Panasonic Plasmas Fading to Black?

By Richard M. Golomb, Golomb Legal, P.C.

A consumer class action against Panasonic Corporation and Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company was filed in New Jersey, alleging that the company’s “Viera” plasma televisions made between 2008-2009 did not retain the same image quality as was advertised.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs contend that the color tone, depth, and detail of the televisions significantly degrade after less that 400 hours of use. The complaint alleges that Panasonic’s claim that the televisions contain industry-leading contrast ratios and black levels is false. Interestingly, Panasonic admitted to being aware of this problem before marketing and selling the TVs in response to a inquiry. The problem apparently lay in the products’ automatic control, which adjusts the voltage and increases the background brightness from its initial value. Because Panasonic knew that the picture quality of the TV would degrade quickly, they designed the units’ minimum luminance levels to increase automatically as it is used. This results in lower contrast ratios and less desirable image quality after less than one year of use.

Panasonic failed to disclose this information to consumers and has also declined to provide replacement televisions or issue refunds to consumers who have reported problems. The company maintains that their products function as designed.

What is most disturbing about this case is that Panasonic knew that they would eventually get caught for putting out a substandard product and advertising it as industry-leading technology.

The plaintiffs utilized an X-rite Eye One Display LT calibration meter to determine the degradation of the TVs’ contrast ratios and black levels. Panasonic knew that the plaintiffs would find that the TVs did not perform as advertised, but to test the televisions in house is incredibly cost prohibitive and can only be conducted by a few qualified individuals.

So why does Panasonic manufacture a television when it knows it does not meet its own standards, and further, it knows that inevitably, the public is also going to find out that it is deficient?

Perhaps the cost of fixing the problem is too great? Perhaps the risk of class litigation or of alienating educated customers is not enough of a deterrent? Perhaps Panasonic is hoping that its loyal customers will simply buy the newer, brighter Panasonic technology a few years later? Now that Panasonic has been sued, perhaps now is the time that the public gets some answers.

The plaintiffs, a national class of Panasonic "Viera" plasma television owners, are represented by Alabama resident Shane Hughes.