Legal Pad: 'Breaking Bad' Fans Accuse Apple of Season Pass Bait-and-Switch
SAN FRANCISCO — There's no question Breaking Bad fans take the show seriously.
Last month a power outage that knocked out cable service in parts of Connecticut during the show sparked a rash of calls to 911. And now Apple is facing a class action over its marketing of iTunes season passes for the series' hotly anticipated final season.
Name plaintiff Dr. Noam Lazebnik, an Ohio resident, claims he paid $21.99 to view Breaking Bad Season 5 in high definition only to find the pass didn't include the final eight episodes. Why? Because Apple is treating those episodes as a separate season — the Final Season.
That was news to Lazebnik and, by the looks of online message boards, many others — a fact not lost on Ohio-based plaintiffs attorneys at Meyer Wilson and Spangenberg Shibley & Liber.
"When a consumer buys a ticket to a football game, he does not have to leave at halftime," the complaint states. "When a consumer buys an opera ticket, he does not get kicked out at intermission. When a consumer buys a 'Season Pass' to a full season of a television show on iTunes, that consumer should get access to the whole season."
Filed last week in the Northern District of California, Lazebnik v. Apple, 13-414, asserts that Apple "affirmatively misrepresented" that a season pass would entitle purchasers to all 16 episodes.
"I understand it's a television show," said partner Nicholas DiCello of Spangenberg Shibley. "But it's a television show that's wildly popular and advertised to consumers … When representations are made about what they're purchasing and those aren't true, the breach of contract claim and California law should be pursued."
According to the complaint, customers paid a one-time charge $21.99 for high definition and $13.99 for standard — in exchange for a season pass they expected would include the entire season.
Right before an iTunes user purchases the season pass, says DiCello, they're promised, "[T]his season pass includes all current and future episodes of Breaking Bad, Season 5."
One might wonder whether iTunes users questioned the extraordinarily good deal they were being offered; a single high definition episode of most popular TV programs costs $2.99.
But then, according to the complaint, the iTunes information page for the season pass option explained — and still did as recently as last week — that "purchasing a season pass gets you every episode in that season and at a better price than if you were to purchase it one at a time."
iTunes' Walter White and Jesse Pinkman groupies got a rude awakening in early August. That's when those customers who had purchased the pass to Season 5 couldn't access the new episodes.
Troublingly, say plaintiffs attorneys, Apple never warned consumers of another season, and as recently as July, was still intimating that Season 5 would include all 16 episodes.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
DiCello says the issue is accountability: "Once these online retailers enter into contracts with consumers, they have to be accountable."
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