CHARLESTON - A Charleston man has filed a potential class action lawsuit against a car company and the in-car communication and security system included with the vehicle, claiming the switch from analog to digital systems caused his system to become obsolete and his car to decline in value.

Robert Reishman filed the suit Dec. 14 in Kanawha Circuit Court, against Audi and OnStar. Attorney John W. Barrett, of the Charleston law firm Bailey and Glasser, is representing Reishman.

OnStar is a wireless communication and security system that is integrated into vehicles. The system allows occupants of the vehicles to receive emergency service and information anywhere in the United States and portions of Canada.

According to their Web site, "OnStar's in-vehicle safety, security, and information services use Global Positional System satellite and cellular technology to link the vehicle and driver to the OnStar Center. At the OnStar center, advisers offer real-time, personalized help 24 hours a day, 365 days a week."

OnStar offers vehicle diagnostics, stolen vehicle location assistance, remote door unlock, roadside assistance and driving directions among other services.

According to the suit, Audi and OnStar have an agreement that allows OnStar to be installed in some Audis. The system used analog service on some vehicles until Jan. 1, 2008, when the service switched to digital.

"As a result ... thousands of Audi owners will be left stranded with useless analog-only OnStar systems," the suit says. "Not only will these Audi owners lose the safety, security and convenient benefits of the OnStar network, they will also suffer sharp declines in the value of their vehicles."

Reishman bought a new Audi A8, equipped with the integrated OnStar analog system in 2004. He claims he has used the OnStar service since purchasing the vehicle.

In a letter dated Jan. 31, 2007, OnStar advised that beginning Jan. 1, 2008, the service would only be available on the digital network. In a letter Reishman received, he was told his OnStar service would not work, because it was analog-only.

"We can't extend your OnStar subscription past Dec. 31, 2007. In particular, in an emergency, despite what your system may indicate, you will not have a connection," the letter said.

When Reishman wrote Audi, requesting that it provide the necessary upgrades to allow the OnStar system to function, he was told there was no way to change or upgrade the hardware to the digital network.

According to the suit, the defendants have known since 2001 that the switch from analog to digital would occur, which would affect the owners of analog and analog/digital-ready OnStar systems.

Reishman claims that he, and other members of the class, will suffer significant out of pocket costs and expenses to replace or repair the analog-only OnStar equipment in the vehicles. He also claims he will suffer from the depreciation and loss of value of his vehicle and the benefits and use of the OnStar system for which he paid.

In the 10-count suit, Reishman claims Audi and OnStar participated in unfair and deceptive business practices.

The class seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

The case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-2681

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