Richard M. Golomb and
Kenneth J. Grunfeld, Golomb & Honik, P.C.
A consumer class action against Panasonic Corporation and Panasonic Consumer
Electronics Company was filed in New Jersey, alleging that the company’s
“Viera” plasma televisions made between 2008-2009 did not
retain the same image quality as was advertised.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs contend that the color tone, depth,
and detail of the televisions significantly degrade after less that 400
hours of use. The complaint alleges that Panasonic’s claim that
the televisions contain industry-leading contrast ratios and black levels
is false. Interestingly, Panasonic admitted to being aware of this problem
before marketing and selling the TVs in response to a Cnet.com inquiry.
The problem apparently lay in the products’ automatic control, which
adjusts the voltage and increases the background brightness from its initial
value. Because Panasonic knew that the picture quality of the TV would
degrade quickly, they designed the units’ minimum luminance levels
to increase automatically as it is used. This results in lower contrast
ratios and less desirable image quality after less than one year of use.
Panasonic failed to disclose this information to consumers and has also
declined to provide replacement televisions or issue refunds to consumers
who have reported problems. The company maintains that their products
function as designed.
What is most disturbing about this case is that Panasonic knew that they
would eventually get caught for putting out a substandard product and
advertising it as industry-leading technology.
The plaintiffs utilized an X-rite Eye One Display LT calibration meter
to determine the degradation of the TVs’ contrast ratios and black
levels. Panasonic knew that the plaintiffs would find that the TVs did
not perform as advertised, but to test the televisions in house is incredibly
cost prohibitive and can only be conducted by a few qualified individuals.
So why does Panasonic manufacture a television when it knows it does not
meet its own standards, and further, it knows that inevitably, the public
is also going to find out that it is deficient?
Perhaps the cost of fixing the problem is too great? Perhaps the risk of
class litigation or of alienating educated customers is not enough of
a deterrent? Perhaps Panasonic is hoping that its loyal customers will
simply buy the newer, brighter Panasonic technology a few years later?
Now that Panasonic has been sued, perhaps now is the time that the public
gets some answers.
The plaintiffs, a national class of Panasonic "Viera" plasma
television owners, are represented by Alabama resident Shane Hughes.