* Suit by Seattle man seeks class-action status
* Complaint cites Internet postings by unhappy consumers
* Amazon offers free replacement cover (Adds comment from Amazon)
By Alexandria Sage
SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) has been sued by a user of its Kindle electronic reader who claims the device’s cover, which is sold separately, can break the screen and make the device inoperable.
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, where Amazon is based, claims the covers designed and sold by Amazon to protect the device often end up cracking the Kindle screens due to pressure on the hinge.
It seeks class-action status, which must be approved by a judge.
An Amazon spokesman said the Internet company does not comment on active litigation. But he added that the company encourages “anyone who has an issue with the cover attachment mechanism to return the cover and device for a free replacement so we can investigate further.”
The plaintiff, Seattle resident Matthew Geise, seeks to represent all owners of a Kindle 2 or Kindle DX installed in a Kindle cover designed by Amazon. The Kindle 2 is the second version of the reader that first made its debut in 2007, while the DX is a larger version designed to better read newspapers.
The complaint quotes from an array of consumer complaint postings on the Internet that cite the hinge on the cover putting pressure on, and damaging, the screens.
According to the complaint, the Kindle that Geise purchased for his wife on Valentine’s Day 2009 began to crack three months after purchase.
“Mr. Geise understood that the Kindle Cover he purchased for the Kindle was, in fact, compatible with the Kindle and would not damage the Kindle as a result of ordinary use. Amazon never disclosed to Plaintiff that using the Kindle Cover with the Kindle would damage the Kindle,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiff alleges that a customer service supervisor at Amazon acknowledged that such cracking was a “common problem” but would not be covered by a warranty. Geise was instructed to pay $200 for a replacement Kindle, the complaint says.
“Because of the relatively small size of the typical damages, and the modest resources of most consumers, it is unlikely that most Class Members could afford to seek recovery against Amazon on their own. A class action is therefore the only viable, economical and rational means for members of the Class to recover from Amazon for the damages it has caused,” wrote the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks replacement and funds to repair the broken Kindles as well as additional damages.
The online retailer has made a splash in the early days of digital e-readers with its Kindle. The device -- which comes in two sizes with slightly different functionality -- allows users to download books, magazines and newspapers.
Amazon does not disclose Kindle sales figures.
Whereas the Kindle has proved popular with travelers and avid readers who don’t want to carry around a lot of heavy books, its price point of $299 for the Kindle and $489 for the Kindle DX still keep it out of the reach of many. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)