BlackBerry, After Claims of High Z10 Return Rates, Requests Investigation

BlackBerry, after enormous risk and years of work on the BB10 platform, isn't taking lightly claims that its Z10 is being returned at excessive rates.

BlackBerry came out swinging in defense of its new Z10 smartphone, after an investment firm reported that the device is being returned at an extremely high rate.

Investment firm Detwiler Fenton wrote in an April 11 research note that according to its checks, there has been an increase in Z10 returns "to the point where, in several cases, returns are now exceeding sales, a phenomenon we have never seen before," Bloomberg reported.

BlackBerry responded by announcing April 12 that it is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission and Ontario Securities Commission to review what it called a "false and misleading report."

"Sales of the BlackBerry Z10 are meeting expectations and the data we have collected from our retail and carrier partners demonstrates that customers are satisfied with their devices," BlackBerry CEO and President Thorsten Heins said in a statement.

"Return-rate statistics show that we are at or below our forecasts and right in-line with the industry," Heins continued. "To suggest otherwise is either a gross misreading of the data or a willful manipulation. Such a conclusion is absolutely without basis, and BlackBerry will not leave it unchallenged."

On April 11, the smartphone maker's shares fell 7.8 percent in New York, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Anne Buckley, Detwiler Fenton's general counsel and chief compliance officer, told the Journal in a statement, "We are confident in our research methodology and we welcome any regulatory inquiry."

She added that the firm was not the only one "publishing similar reports regarding customer reactions, sales and returns of the BlackBerry Z10."

BlackBerry—having changed its name from Research In Motion—on Jan. 30 introduced the Z10, a Q10 QWERTY-based sister device and the BlackBerry 10 operating system that both run.

The OS has been several delays, several chief executives and multiple years in the making, but Heins and his team insisted the wait was necessary to deliver a top-notch product that will carry the company through its next decade.

The Z10 was slow to arrive in the United States, where carrier testing programs are more time-consuming than those elsewhere, but after launches in the United Kingdom and Canada, BlackBerry announced that sales were exceeding its expectations, though it refrained from offering numbers.

During BlackBerry's March 28 earnings call, Heins finally shared that the company had shipped approximately 1 million Z10 handsets and sold two-thirds to three-fourths of them. It had also, surprising many analysts, posted a profit for the quarter.

Reviews of the BlackBerry Z10 have been largely favorable. In The New York Times, David Pogue called it "lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas." The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg said the OS was something that needed getting used to, but the virtual keyboard was "the best and fastest out-of-the-box virtual keyboard I've used." In The Guardian, Charles Arthur called it "organized" and "all very coherent."

Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry's chief legal officer, said in the statement that "false and misleading comments ... harm BlackBerry and our shareholders, and we call upon the appropriate authorities in Canada and the United States to conduct an immediate investigation."

Zipperstein added that while everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, "when false statements of material fact are deliberately purveyed for the purpose of influencing the markets, a red line has been crossed."

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