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Class Claims Redbox|Lies About Disc Quality

(CN) - Redbox deceptively advertised and rented downgraded discs as being of Blu-ray quality, and it charged plaintiffs higher rental prices than those charged for non-Blu-ray DVD discs, a class action claims.

Redbox operates thousands of self-service and fully automated rental kiosks in the United States where customers can rent movies and video games in two formats, DVD and Blu-ray.

In a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County last week, plaintiffs Stephen Lewis and Philip Burns claim that the downgraded discs are not Blu-ray because they contain poor quality audio and the definition is inferior and standard.

DVD's or Digital Video Discs are an older form of optical digital storage media that came out in the mid-1990's. In contrast, Blu-ray discs debuted in the mid-to-late 2000's, and contain a higher storage capacity.

Plaintiffs claim that until December 2, 2014 Redbox charged $1.20 per day for DVD's, and $1.50 per day for Blu-ray discs. However, as of December 2, 2014 Redbox increased its prices to $1.50 per day for DVD's and $2 for Blu-rays, exclusively of taxes.

On its website Redbox refers to Blu-ray as "the name of a next generation high definition optical disc format," the complaint says.

Outerwall Inc., Redbox's parent company, states on a recent form 10-Q filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission that "Blu-ray offers consumers a better viewing experience due to the superior picture and sound quality compared to other home video rental formats."

Due to Blu-ray reviews and advertising from Redbox and other companies, as well as the higher prices charged for them as compared to regular DVD's, customers expect the Blu-ray discs that they rent from Redbox to be of high-definition and higher audiovisual quality.

However, plaintiffs allege that "many of the discs Redbox rents out as Blu-ray quality and at the higher Blu-ray prices are not Blu-ray quality."

According to the complaint at no point during the rental process, not on the kiosks, not on its website, not on its mobile app or in any other way, Redbox discloses or informs its customers that the discs being rented are not of the advertised quality.

"Redbox engages in this practice because the downgraded discs cost Redbox less to acquire than discs containing original, high-definition, unmodified Blu-ray-quality audio," plaintiffs say.

On December 15, 2014, plaintiff Lewis claims that he rented a Blue-ray disc of the movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." However, once at home he says he discovered that the disc contained a standard definition and not a high-definition as Blu-ray discs have.

Burns went through a similar situation on September 12, 2014, when he also paid for and rented a Blu-ray disc for the movie "Divergent," and instead claims he got a downgraded disc that it was not of high definition quality as he expected.

Plaintiffs claim that the unmodified Blu-ray discs of the movies that they rented have a DTS HD MA 7.1 high definition soundtrack, have eight discrete channels and are considered "lossless" quality.

On the other hand, they claim the downgraded discs that they rented have a regular Dolby Digital 5.1 standard definition soundtrack, only have six discrete channels and are considered "lossy" quality.

"Plaintiffs Burns and Lewis and similarly situated persons were duped by Redbox's conduct in that they were deprived of the benefits they bargained for and expected to receive by paying the higher rental price for a Blu-ray disc as compared to non-Blu-ray DVD discs," the complaint says.

Plaintiffs say that Redbox illegally profited from the rental of downgraded discs as being of Blu-ray quality to unsuspecting customers, who paid a higher rental price.

"Unfortunately, at this time, we have no comment to share," said on an email Becca Grady from the public relations department of Edelman on behalf of Outerwall Inc., Redbox's parent company.

Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages on claims of violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

They are represented by Nicole W. Giuliano from Giuliano Law in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

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