Merit

 
 
By Ellen Muraskin  |  Posted 2004-10-01 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


It could be that Vonage, in a quick response to the suit, has already pulled those boxes from the shelves. Its with online purchases, though, that SIPphone president Jeff Bonfortes case becomes a little stronger. He tells me that customers who have bought the Linksys PAP2 router from Frys Electronics online site, where no mention of Vonage was made, have been stuck, once opening the box, with the Vonage service. He says SIPphone bought Linksys PAP2 routers from more than four different stores, and every one was locked into Vonage. Dont they say Vonage anywhere on the box? "Some do, some dont," Bonforte says. His suit, which demands no monetary damages, wants to the court to make Vonage e-mail all customers "of offending hardware," telling them that unlocked versions of these routers are available and offering a one-for-one exchange for such a router.
But during the course of my interview with him, we browsed over to Outpost.com, Frys Electronics online store, and saw that a change had been made to the product description. Search on PAP2, click on the item, and youll find, in red letters, wording making it plain that the product is configured to carry only Vonage VOIP.
So, it may be that SIPphone has caught Vonage in an early marketing gaffe–or perhaps even a noncompetitive practice–in not alerting customers to the lock-in on some Linksys adapters sold online and in catalogs. If so, Vonage is hurrying to correct this. I cant say whether the oversight was deliberate or just the typical packaging inconsistencies of a rushed launch. Click here to read about Vonages efforts to bundle its service with Linksys and Netgear routers. Two things persuade me to dismiss this lawsuit, though. One is that what SIPphones site claims to be standard VOIP service provider practice–selling an agnostic adapter–is simply not. SIPphone says on its site that its adapters can work with other VOIP services–but that does not appear to be the rule.
David Epstein, CEO of VOIP provider BroadVoice, says, "The equipment that we send out is part of the business model, and in doing so we reserve the right to require that it be used with our service." Its also worth noting that the cheapest router/phone adapter sold by SIPphone is $59.99–presumably an unsubsidized, or less subsidized, price. Next Page: Were not talking big bucks here.



 
 
 
 
Ellen Muraskin is editor of eWEEK.com's VOIP & Telephony Center. She has worked on the editorial staff at Computer Telephony, since renamed Communications Convergence, including three years as executive editor. Muraskin's work has also appeared in Popular Science magazine and other publications.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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