Last Friday, HP Inc. urged the Northern District of California court overseeing the consumer case to dismiss it, arguing that there is nothing deceptive about the way it prices computers offered for sale on its website, HP.com. In October, several HP customers filed suit alleging that they bought computers at inflated discounts owing to the alleged fact that the company advertised the original price as being higher than it actually was.
The plaintiffs amended their complaint in late December alleging nine causes of action under various California consumer protection and business practice laws as well as contract and tort law. In its motion to dismiss, HP contends that the complaint fundamentally mischaracterizes its pricing practices. The filing explains that the strike-through prices HP lists in connection with some products are not “former” or “reference” prices, instead, they are Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices (MSRPs).
HP says that in connection with these mislaid allegations, the plaintiffs point to California Business & Professions Code sections and federal regulations governing advertisements relating to former or original prices – not MSRPs. Instead, MSRPs are judged by a different standard, namely the honest estimate of an item’s actual market price, the filing says. HP argues that the plaintiffs have not shown that its MSRPs are unreasonable in view of this standard.
The company also argues that there are myriad other reasons why the plaintiffs’ claims fail. For example, the 30-page motion says that the computer buyers have failed to meet the heightened pleading standard required for their fraud-based claims. Specifically, the motion contends that the plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged that the MSRPs were false, that they did not represent the prevailing market price, or that reasonable consumers would be misled by HP’s advertisements.
The computer manufacturer also asserts that the plaintiffs’ intentional and negligent misrepresentation claims are barred by the economic loss doctrine, which prevents plaintiffs from collecting on tort causes of action when the extent of the claimed harm is disappointed expectations. HP argues that in their tort claims, the plaintiffs plead just that and seek the same damages stated in their contract claims, also making the misrepresentation claims redundant and therefore subject to dismissal.
The consumers’ response is due February 18.
HP is represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. The plaintiffs are represented by Edge, A Professional Law Corporation and Capstone Law APC, the same counsel captaining another reference pricing action against Lenovo Inc. In that suit, the plaintiffs recently filed an amended complaint after the court partly granted Lenovo’s dismissal motion.