A federal judge in Chicago has pressed enter on a class action against a Canadian maker of a computer diagnostics and cleanup program plaintiffs say didn’t do much of what the company said.
In an opinion issued Oct. 19, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood granted plaintiff Archie Beaton’s motion to certify a class for his complaint against SpeedyPC Software, maker of the SpeedyPC Pro software, which the company claims “diagnoses and repairs various computer errors, optimizes computer performance and protects computers from malware.”
Beaton said he first encountered SpeedyPC in August 2012 when looking to repair and optimize his computer. After seeing an ad and visiting the company’s website, he said he installed the trial software, which said it detected “hundreds of serious errors” and urged him to purchase the full software to fix he problems. He paid to register and activate the software to fix the errors, but said every subsequent time he ran the software it reported harmful errors that had to be fixed, none of which improved the machine’s performance.
According to Beaton’s complaint, his attorneys, Edelson, P.C., of Chicago, hired an expert to analyze SpeedyPC Pro. The expert reported the software was designed to report a low performance without actually diagnosing or scanning the hard drive.
Beaton proposed a class including anyone who installed the free trial and then purchased the full SpeedyPC Pro between Oct. 28, 2011, and Nov. 21, 2014, as well as a subclass for those living in Illinois, California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, New Jersey, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
Wood took issue with Beaton’s subclass proposals because, aside from the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, his complaint does not identify which of those states’ consumer protection laws the company allegedly violated. She therefore restricted his subclass motion to only Illinois residents. SpeedyPC still argued Beaton’s class definitions were vague, but Wood said Beaton’s revisions are appropriate, useful and “in the interests of judicial economy.”
Company records indicate more than 574,000 people downloaded the trial version before buying the full software, with more than 19,000 in Illinois. Wood said there are several questions of law common to both the class and subclass, including those brought under the British Columbia Sale of Goods Act, such as warranty coverage and whether the software was marketed improperly and if customers were harmed.
SpeedyPC also attacked Beaton’s credibility, citing Beaton’s felony conviction; stating his business, Chlorine Free Products Association, purchased the software; that he doesn’t represent class members who were satisfied with the product; and that he spoiled evidence. It also accused the Edelson firm of committing sanctionable conduct and incompetence.
Wood disagreed with the company, noting Beaton’s conviction was more than 30 years ago and in no way related to computer software. She also said SpeedyPC’s questions about the consistency of Beaton’s testimony were unpersuasive and either clarified through produced documents or the result of “an uncharitable reading of Beaton’s deposition testimony.”
She further scuttled arguments about the business having standing for the claim instead of Beaton because Beaton owns the business, bought the software under his own name and indicated it was for personal use. She also said customers who say they are satisfied with SpeedyPC might still have a claim and asserted Beaton is willing to represent anyone who purchased the software.
Finally, Wood said SpeedyPC’s concerns about Edleson are not disqualifying, writing she “has not seen anything indicating Edelson lacks the competence to adequately litigate this case.”
SpeedyPC is represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Tressler LLP, of Chicago.