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Dirty laundry? Court rules on washing machine lawsuit

BY Ken Clark

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered that consumers in six states — California, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas — who allege that Sears sold them allegedly defective Kenmore front-loading "high efficiency" washing machines manufactured by Whirlpool may band together in a class action.

Sears said it disagrees with the Seventh Circuit’s ruling. "We are considering our options and likely will file a petition for a rehearing," the company said in a statement. It added that the washing machines in question have been "hugely popular" with millions of buyers.

According to Jonathan D. Selbin of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein appellate counsel of record, consumers in multiple states have filed separate class action lawsuits against Sears and Whirlpool.

The complaints charge that certain front-loading automatic washers manufactured by Whirlpool and sold under the Whirlpool and Sears Kenmore brand names are defectively designed in that they are unable to adequately clean themselves and develop mold, often resulting in foul odors.

In the Sears litigation, before United States District Court Sharon Johnson Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois, the complaint charges that the front-loading "high efficiency" Kenmore washing machines Sears has sold since 2001 are defective. As summarized by the appellate court, "[b]ecause of the low volume of water used in these machines and the low temperature of the water, compared to the volume and temperature of the water in the traditional top-loading machine, they don’t clean themselves adequately and as a result biofilm — a mass of microbes — forms in the machine’s drum (where the washing occurs) and creates mold, which emits bad odors. Traditional household cleaners do not eliminate the biofilm, the mold, or the odors."

In an e-mail to Home Channel News, the company continued: "Kenmore high-efficency washing machines have been hugely popular with millions of cosumers. Our sevice data, and service data reported in media articles, show that an overwhelming majority of our customers have never experienced any mold or odors in these machines, even after many ears of use. In fact, four of the six plaintiffs in this lawsuit have admitted they’ve had no such problem."

In the Nov. 13 opinion, the appellate court reversed the district court’s denial of class certification regarding the mold claim and affirmed the grant of class certification regarding the control unit claim. 

The lawsuit covers breach-of-warranty complaints by consumers in six states.

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Lowe’s brings wireless connectivity to Iris

BY Ken Clark

Customers of the Lowe’s Iris smart home solution will soon be able to use Verizon’s wireless network for remote monitoring and management of their homes.   

Available to U.S.-based Iris customers beginning Nov. 21, Verizon will be Lowe’s exclusive provider of wireless connectivity. 

Launched in July, Iris allows homeowners to monitor and control their homes from anywhere via a smartphone or tablet. The new Verizon wireless connection available via USB modem will connect to the Iris Smart Hub, eliminating the need for homeowners to have a wired broadband connection. 

The USB modems will be sold on Lowes.com. 

Kevin Meagher, Lowe’s VP smart home, said: “Wireless connectivity is of great value to our Iris customers who would like the freedom to manage and monitor their home without a broadband connection and with the peace of mind that connectivity to their home won’t be lost should their Internet connection become interrupted. Verizon has worked with Lowe’s for many years, and the extension of this relationship demonstrates our joint commitment to keeping our customers connected to the things most important to them whenever and wherever they choose.”

This new wireless addition to the Iris Smart Home solution expands a 14-year relationship between Lowe’s and Verizon that includes wireless, wireline and hosting solutions, in addition to professional services consulting.

Lowe’s offers three different Iris starter kits that can all be paired with the Verizon wireless USB modem to facilitate connection with the Iris Hub for remote home monitoring and management: Iris Safe & Secure ($179), Iris Comfort & Control ($179), and Iris Smart Kit ($299).

Both Lowe’s and Verizon will be participating in the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 8 to 11 in Las Vegas. Lowe’s will be showcasing the next generation of Iris products and services, including the Verizon Wireless USB Modem. 

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Home Depot sees home improvement in Q3 and beyond

BY Ken Clark

Riding an improving housing market around the country, Atlanta-based Home Depot posted third-quarter sales of $18.1 billion, up 4.6% from the same period last year. Comp-store sales increased 4.2% overall, and increased 4.3% in the United States. 

Despite a charge of about $165 million to close seven stores in China, the company posted net earnings of $947 million, up 1.4% from $934 million in the year-ago quarter. On an adjusted basis, the company’s net earnings rose 23.3% to $1.1 billion, the company said.

The performance surpassed Wall Street expectations, and comes amid signs of a housing market recovery and improving prospects for spending on the home.

"Our third-quarter results were better than we expected and reflected. In part, what we believe is the start of the path toward the healing of the housing market," said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO.

Based on its performance through the third quarter, Home Depot updated its fiscal 2012 guidance and raised its sales growth guidance to be up approximately 5.2% for the year on a 53-week basis. The company expects fiscal 2012 diluted earnings per share to be up approximately 18% to $2.92 for the year.

At the end of the third quarter, the company had a total of 2,250 stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico.  

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