Fujitsu class action stymied

Fujitsu class action stymied

A class action suit launched on behalf of resellers against Fujitsu for its supply of alleged faulty hard drives is floundering because of insufficient funding.

The case solicitor from Levitt Robinson Solicitors and Attorneys, who declined to be named, said that while the firm had not given up on pursuing the action, it was unlikely to go ahead due to a lack of claims.

"[The case is] stymied at the moment," he said. "It probably won't go ahead. If we can get enough resellers together to make it worthwhile from an expense point of view, we are still happy to run the matter. But we need more resellers involved."

Levitt Robinson took up the cause early last year following claims that Fujitsu's series of MPG3 and MPF hard drives were faulty.

The class action against the vendor is in respect of its ongoing sale of the drives between 2001 and 2002. An estimated 4.9 million hard drives worldwide are thought to have been affected by the fault.

In order to launch the class action suit, Levitt Robinson requires at least seven parties to seek damages. The solicitor said it had already exceeded this figure.

"The problem is that in order to make this worthwhile, we need more people who suffered larger amounts of damage," he said.

The firm claims it has garnered the support of a third-party investor provided it can raise the level of compensation high enough to cover all legal costs and claims.

"Another reseller has said they would bring in their own customers who suffered damages as well," he said.

"But they are waiting to see what happens. They don't want to carry the burden and funding when there are only smaller claims alongside them."

According to the solicitor, the majority of resellers who had signed up to the case were seeking relatively small amounts of compensation - in the vicinity of $200,000.

But the case would cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to undertake, he said. A similar class action suit to that being prepared in Australia was filed in the US in October 2002 against Fujitsu, Gateway and HP on behalf of affected end-users.

The US case was settled in March after Fujitsu offered to pay $US42.5 million in damages in an out-of-court settlement.

At that time, the solicitor representing the local case, Louise Steer, said the US result would have little bearing on the Australian outcome.

Webster Computer Systems was one of the resellers affected that signed up for the class action suit.

Managing director, Rob Paul, contacted Levitt Robinson several weeks ago about the case after months of inactivity.

He was told the action would not press ahead. Webster has so far contributed $2000 towards the case.

"I was a bit disappointed they didn't contact us," he said. "I don't think anything is going to happen."

Paul alleged Webster had 600 machines fail as a direct result of the faulty hard drives.

He was interested in joining any other actions being launched against the vendor if the Levitt Robinson initiative was dropped.

Lincoln Computer Systems was also a reseller of the Fujitsu drives.

Despite being an advocate for and paying $500 to sign up to the class action suit, company director, Greg Williams, said he was not surprised it had been held up.

"We didn't get our hopes up as the funding looked difficult," he said.

"The US case was successful on an end-user basis, but in Australia, they have gone for the reseller angle.

"We were told early on that it would be more challenging."

Williams alleged his company had lost more than $200,000 in engineer's time alone dealing with the products. He claimed 97 of his customers were affected by the faulty hard drives.

The business had just managed to pull through, he said.

"When I think about the damage we took, and the unhappy customers, I just want to put it behind us and move on," Williams said.

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