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Class Action Sought

Fraud Suit Accuses Sony of Not Owning Up to Defective Camera Shutters

Sony’s Alpha a7 III mirrorless camera is prone to “mechanical problems with the shutter” that renders it “unusable,” said a fraud complaint (in Pacer) in U.S. District Court in Manhattan alleging Sony long knew about the defect but refuses to admit it. The action, filed in the wee hours of Friday morning, comes days before Neal Manowitz, Sony Electronics deputy president-imaging products and solutions, Americas, and steward of Sony’s consumer and professional cameras business, takes over for the retiring Mike Fasulo as president-chief operating officer (see 2102150003).

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Sony has been aware of the shutter failure” since soon after the camera’s 2017 release, said the complaint, seeking class-action status on behalf of all Alpha a7 III owners in New York. “Sony is aware of the percentage of this model which experience premature shutter failure but has declined to act such as issuing a recall or covering the faulty shutters.”

The shutter failure problem "manifests in a consistent way," said the complaint. "Users report hearing an atypical shutter sound," then the screen turns black with an error message directing them to power the camera off, then back on again, it says. "Following these instructions often will not solve the problem," nor will removing and reinserting the camera’s battery, it alleged.

The shutter’s life expectancy is 200,000 “actuations,” but “numerous users report shutter failures far below 200,000 but between 10,000 and 50,000 for most of the users who experienced this,” said the complaint. Shutter failure “occurs randomly,” often outside the camera’s one-year warranty period, it said. “The result is that purchasers must pay approximately $500-$650 for repair and replacement of the shutter mechanism.” Sony's original list price on the Alpha a7 III was $2,199. Best Buy was selling it Friday for $1,899.

Sony also denied repair claims for cameras that failed even while still under warranty, claiming their owners voided the warranty by causing “physical damage” to the product when they tried to fix the defective shutters, the filing said. It accused Sony of “negligent misrepresentation” because it failed in its “duty to disclose and/or provide non-deceptive marketing of the Product and knew or should have known this was false or misleading.”

Sony allegedly violated the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act when it falsely communicated to the public that the Alpha a7 III “possessed attributes, such as durability through the expected actuations, which it did not.” The complaint seeks restitution of owners' out-of-pocket costs, plus statutory damages and injunctive relief ordering Sony to fess up to the problem and make good on customers' grievances. Sony didn’t respond to questions.