Judge pulls plug on class action vs Best Buy over Geek Squad TV repair plans

By Scott Holland | Feb 5, 2019

A federal judge has dismissed a beleaguered class action complaint accusing Best Buy of misrepresenting its Geek Squad product protection plans.

Tawanna and Anthony Ware bought a Samsung television from a Best Buy store in Chicago on June 8, 2013, along with an additional five-year service package. The couple claimed the TV began experiencing trouble soon after, and couldn’t be repaired, despite contacting Best Buy, the Geek Squad and Samsung-authorized repair facilities.

In a single-count lawsuit, filed on behalf of themselves and “all others similarly situated,” the Wares claimed a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, alleging the service package violates the law by not identifying itself as a full or limited warranty and by not allowing them to choose their own remedy.

They originally filed their claim in Florida, though Best Buy is not headquartered there and the purchase was made in Chicago. After multiple amended complaints, the Florida court dismissed the claim for lack of jurisdiction. That led to filing a similar suit in Illinois. In May, Best Buy’s attorney Martin G. Durkin of Holland & Knight LLP, moved to have the complaint dismissed. In an opinion issued Jan. 31, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman granted that request.

Best Buy said the MMWA doesn’t apply to Geek Squad Protection Plans because it is not a warranty, but a service contract.

“The Magnuson Moss Act’s interpreting regulations further clarify that a written warranty ‘must be conveyed at the time of sale of the consumer product and the consumer must not give any consideration beyond the purchase price of the consumer product in order to benefit from the agreement,’” Coleman wrote. “A service contract, by contrast, ‘calls for some consideration in addition to the purchase price of the consumer product’ or ‘is entered into at some date after the purchase of the consumer product to which it applies.’”

The Wares’ complaint said they paid $3,119 for the TV and opted to purchase the Geek Squad plan for an extra $519. Although they bought the protection plan at the same time in order to get a discount, Coleman explained, “it is undisputed that they paid for it separately and had the option not to pay for it.” Geek Squad protection is a separate purchase item on Best Buy websites and was listed individually on the Wares’ receipt, “further establishing that it was not part of the same bargain as the television purchase.”

While Coleman said it “might well be the case” that store employees “repeatedly characterized the Geek Squad Protection Plan as a warranty,” as the Wares alleged, she said that characterization is irrelevant to determining the MMWA’s statutory definition of a warranty. She further pointed out the Wares “offered no authority establishing that ‘bundled’ purchases are part of the same bargain for purposes of the Magnuson Moss Act or its interpreting regulations.”

Coleman also looked at the scope of Geek Squad plans and said since they include not just materials and workmanship, but also “failures caused by wear and tear, dust and other environmental conditions, power fluctuations or failed pixels,” such plans are “best characterized as requiring the performance of maintenance and repair services rather than guaranteeing the material and workmanship of the Wares’ television.”

Since the lawsuit only alleged violation of warranty terms, and Coleman determined no warranty existed, she dismissed the claim.

The Wares have been represented by attorneys Thomas C. Cronin, of Cronin & Co. Ltd., of Chicago, and Paul S. Rothstein, of Gainesville, Fla.

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Organizations in this Story

Best Buy Company Incorporated Cronin and Co. LTD Holland & Knight Samsung Electronics U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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