Flash memory class action lawsuit. Are you in?

So, apparently there’s been a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of flash memory devices like memory cards and USB keys (Sandisk, Lexar, PNY, Fujifilm, Kodak).

The complaint, apparently, was that these manufacturers used a misleading way of calculating memory amounts, and that, as a result, people buying the flash memory products actually got less storage space than they bargained for. From the FAQ:

Anyway, if you bought one of these devices between February 1, 2000 and February 7, 2006, you can be part of the action, and can choose between a 5% rebate on the purchase price of your flash media, or a 10% discount on future purchases.

This seems to be another one of those class action lawsuits where every affected person gets a tiny benefit, and the law firms clean up. I’ve been a potential beneficiary of other such suits, but have never bothered to sign up. My wife signed up for a CD-related one last year and got a couple of CDs out of the deal.

Anyway, with the way that flash memory prices have come down in recent years, a 5%refund is, for the most part, chump change. I mean, you can get a 1 gig card for about $50 nowdays, and a 5% refund would net you $2.50.

BUT, a few years ago some of this stuff was pretty expensive, and that’s one reason i’m thinking of signing up. When i bought my digital camera at the end of 2002, a 512Mb Lexar high speed CF card cost me almost $300!!! I figure that it might be worth filling out the web form in order to get $15 back. We’ve also got about 6 or 7 other flash memory devices in the house (CF cards, USB keys), and if i add them all up we might get another $15 or so.

I just bought a 12" piece of wood that was actually around 11.25" wide. A friend explained to me that this is pretty standard and is in principle due to the saw cut. Helluva big blade IMHO, and in any event how does that allow them to call an 11.25" piece of wood 12"?. But if the lumber industry can do it, why not flash memory. It’s not like you buy memory because it contains exactly the amount of space you need. You make a rough estimate and chances are 99 in a 100 that 4% difference wouldn’t have stopped you from buying it if you’d known it before you bought.

Hey, i tend to agree. I figure that if you’re trying to cram stuff onto the last few megabytes of your flash memory device, you probably should have bought a bigger one, or another one.

Time to sue the lumber industry about those “2 X 4”'s that aren’t!

It’s actually a result of the finishing and allowance for shrinkage after it leaves the mill. The rough boards are planed smooth, and if you buy rough lumber right from the mill a 12" board is actually 12".

People who get in on these ridiculous lawsuits are pretty fucked up, IMO. I’ve received a couple letters inviting me to participate in various class action suits. And I’ve refused all of them on principle. There was a “Hooters is Sexist” one years ago that could have awarded me a hundred bucks or so. I was totally against the lawsuit, so I wasn’t going to try to profit was an idea I was against.

On the other hand, if you actually agree that the 4% difference in advertised available memory versus post-format performance is a big deal, then go for it. But if you think it’s a pretty silly complaint, then dont encourage this nonsense by signing up. Dont be a sellout.

…so I wasn’t going to try to profit from an idea I was against. . .

You know, i’ve thought about that, and it is, in fact, one of the reasons that i’ve never signed up in the past for similar lawsuits.

But at the same time, i also dislike corporations getting away with shady advertising and marketing strategies. It’s less a matter of whether 4% is a “big deal” for me personally, or for other users, than a matter of principle about misleading business practices. And, in many similar lawsuits that i’ve seen, the real issue is not so much whether each individual consumer suffered very much, but the fact that these companies saw fit to play loose with the truth.

In fact, to the extent that such business practices are intentional and part of the business plan, i’m willing to bet that these companies rely on the fact that each individual consumer doesn’t suffer very much. After all, if every individual who buys a flash drive loses a few megabytes of capacity, then maybe no-one is going to care very much and the company might get away with it. But when you multiply each individual customer by thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions, it can really add up for the company.

After all, when i bought by first CF card three and a half years ago, the retail price of flash memory was about 50c per megabyte, so giving each consumer a few megabytes less than what they thought they were getting could have saved the company big bucks over a long period. Even now, with flash memory generally going for well under 10c per megabyte, the sheer vloume means that a few cents saved per unti can really add up.

If i steal $1 each from a million people, should i get off the hook? Or should i be treated the same as if i stole $1 million from one person?

Now, as i’ve said already, i don’t think the whole “definition of a megabyte” thing is really a very big deal, and there are certainly other class action lawsuits that, in my opinion, have more merit than this one. The Netflix “throttling” issue comes to mind.

But it’s not like the discrepancy was an accident on the part of these companies. As the FAQ said, the websites of these companies expressly said that they were defining one megabyte as 1,048,576 bytes.

Using this definition, a flash device labelled as 256Mb should have had

256 x 1,048,576 = 268,435,456 bytes.

But, a flash device labelled 256Mb actually had about 256,000,000 bytes, or about 244Mb (based on the 1,048,576 figure).

One of the documents on the class action website has exhibits, including copies of the manufacturers’ websites, where manufacturers such as PNY explcitly state that 1Mb = 1,048,576 bytes. If they explicitly state this on their website, why would they then market their flash products in a manner that equates 1Mb with 1,000,000 bytes? Not only that, according to the lawsuit the packaging of the devices contained no contrary information about the definition of a megabyte, nor did the packaging state that actual usable space might be less than advertised.

If i were in the business of selling Bags of Widgets (BoW), and i told you on my website that 1BoW contains 1,048 widgets, wouldn’t you be pissed if you went to the store, purchased a product called Mhendo’s BoW and only got 1,000 widgets?

