Best Buy Sued For $54 Million Over Missing Laptop


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A Washington, D.C., woman is suing Best BuyCo. Inc. for $54 million, claiming the retailer lost her laptop while it was in for repairs and tried to cover up its disappearance.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 16 in Washington Superior Court and claims Best Buy failed to immediately notify her of the possibility of identity theft. Raelyn Campbell is seeking punitive damages in addition to the cost of her computer and expenses and she wants Best Buy to change its practices to ensure customer privacy protection.

"I have filed a lawsuit against Best Buy and launched this blog in an effort to bring attention to the reprehensible state of consumer property and privacy protection practices at America's largest consumer electronics retailer, with the hope that it might motivate Best Buy to effect changes and spare future consumers the experience I have been subjected to -- or worse," Campbell wrote in a blog she started on the matter.

In the blog, Campbell claims Best Buy: allowed her computer to be stolen from a Best Buy store in Washington; fabricated records and tried to cover up the theft; lied to her for weeks about the repair status of the stolen computer; responded to repeated requests for a theft investigation and compensation with indifference and insults; and demonstrated a companywide disregard for legal obligations to immediately disclose the theft and notify her of potential exposure to identity theft over the course of the ordeal.

Campbell claims that on May 25, 2007 she dropped her computer off at the Best Buy store for service. For the next month, she alleges she was told by Geek Squad employees that the system was "not in the system."

She alleges that on July 4, 2007, a store employee created a false computer record and appearance that the laptop had been processed for repair on that day.

For the next three months, she claims her repeated requests for an investigation and compensation of greater than $5,000 "were ignored, then addressed with insults and lowball compensation offers."

In October, 2007, she alleges, Best Buy credited her credit card $1,110.35 for the cost of the laptop without her consent.
"The amount does not even cover the full cost of replacing the laptop itself, let alone a fraction of the value of the music, pictures, software, and other contents that were on the stolen computer, legal and court expenses, the cost of identity theft protection services that I am forced to bear for years to come, or compensation for the estimated 200 hours I have spent since May dealing with Best Buy and its agents, the replacement of my computer and its contents, and pursuing the lawsuit because of Best Buy's indifference towards my initial requests," she wrote.

She also wrote that Best Buy sent her a $500 gift card in mid-October with no explanation. She said she donated the card to a non-profit organization in December after not hearing from the company about returning it.

In December 2007, Campbell claims, she received a Motion to Quash Service and Dismiss Complaint from Best Buy's lawyers. "Independently, Best Buy's corporate counsel sent an offer for $2,500 in compensation, with non-disclosure and non-liability provisions and no offer to address the systemic failure in Best Buy's practices, i.e., the main motivation for my lawsuit," she wrote in the blog.

Campbell told The Associated Press that the $54 million is a "ridiculous number," claiming that she came up with the number to make it significant enough for them to pay attention to her.

A Best Buy spokeswoman told The Associated Press, "We've done what we can to try to learn about went wrong. We're obviously embarrassed and disappointed that we were unable to resolve this customer's issue. We've tried to resolve this dispute and feel badly that it escalated to a lawsuit."

In the last year, Best Buy's Geek Squad has been embroiled in at least two other much-publicized allegations.

Last Summer, Consumerist.com said it performed a three-month "self-styled sting" that found a Geek Squad member who allegedly copied pornographic material onto a thumb drive from a PC brought in for service. Consumerist.com rigged the PC with software to capture user movements and posted a video of the incident last summer.

Last April, a Geek Squad technician was arrested after a 22-year-old woman claimed the technician videotaped the woman taking a shower.

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