Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Apple reseller's law suit threatens internet freedom in Greece

ibook

As I write this Greek users of Twitter are flooding the micro - blogging service with comments and complaints about the Apple reseller in Greece, Systemgraph. According to the newspaper Protothema, a Greek internet user is being sued for 200,000 euros by the company following complaints  he made online about how his attempts to get his imac repaired went awry.

In his post blogger Arkoudos wrote that Dimitris Papadimitriadis, a 35 year old doctor, took his computer to be repaired by the authorised service provider, Systemgraph when he saw that shadowy areas on the screen. The company identified and claimed to have repaired the issue, however, when Papadimitriadis realised that the problem had not been fixed he returned his machine once more and then his troubles began in earnest.

On the other hand Systemgraph stated in their defence that the customer had been "rude and aggressive" and that the company had offered to repair the screen once more and was under no legal obligation to replace the machine (that being the responsibility of the store that had sold the computer). According to their statement on the AV Club forum the law suit was in response to an "organised attempt to slander and insult" the company via social media sites, blogs and forums.

This case in disturbing on two levels. Most importantly is the idea that any unwanted or disagreeble comment made on the internet can be punished with massive fines or the threat of legal action. As Papadimitriadis puts it on Twitter, "If the blogger/consumer loses (the case), then all we will be able to write in our own name will be recipes".

The Greek state been wary of internet and especially the blogosphere since its inception. In 2006 Antonis Tsiropoulos, site adminstrator for the Blogme aggregation service was arrested for hosting negative comments concerning a prominent TV personality and ultra - nationalist. In a similar vein the conservative New Democracy government attempted to introduce legislation that would strip Greek internet users of the right to blog anonymously in 2009.

Also what the case highlights is just how weak consumer protection is in Greece and that buying any big ticket item involves a risk which most other European consumers do not have to factor in. Even when the guarantee is valid some companies are loathed to accept the costs involved with repairing or replacing faulty goods. Of course, the consumer can insist on their rights as Papadimitriadis said he did when he took his case to the consumer ombudsman but this can be a long and often futile affair and even if the courts find in favour of the customer businesses can just chose to ignore the decision.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case are the uproar which is currently being generated on the internet via Twitter and blogs shows that consumers do have the power retailers think carefully about how they are preceived online and remind them of the power of negative word of mouth.

3 comments:

Ioannis said...

'cause this is probably the only English written document over this story email it (the link) to sjobs@apple.com and let us all be saved from such behaviors in the future.

Costas said...

I suppose that the lawsuit stands on the grounds of SA fame threatening and offence against the company's good standing, following similar claims against bloggers. HOWEVER, twitter is a whole different story: While a blog is open to the public (like press), twitter is more of a peer-to-peer interaction. That is, while a post to a blog is "similar" to a live statement on TV, a twitter post is similar to talking with your friends and family. Thus, to my opinion, no such claim may stand on the same legal grounds.

Tim C. said...

@Costas

Forgive me if I'm wrong but there is legislation for any internet activity such as blogs or twitter. Such laws exist in Greece as well. (http://tiny.cc/pgpdx)

Lawsuits and legal matters concerning the net are handled based on that existing legislation. Therefore, there isn't much point in creating an analogy between blogs and press statements, based on personal beliefs. Mainly because the law has already defined the level of responsibility for each of those activities.