We all know that web site outages are embarrassing, especially when they are public, and they can cost you money in terms of lost productivity or sales due to the down time, but did you ever stop to consider, that an outage on an important public service could get you sued?
That’s what RIM learned this week. Still reeling from the three-day outage earlier this month, RIM executives learned yesterday that an enterprising attorney from Montreal — RIM is based in Canada — has decided to file a class-action suit against RIM. This could be more political than legal, but the suit has been filed regardless of the reason.
Here’s how it goes down as quoted in the Financial Post Tech Desk blog:
According to a statement from the Montreal-based law firm, the proposed class action against RIM is being filed “on behalf of individuals who have BlackBerry smartphones and who pay for a monthly data plan but were unable to access their email, BlackBerry Messenger service (BBM), and/or Internet for the period of October 11 to 14, 2011.”
If my recent informal survey regarding the Blackberry outage is to be believed — which included several Canadians by the way — you can file this law suit under frivolous because every person I asked at a conference recently carrying a Blackberry said they hadn’t even noticed the outage.
And I’m here to tell you that I doubt very much the firm had angry Blackberry users lined up outside the offices waiting to sign onto the suit, but that matters little in these situations. I’ve even heard from Blackberry users who were very pleased with the free apps BlackBerry offered its customers as a peace offering after the outage.
But regardless of the rhyme or reason or the perceived merit of this law suit, there’s an object lesson here for everyone who runs a public service that is favored by business. If you screw up, you could anger the wrong people and end up in a court room trying to defend yourself.
For those who use BlackBerry phones and rely on BlackBerry Messenger, I’m sure not having access to the service for a few days was very annoying, but I’m not convinced it calls for a law suit. Whether the Canadian courts agree or not, only time will tell.
If you run a site, application or online service, things are going to go wrong and there aren’t too many services out there worth their salt who are trying to break down, that’s for sure, but these things happen and sometimes, as happened with BlackBerry, it spirals out of the company’s control.
I’m quite sure if you asked BlackBerry executives and employees tasked with trying to resolve whatever issues caused this if they could have prevented it and avoided the onslaught of bad publicity, they surely would have.
For now at least though it looks like RIM has to deal with one more thing as a result of this outage, whether it wants to or not.