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Mercedes-Benz Knew ‘Tele Aid’ GPS Units Would Become Obsolete, Class Claims

NEWARK, N.J. (CN) - Mercedes-Benz touted its analog-only Tele Aid device as a critical safety feature, but intentionally hid knowledge that the GPS communication device would not work after Feb. 19, 2008, a class action claims in Federal Court. The class says Mercedes-Benz was well aware that a 2002 FCC rule change would "make its analog Tele Aid equipment inoperable," and even lobbied to delay the change, but never told customers.

Tele Aid is a cellular and GPS unit, similar to OnStar, which lets an operator give directions to the driver, contact help in an emergency and unlock doors.

In May 2001, the FCC proposed to eliminate a rule requiring all wireless carriers to operate an analog network.

Mercedes-Benz wrote to the FCC, claiming the sudden change would be harmful to its Tele Aid equipment, because the unit is "embedded in an automobile designed to last up to 20 years," the lawsuit claims.

The car maker allegedly stressed that Tele Aid is a critical safety feature that saves lives, citing the improved response time for emergency medical and rescue workers.

"While (Mercedes-Benz) told these important facts to the FCC, it never told its customers and instead continued to sell cars with the promise that its Tele Aid product would continue to provide 'emergency services,'" the class claims.

On Aug. 8, 2002, the FCC eliminated the analog cellular service requirement, and provided for a five-year transition period.

"This transition period was exactly what (Mercedes-Benz) argued was necessary," the lawsuit states. "Therefore, (Mercedes-Benz) knew or should have known ... that analog service was not going to continue past early 2008."

The class demands an injunction and damages.

Plaintiffs are represented by James Shah with Spector Roseman Kodroff & Willis P.C. in Philadelphia.

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