Many sites have reported on this, but, we decided to hold off coverage until we could break new ground (and clarity) on the matter.
Here’s the story up to now: A law firm in California (Kirtland & Packard) is suing Verizon Wireless because they fail to note that several of the Bluetooth profiles in their version of the Motorola V710 do not fully work. Specifically, any function of OBEX fails to work at all. This means that the device cannot synchronize, nor can it transfer files, despite reporting to other devices that it can.
Many sites have reported on Verizon being class-actioned over the imposed hinderings on the Motorola V710. But we wanted proof, not mindless quotes from legal analysts that our readers tend to dismiss out of hand. After all, nobody likes their opinion dismissed because they aren’t lawyers, and usually, it is fallacious to demand that someone’s argument is backed by a legal background. So, we dug deeper.
Brenda Raney, a member of Verizon’s media relations has to be one of the most hurtful people to this case for Verizon. She has over the course of several interviews (with a bit of arrogance, we might add) admitted that Verizon intentionally hindered their device from its basic design. She cites specific reasons for this to be legitimized in Verizon internally, and admits that customers are not informed of them. Verizon is attempting to argue that customers have 14 days to try out the device, and that it is reasonable for a user to determine if OBEX is functional despite that the phone states OBEX is supported.
Bad news for Ms. Raney, is that Verizon is no longer the exclusive seller of the Motorola V710. Alltel now sells the exact same device, and their version we have now been able to confirm does not contain any of the Bluetooth problems present in the Verizon version. Now, if Verizon sold the V710 under a different model number, they may have been able to claim that their version is exclusive and no other carrier has “the” V710. But, even this is questionable, as the device does not report a lack of OBEX, but it reports that it does support the service.
The legal question here boils down to: Is Verizon responsible for alerting new V710 owners that their V710 is functionally limited where the device states it isn’t? Is Verizon liable for previous buyers who believed the phone’s statement that it supports OBEX and didn’t test it within the 14 day trial? And what should Verizon be required to do to remedy the situation if they are found liable in either of the two just-mentioned situations?
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that Verizon probably is liable, the moment they were aware of the V710 reporting its support of OBEX to other devices, they could have issued a firmware update completely removing OBEX support from the device. They did not. Now that the V710 is out on Alltel, and it is now proven that Verizon did modify OBEX to not work (rather than it simply being a problem of all other devices not understanding the V710’s implementation of OBEX), it has been proven that Verizon knowingly did not address the issue, and that they were the cause of the issue.
Ms. Raney has stated that this was all done to prevent piracy of BREW files, but this too is damaging, because it prevents Verizon from changing their story later. The problem is, Ms. Raney’s thesis is extremely poor. Verizon has known that they could block access to the BREW directory, that users can download this content anyways via USB cable, or that Verizon could have simply implemented an instruction in the phone to prevent the ability to send games and applications over OBEX (a system originally demonstrated and leveraged to protect DRM in the Sony Ericsson T608).
The Bluetooth SIG has chosen to side with consumers on the matter as well, quoting its current executive director: “[We are] very disappointed in this implementation decision and believe many consumers who purchased it for the Bluetooth capabilities are frustrated and confused as a result.” The SIG has not, however, stated that Verizon acted in an improper nature in regard to the release of the device. The SIG did announce their commitment to offer a superset of Bluetooth, a “Best of Bluetooth” that would require functional sets of many profiles, including OBEX to gain certification for the upcoming superset. Device manufactuers could then chose to target Bluetooth or the Best of Bluetooth in marketing and deliver clarity to customers.