Trials & Litigation

Lawyer sues Microsoft for $1.7M, says multiple calls and long waits on hold didn't fix email cutoff

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The Microsoft headquarters campus in Redmond, Washington. New York lawyer David M. Schlachter told the ABA Journal that he appreciates “the outpouring of support that I have gotten from many users facing the same challenge” of losing access to their primary email accounts. Photo from Shutterstock.

A New York lawyer who uses his Microsoft email to communicate with courts and clients has said in a lawsuit he received the runaround from the company when he complained about a weekslong service interruption.

David M. Schlachter of the Law Offices of David M. Schlachter said he lost access to his primary email account May 10 and still had no access May 24 when he filed the suit. He is seeking at least $1 million in punitive damages and $750,000 for loss of business and a risk of losing professional licenses.

The suit, removed to federal court June 22, said Schlachter was unable to get his problem resolved, despite repeated calls to customer service, long waits on hold, and failed promises that he would receive call backs or quick resolution of his problem.

Schlachter uses his email to communicate with state courts in New Jersey and New York and to access their online filing systems. He also uses it to communicate with federal bankruptcy courts, where he has open cases. And he uses it to receive communications from U.S. trustees, judges, clerks, colleagues, clients and adversaries.

“Mr. Schlachter cannot run [his] law office blind,” the suit said. “He is now possibly facing such issues as clients leaving the office, ethics violations being brought against him for not responding to communications, missing filing deadlines and the like.”

Schlachter told the ABA Journal in an email that service was restored June 1. He thinks that the suit was a catalyst.

“In fact, if not for the lawsuit, my email would probably still be inaccessible,” he wrote.

He is still seeking damages from Microsoft.

“I continue to pursue my remedies in court and through out-of-court settlement,” he says.

Schlachter’s suit said he has been paying for access to Office 365 since July 2017, at first paying $5 per month and then $6 per month beginning in January 2021.

When Schlachter tried to log in to his email May 10, the system prompted him for two-step authentication using his phone number. When he clicked on the prompt, the suit said, he received a message reading, “Sorry, we’re having trouble verifying your account. Please try again. View details.”

On his first call to customer service, Schlachter waited on hold for three hours, according to the suit. After talking to a customer service person for 30 minutes, Schlachter was told that he had a business account and would have to contact the business technical service team.

“For four days,” the suit said, Schlachter “was unable to reach anyone on the customer support line. He would wait on hold for three to five hours at a time (this is not an exaggeration) and the line would then go dead.”

On May 15, Schlachter was able to reach “Jay” and was promised a call back. The call never came, according to the suit.

On May 16, Schlachter reached the business technical support team and was promised that his problems would be resolved in 24 to 36 hours. They weren’t.

Schlachter “called twice a day on May 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21. Every time he called, the support person told him he could not be transferred to either a supervisor or the engineer working on his matter. They are working on it and it will be resolve[d] soon—to paraphrase,” the suit says.

On May 22, a support person did call Schlachter a few times, but there was no resolution of his issue.

Schlachter told the Journal that he appreciates “the outpouring of support that I have gotten from many users facing the same challenge.”

Did Schlachter’s suit strike a blow for consumers everywhere who are fed up with difficulties accessing customer service? Schlachter doesn’t know. The case is in its preliminary stages, and he has only just begun, he says.

Microsoft is represented by Fox Rothschild associate Michael Lieberman. He did not immediately respond to a Journal email seeking comment.

Hat tip to Law360, which covered the suit.

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