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Buy.com hit with class-action lawsuit

A lawyer leads a group of disappointed customers in seeking compensation from the Net retailer. Others will go to small-claims court instead.

    A group of customers had filed a class-action lawsuit against Net retailer Buy.com as a result of its refusal to honor hundreds of orders for a monitor that carried an incorrect price tag, but not all angry customers are signing on.

    Last month, Buy.com said the $164 price listed for a 19-inch Hitachi monitor was a typographical error and agreed to sell only 143 of them--its stock on hand--to those who had ordered on a first-come, first-served basis. The company canceled the other orders, in some cases after having charged customers' credit cards, provoking a groundswell of protest from those unable to purchase the monitor.

    Now, attorney Gary Sodikoff has filed a class-action suit in Superior Court in Orange County, California, alleging that Buy.com violated California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act. The suit lists four plaintiffs, and other clients have signed on as well, said Sodikoff. But some disgruntled Buy.com customers say they're not sure what Sodikoff's motives are, and several expressed worries about his record.

    That's because 24 years ago, Sodikoff was disciplined by the California State Bar for violating his fiduciary duty toward the heirs of an estate he was administering. Rather than sign on to the lawsuit, some said, they'll head for small-claims court.

    "I'm sticking with my original idea of going to small-claims court, and I encourage everyone to do the same," said one participant on an AnandTech bulletin board set up by angry Buy.com customers. "It's fast, it's cheap and it's effective."

    The lawsuit alleges Buy.com advertised the monitor but had no intention of selling it at that price and made false or misleading statements about the reason for the typo. "It's illegal to offer merchandise with no limitation if you can't fulfill the orders or can only fulfill the orders to a limited extent," Sodikoff said.

    The suit seeks damages and "restitution of property," and also asks that Buy.com hand over revenue from ad banners that appeared on the page advertising the monitor. "Buy.com defendants continue to market their products to the general public at highly attractive prices in order to increase the number of "hits" on their Web site, without any intention of providing or selling a sufficient number of items to meet reasonable demand," the complaint states.