L.A. Geeks Sue Google Over Bad Android Apps | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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L.A. Geeks Sue Google Over Bad Android Apps

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Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 2:28 PM

click to enlarge MASSIMO VALIANI
  • Massimo Valiani
If it weren't for geeks keeping tech companies honest we'd still be using Windows 95 and paying AOL for dial-up.

Two L.A. men, Dodd Harris and Stephen Sabatino, are seeking class-action status for a suit against Google. Their issue?

The duo claims that some Google Android phone apps don't work, and that the tech giant will do little to give you your money back after you've purchased such programs.

The suit, filed this week in L.A. County Superior Court, claims breach of an "implied" warranty fraudulent business practices.

What happened?

Harris bought and downloaded an Android "Play Store" app called "Learn Chinese Mandarin Pro." It cost $4.83. And it didn't work, he claims.

Problem is, Google only gives you 15 minutes to try out an app and get a refund if you don't like it.

The duo's attorney, Jeffrey K. Berns, tells the Weekly that Harris was talking on the phone for "5 or 10" minutes after downloading the app before he started playing around with it.

Twenty minutes had passed. He went to return it and it was too late. I'm not sure they [Google folks] do anything about it when informed the apps don't work, either.

Berns paints the picture of a sort of crowd-sourced system of app development at Google, where the programs aren't, allegedly, vetted (a developer just needs $25 up front; Google takes 30 percent).

Perhaps that's a way for the Play Store to catch up with Apple's iPhone and iPad App Store, which has nearly 600,000 programs -- all vetted and approved by Apple -- available. Google says it has 450,000 apps and counting.

Sabatino says he bought a bit torrent app called "aBTC" for $4.99 but found out it didn't work for him. He says he tried to get a refund within the 15-minute window but was denied.

One other aspect of the suit: It claims that Google doesn't check apps for viruses and malware.

The claim makes it sound like Google's app store is the Wild West.

Berns says that even if Google's fine print tells folks they have 15 minutes to get a refund, "It's just not reasonable:"

Most people will just say, 'I'm out the cash' -- but it adds up. We're asking for them to return people's money.

The lawsuit is seeking class action status, which means that if you think you've been burned by Google's Android app store you can join in. Contact the Berns Weiss law firm via this webpage or call 818-961-2000.

After being contacted by the Weekly a Google spokeswoman had only this to say:

We haven't actually been served with a complaint as yet, so we're unable to comment at this time.

Is this a true-life case of Revenge of The Nerds?

Of course, there is one simple way to prevent this in the future: Go iPhone.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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