Lawsuit charges Sprint, Palm with negligence over data loss

Palm and Sprint Nextel could face a class-action lawsuit over a glitch in the information-backup service they offer for webOS-based devices that may have permanently erased some users' personal data.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Jose, alleges Palm and Sprint deceived consumers by failing to adequately outline potential problems with the service. The filing also alleges the companies failed to invest in the necessary hardware, software and procedures to ensure the remote backup service worked properly.

"The result of this system is that many webOS device users suffered and continue to suffer significant and permanent data loss, including but not limited to the loss of instant messages, emails, calendar entries, contacts in their address books, and applications paid for and downloaded from the Palm App Catalog," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status that would cover all users of webOS devices, including the Pre and Palm Pixi, as well as the set of users who have lost data.

Representatives from Palm and Sprint did not immediately return requests for comment.

Palm and Sprint late last month acknowledged that a "small number of customers" have experienced "issues" transferring their data from one webOS device to another. The situation appears to stem from an automatic backup function called Palm Profile. The service remotely saves contact, calendar, task, memo and other information stored on users' webOS devices, allowing them to move the information to a new device--by logging into their Palm Profile--if their phone is lost or stolen. However, according to various user forums and news reports, some users moving from one device to another have been unable to access large amounts of their backed-up information.

The issue has blossomed into a major setback for Palm and Sprint.

Interestingly, the same law firm backing the lawsuit against Palm and Sprint in October filed a similar lawsuit against T-Mobile USA and Microsoft over data losses among Sidekick users. T-Mobile and Microsoft in early October disclosed a glitch that erased data from users' Sidekick devices. However, the companies last month announced that Microsoft was able to restore many users' data. Nonetheless, Michael Aschenbrener of the law firm KamberEdelson L.L.C. said the lawsuit against T-Mobile and Microsoft would move forward despite Microsoft's assertions that it had recovered much of the data.

For more:
- see this IDG News Service article
- see the complaint (PDF)

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