Microsoft and Best Buy, made for each other:
The Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal by Microsoft Corp. and a unit of Best Buy Co. Inc. to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of racketeering laws through fraudulently signing up customers for Microsoft’s online service.
The companies asked the justices to overturn a May ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the civil suit could proceed. The Supreme Court is letting that ruling stand, which means the class-action lawsuit involving thousands of consumers with complaints against the companies will be litigated in federal district court.
Originally filed by one consumer in northern California, the lawsuit claims the companies’ joint venture violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which is usually used in organized crime cases. Successful RICO claims provide for triple damage awards in civil cases.
In a friend-of-the-court filing on behalf of the companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the filing of civil cases invoking RICO is out of control and urged the Supreme Court to hear the case as a way to determine whether the use RICO should be reined in.
Under the joint venture, Microsoft invested $200 million in Best Buy in April 2000, and agreed to promote the company’s online store through its Internet access service, MSN. In turn, Best Buy agreed to promote MSN in its stores.
The dispute began in 2003, when James Odom sued the companies after purchasing a laptop computer at a Best Buy store. Odom alleged that Best Buy included a software CD with his purchase that provided a six-month free trial to MSN.
Best Buy allegedly signed Odom up an MSN account with the credit card Odom used to pay for the computer. After a six-month free trial ended, Microsoft began charging him for the account, the suit charged.
Some years ago, I went to Best Buy to buy a washing machine.
In a few minutes, I’d picked out the machine I wanted.
Forty-five minutes later, I left the store, having not been waited on.
The next night, I came back. I told the Appliance Person, “I have 30 minutes. Then I’m gone.”
At 29 1/2 minutes, he deigned to devote to me the two minutes it took to place the order.
Three days later, the washing machine arrived.
I picked it up and took it home. And then discovered a dent.
I took it back. Customer Service was great. They sent someone out to help me bring it in from the van and processed the return. Then the returns guy asked, “Would you like a check or would you like to re-order.”
I said, “I’d like to reorder.”
He said, “Then you’ll have to talk to him,” pointing to the Appliance Guy.
I asked, “You mean you can’t process the order from here?”
“No,” he said.
“Give me a check,” said I.
Then I remembered that just 1/2 mile up the road was a Lowes. I drove up there and, 20 minutes later, drove away with the identical model of washer in the back of the van.
For $20 less.
Since then, I’ve never gone into a Best Buy when a CompUSA was available and never bought anything at Best Buy that I can’t carry out of the store in my hands.