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Class Blasts Asustek Tablet Computer

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Asus Computer (Asustek) designed its Transformer Prime tablet with a metallic body that makes its GPS and Wifi capabilities useless, a class action claims in Federal Court.

Lead plaintiff Colin Fraser sued Asus Computer International and its parent company Asustek Computer Inc., which is based in Taipei, Taiwan.

Fraser says he ordered a tablet in December 2011, but before it arrived he became aware of "hardware problems ... relating to Transformer Prime's GPS and Wifi capabilities."

"The defect was later confirmed by defendants as the result of the spun aluminum back panel which effectively blocks GPS signals," the complaint states. The defect was corroborated in a letter from Asus International's customer service department, according to the complaint, which cites the Dec. 30, 2011 letter.

Fraser's says Internet blogs and forums discussed the problems with the tablet, and an online petition called on Asustek to fix or replace the product. "Asus responded that it was only a few in the first batch that were victims of this design flaw and they recalled 300 units as a result," the complaint states, citing the petition.

But, the petition continues: "Upon release, end users have found that the Wifi issue is much more widespread, in addition we are finding that GPS and Bluetooth issues are also a likely result of the same design flaw."

The petition claims that Asus merely removed GPS from its spec list, and "to make matters worse, Asus announced on 1/10/12 that a new improved Transformer Prime was near release. Aside from the improved screen and front facing camera, it seems the main things Asus touted with this iteration of the Prime are the improved back plate that has all but eliminated the problems with wireless connections such as GPS, Wifi, and Bluetooth."

The petition called on Asus to either replace the back plate on old units or allow owners to trade in their defective tablets for the new version, Fraser says.

He claims Asustek was aware of the problems with the tablet, and acknowledged and apologized for the defects in a Facebook post.

"The ASUS Transformer Prime is made from a metallic unibody design, so the material may affect the performance of the GPS when receiving signals from satellites," Fraser says, quoting the company's Facebook post.

"Please note that this product is not a professional GPS device, and signal performance can be easily influenced by factors including, but not limited to: weather, buildings, and surrounding environments. Please understand there are limitations when using the GPS function. To avoid inconveniencing users who demand a powerful GPS device, we made the decision to remove it from our specification sheet and marketing communications. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused."

Fraser received his Transformer Prime on Jan. 16. "Almost immediately after the purchase of his Transformer Prime, plaintiff began to experience significantly reduced GPS performance which rendered the device unreliable and not functional," the complaint states.

"Upon information and belief, plaintiff's reception problems relating to the GPS are not unique and individuals across the country have experienced similar problems following their purchase of the Transformer Prime. ...

"[T]hese problems are, without question, the result of the Transformer Prime's defective design and/or manufacture ('... no RF window ...') and there is no foreseeable manner to remedy the defect on the existing device," Fraser says (Parentheses and ellipses in complaint.)

Fraser seeks an injunction and damages for negligence, defect in design, manufacture and assembly, breaches of warranty, violations of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and business and professions codes, and negligent misrepresentation.

He is represented by Shawn Williams and Dennis Herman with Robbins Geller Rudman and Dowd in San Francisco.

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