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OnStar subscriber sues over 2008 loss of coverage

DETROIT-An OnStar subscriber in Virginia has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court seeking $5 million from General Motors and OnStar Corp.

Robert Weaver, of Manassas, Va., filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit saying he bought OnStar’s Safe and Sound Plan as an option from his dealership for his 2002 Cadillac Eldorado, but now GM and OnStar say that service will not operate in his vehicle after Jan. 1, 2008.

Next year, cellphone carriers, which provide OnStar with its communications link to customers, are completing the transition from analog to digital service. The year 2008 is the date when analog networks are scheduled to be shut down; OnStar previously installed analog components in its vehicles, but is now using digital offerings.

Weaver contends that GM and OnStar knew but did not disclose that a switch to digital networks was to occur and that such a switch would render analog OnStar systems inoperable.

OnStar began informing about 500,000 subscribers in March that the OnStar equipment in their vehicles will continue to function until Jan. 1 on the analog network and that it cannot be upgraded.

According to the suit, neither GM nor OnStar made any offer to compensate Weaver for the investment and subscription fees.

GM said in March that it is offering OnStar subscribers affected by the switch a year of free service if they buy or lease another GM product. The 500,000 subscribers amount to about 10 percent of OnStar’s subscription base.

“It’s a frustrating situation for us and our subscribers,” Bill Ball, OnStar’s vice president of public policy, told Automotive News in March. “We are hopeful and confident that some of these subscribers will take the offer of an additional year of free service and buy or lease a new GM vehicle.”

The lawsuit also notes that GM vehicles equipped with an analog/digital-ready OnStar system will have their systems rendered inoperable unless these customers pay GM a $15 upgrade fee.

Ralph Kisiel is a reporter with Automotive News, a sister publication to RCR Wireless News. Both publications are owned by Crain Communications Inc.

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