Best Buy, Microsoft Accused Of Racketeering

When you think RICO you think Al Capone, or maybe Tony Soprano if you watch too much HBO. You don’t really think of Best Buy and Microsoft, do you? James Odom does. He’s the original plaintiff in a now 4 year old class action lawsuit that just won’t go away for Best Buy and Microsoft, one that now includes racketeering charges.

Are they warranted? Maybe. If what Odom says is true, some seriously shady business was going down between MSN and Best Buy—specifically, Odom accuses the store of taking money from Microsoft to sign customers up for accounts with MSN using their credit or debit card numbers without their consent. Read excerpts from the complaint inside.

Odom alleged that if the customer was paying by debit or credit card the Best Buy employee would scan the Trial CD. If asked why the Trial CD had been scanned, the Best Buy employee would claim it was for “inventory control or otherwise misrepresent[ ] the purpose of the scanning.” Odom alleged that what this scanning actually did was send the information to Microsoft. Microsoft would then, without the customer’s knowledge or permission, activate an MSN account in the customer’s name. If the customer did not cancel the account before the expiration of the free trial period, Microsoft would start billing the debit or credit card number.
Odom further alleged that when customers called to dispute these charges, Microsoft directed some of them to “seek relief from their debit or credit card issuers.”

Katherine Moureaux-Maloney was added as a second plaintiff. Moureaux-Maloney alleges that in September 2001 she purchased a cell phone and a cell phone service plan at a Best Buy store in Reno, Nevada, using a debit card. She alleges that a Best Buy employee scanned a Trial CD and swiped her debit card, thereby sending the information to

Microsoft and establishing a thirty-day trial subscription in her name. The employee did not tell Moureaux-Maloney that this was being done. Moureaux-Maloney did not know she had this service and never used it. After the thirty days elapsed, Microsoft withdrew monthly MSN charges from Moureaux-Maloney’s debit card account for seventeen months without her knowledge or authorization. In November 2003, Moureaux-Maloney received a bill from Microsoft for monthly MSN charges for April, May, and June 2003 after “Microsoft was unable to continue withdrawing the charges from her debit card account.” Upon receiving this bill,

Moureaux-Maloney and her husband immediately contacted Microsoft and discovered that the MSN account had been established in her name through Best Buy. Upon reviewing her bank statements, she discovered the withdrawals Microsoft had made for seventeen months. Finally, Moureaux-Maloney alleges that she “has not received any refund for any of the MSN charges that Microsoft withdrew from her debit card account, and Microsoft continues to seek payment from her of MSN charges for April, May, and June 2003.”

Sounds shady to us…—MEGHANN MARCO

JAMES ODOM vs. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Washington corporation; BEST BUY OPINION CO., INC., a Minnesota corporation, (PDF)
(Photo: Germano Leite)