By the way, i forgot to link to the class action lawsuit website in my OP. Here it is.

**You/b] doubtless wouldn’t have profited much in any case. I was a party to one (1) such lawsuit against Sears and Roebuck. As a result of the suit, which took about three years, I was given a $20 certificate that I could cash for goods at any Sears store.

I wonder how many such certificates the attorneys settled for?

In this flash media case, if i’ve read the documents correctly, the plaintiff law firm will get $2.4 million in costs and fees.

Despite my arguments above, which i stand by, the only people that really win in most of these big class action suits are the lawyers.

I’ve bought a lot of IDE hard drives in the past few years, and as they get bigger the amount of actual space on there gets smaller - because of the math presented here. So my 400GB drive is about 388GB and my 120GB drive is about 114GB.

I never thought to sue anyone, though. That’s a lot more missing bytes than these silly little flash drives.

I must be a bad American :frowning:

I don’t disagree with you that class action suits are often legitimate means of actually making a corporation accountable for low-level chicancery. Certainly this suit seems to be quite valid, on the face of it.

And while I recognize the value of the tool in providing a useful check on corporations, I still don’t like them, even when I see them as legitimate. First off, I doubt that the suits I hear about that seem to be valid are the majority of such suits. Simply looking at the details you’ve provided, which seem very straightforward to me, makes me view this suit as quite valid, and easily researched and presented. So, for what seems to be a quick bit of research and arguing in front of a court, the law firm is going to get a couple of megabucks.

With that kind of payoff, I have to believe that there are many class actions we don’t hear about - that are, or aren’t, valid.

sigh Reality is so frustrating when it makes us recognize that there are no ideal solutions.

Y’know, if a merchant sold me something clearly labeled “a liter” of milk/gasoline/drain opener, and in reality I got 950ml, I would not have to file a suit; I’d just ring up the state Attorney General and he’d go after them. However if what they do is keep the same size container and strike “1 liter” and substitute “950ml” clearly and legibly on the label, then it’s up to me to notice that I’m getting 5% less for my money.

It would seem a memory maker could, instead of claiming 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, just invent an arbitrary designation and name product as the “FlashSave Quanta”, “FlashSave Quanta2”, “FlashSave Billionta”, and in less-conspicuous type show the amount of actual memory. But for some reason, for two decades now we’ve been just letting slide the tech and electronics sector with much less rigor about units than we apply to other goods’ weights-and-measures regulations.

My god this is stupid.

I did notice this when I was given a Lexar Jump Drive. I asked Cleophus about it. NO DRIVE HAS AS MUCH SPACE AS MARKED. Manufacturers use a different megabyte (metric or something). Just as television screens are always measured diagonally, and the weight of precious metal is always in Troy ounces.

The conventional magnetic platter hard drives in my machine do not have as much space as marked either. It’s just at 80 gig, I haven’t filled them up yet.

JRDelious I say again- Troy ounces, used only to weigh precious metal and to make it seem heavier than it is. Diamonds are weighed in carats instead of grams or ounces. The use of megabyte in this case is misleading but not actually false. If I use the same industry term to measue storage space, I get as much as claimed. Lexar and all the others may not be using a the same megabyte as the public, but they use a megabyte that is universal to the industry.Switching to another term would allow manufacturers to invent meaningless terms to claim that their product had more storage than a competitor.

Sony would claim 80 quanta (60 megs). Lexar would claim 90 FSU (60 megs). Comparison shopping would be a pain in the ass.

Ah, but the question in this suit is not just how big a megabyte or a gigabyte, but how big the company says it is, and misleading advertising practices. After all, there are flash media manufacturers who were not named as defendants in the suit.

The defendants in the lawsuit specifically told their customers, on their websites, that 1 megabyte = 1,048,576 bytes.

But then, they produced flash devices in which the claims for total storage capacity reflected a calulation of 1 megabyte = 1,000,000 bytes.

I recently bought a Seagate SATA hard drive for my computer. The box says it’s a 160Gb drive. Yet, after it was installed, it registered as 149Gb on my computer. The difference can be accounted for by the same discrepancies i’ve already noted regarding exactly how a megabyte or a gigabyte is defined.

BUT—and here’s the important thing—i went to the Seagate website and looked in their glossary, and in that glossary they explicitly define 1 megabyte as 1,000,000 bytes, and 1 gigbyte as 1,000,000,000 bytes.

So the capacity of their product is exactly what they tell us it is, based on their definition of these sizes.

It would be nice if everyone could agree on exactly what a megabyte or a gigabyte should mean, but until that happens the least we should expect is that manufacturers not tell us one thing and then do another.

Bandwidth is another field where the arbitrary “Megabyte/bit = 1000…” equation gets used. Anyone know if the same measurements are used on large-scale commercial provisions of bandwidth?

I STILL haven’t gotten my money from the CD overcharge case :smack:

This reminds me of something that used to always piss me off.

Jeez, I got my fifteen bucks from that ages ago.


If you’re using a term-of-art that in your particular trade is customarily different from the standard unit, as a merchant it behooves you to be consistent in its use when dealing with the end consumer. “Everybody should know by now it’s this way” is a weak defense. Had the flash device makers done as Seagate and up front stated “MB and GB defined as per the storage device trade, 1000KB and 1000000KB respectively”, there would be no complaint at all.