With great technology comes great responsibility

June 2, 2011 Blogs, Former Pioneer Staff Print Print

The advent of smartphones is long past, and as a society, we’re settling into the concept of walking around with a miniature computer on our person at all times.

Or so this writer thought, at any rate.

California resident Patrick Hendricks, alleging that multimedia corporation AT&T is overbilling for data charges associated with smartphones, filed a class action lawsuit this month.

The lawsuit states that “AT&T’s billing system for iPhone and iPad data transactions is like a rigged gas pump that charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car’s tank.”

In other words, Hendricks is suing AT&T primarily because of a lack of understanding of what makes a smartphone “smart.”

Smartphones, such as Androids, Blackberries, and iPhones, use a complex system of updates to keep the apps they’re so popular for running.

And even if the user has no apps, hasn’t set any email, and never gets on the Internet from the device, the phone will still back up data and contacts automatically.

The phone’s basic software will also check for updates on a daily to weekly basis automatically.

The best way to avoid this is to take the device to a service provider store and have them show you how to shut off the background updates.

But if you do that, you need to manually update the phone through your computer or a Wi-Fi network at least once a week to ensure best function.

But it’s the response that Hendricks has taken that most startles this writer. The device is doing something that the average person thinks it shouldn’t and the first response is to sue?

Lawsuits are a valid and acceptable way to seek justice in cases where all other methods of recourse have failed.

But over the last couple of decades, lawsuits have become the first response. Problem in a hospital? Sue the doctor for malpractice. Company doesn’t give you the service you think you should get? Lawsuit.

In fact, the ridiculous lawsuit win has become a part of American culture, a tongue-in-cheek joke!

What these people doesn’t seem to realize is that with every lawsuit, they’re painting themselves into a corner.

Suing that doctor may seem like a brilliant idea, but unless there’s a true case of malpractice, all you’re really doing is making doctor’s services more expensive for everyone else.

Similarly, suing a company might be an easy win, but your payday translates into higher fees, disruption of service as the company tries to reorg to avoid similar lawsuits in the future, and a more restrictive workplace for employees.

So before you sue, take a moment. Is this really the fault of the person you’re suing? Could you have avoided the issue with common sense, or by learning more about the situation beforehand?

This writer is all about consumer protection, and standing up to corporation and people with power. Preventing the abuse of wealth and power is everyone’s responsibility.

But our culture’s itchy trigger finger when it comes to lawsuits has got to stop. The lawsuit is one of the most powerful tools a consumer has available to combat abuse and bad practices.

And we really need to stop swatting flies with hand grenades whenever we make a mistake, or miscommunicate.

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