January 19, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Brian Nelson
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Since last summer, up to as late as last month, ads promoting SoftRam '95 promised PC owners they could more than double their computer's memory. But now, two class action suits and three independent studies contend that the 650,000 consumers who bought the software may have been duped.
"In my opinion, this company is guilty of violating California's consumer fraud statutes," said Martin Anderson, an attorney in the class action suits filed against software maker Syncronys.
"It doesn't do what it's supposed to do," echoed Don Driscoll, another attorney. "It simply doesn't work."
At $30 a copy, SoftRam proved irresistible to consumers, who were otherwise facing a $300 hardware upgrade following the introduction of Microsoft's Windows '95 last fall. More than half a million went the cheaper software route so they could run the flood of new programs created for Windows '95.
"A lot of people bought this product, and I suspect a lot of them have no idea whether it is actually doing anything on their computer," said Anderson.
Three independent tests arrived -- after SoftRam was en route to becoming a market hit -- that give the program a resounding thumbs down. One of those tests was conducted by the labs at a bible of the industry, PC Magazine.
"I've never seen a product that was so devoid of value as SoftRam," said PC's technical editor Larry Seltzer. "I haven't seen one which apparently didn't even try to do what it claims it does."
California attorneys Driscoll and Anderson are seeking punitive damages from Syncronys in the class action suits. SoftRam has also drawn the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, and software giant Microsoft has told Syncronys to stop displaying the Windows '95 logo on its boxes.
The company eventually issued a recall of SoftRam, removing claims that it worked with Windows '95. But Syncronys insisted that the program works.
"The company is strongly of the belief that it does perform, it does what it says it does, it works, and it has what it hopes are experts who will come forward and show in a convincing fashion how it works," said Harvey Saferstein, an attorney for the software maker.
Despite doubts about its performance, SoftRam for earlier versions of Windows remains on some store shelves, while the company revamps its Windows '95 edition.
And neither that nor Saferstein's insistence that the software works sits well with Driscoll and Anderson. "They sold a car without an engine," Driscoll said. "And then they said we didn't do anything wrong, we'll get you an engine now. ...What they did was engage in fraud."
In the short run, 650,000-plus SoftRam owners are being offered a full refund by the company. But in the long run there are questions about the product claims of software makers.
PC Magazine's Selzer said that the case of SoftRam is unique, and most software makers deliver what they promise.
Still, befuddled computer owners are often on their own, left to sort out the megabytes from the mega-hype.
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