This story has been updated with comment from Clearwire.
A law firm that filed a failed class-action lawsuit against Clearwire is attempting to revive the complaint with new evidence it says shows the WiMAX provider intentionally signed up customers outside its coverage area.
In a motion filed with a U.S. District Court in Seattle yesterday, 12 plaintiffs represented by the Tycko & Zavareei law firm claim an internal e-mail and testimony from a former employee show that Clearwire knowingly enrolled customers living outside its actual service area by manipulating the software its retail employees used to sell service.
The allegation states that Clearwire falsely expanded its software settings in mid-2008 to qualify potential customers who actually lived too far away from its towers to get an adequate signal.
Those customers then had to pay early termination fees to get out of their contracts when they discovered they couldn’t get Clearwire’s service at home, according to the complaint.
Clearwire has denied the claims.
“Any allegation that Clearwire conspired to mislead its customers is baseless and absurd. We flatly deny any inference of fraud,” a company spokesman said. “We will vigorously defend ourselves against any such allegations.”
A judge previously dismissed a similar class action suit represented by Tycko & Zavareei over Clearwire’s early termination fees. That suit is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington State, and the Ninth Circuit court has referred the case to the state’s Supreme Court to clarify laws over early termination fees.
Tycko & Zavareei based its new motion on a copy of a Clearwire e-mail that states the company had changed “sector limits” to increase “potential PQ opportunities.” The e-mail does not define what Clearwire means by “PQ,” but plaintiffs in the case say it likely means “pre-qualification.”
In the e-mail, Clearwire does not state it expanded its pre-qualification settings beyond its actual network coverage area.
The plaintiffs claim that the e-mail, when presented in conjunction with new testimony from former Clearwire general manager Donald Hammond, shows that Clearwire intentionally misled customers outside of the company’s network into signing up for service.
Hammond said Clearwire called the scheme “Project Star Trek” since the company was going where it had never gone before with its coverage areas.
Clearwire currently offers customers who sign up for its service a 14-day trial period. Customers who sign up for Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX service can cancel it within two weeks without having to pay an early termination fee.