.