The Washington Post

BlackBerry seeks SEC review of report claiming high BB10 return rates

The keypad of a Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) Blackberry Z10 is displayed for a photograph in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. (David Paul Morris/BLOOMBERG)

BlackBerry said Friday that it will ask the Securities and Exchange Commission and Canadian officials to review reports that the company is seeing high customer return rates for its latest smartphone.

In a release, the company specifically mentioned a report by an analyst at Detwiler Fenton, who said that returns of the company’s new Z10 smartphone were unusually high and had, in some cases, exceeded sales numbers.

BlackBerry shares fell as much as 8 percent in Thursday trading after the reports began to circulate, closing at $13.55 per share.

Detwiler Fenton said in a statement Friday that it stands by its report. “We are confident in our research methodology and we welcome and regulatory inquiry,” said a statement by Anne Buckley, the firm’s general counsel and chief compliance officer. “Detwiler Fenton is not the only research provider publishing similar reports regarding customer reactions, sales and returns of the BlackBerry Z10.”

Buckley said that neither the analyst who wrote the report nor any officer or director of Detwiler Fenton has any financial interest in BlackBerry.

The Z10, which went on sale in the United States last month, is the first device to run the company’s new BlackBerry 10 operating system and is critical to the future of the lagging mobile phone maker. The company was quick to counter reports that customers were returning the phones in droves, calling the claims “absolutely false” and saying that return rates for the Z10 had been in line or below what the company had expected.

On Friday, BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins said that the reports were “absolutely without basis” and added that BlackBerry “will not leave it unchallenged.”

The company’s chief legal officer, Steve Zipperstein, said in the release that BlackBerry will formally request the SEC review in the “next several days.”

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the merits of the many competing products in the smartphone industry, but when false statements of material fact are deliberately purveyed for the purpose of influencing the markets a red line has been crossed,” Zipperstein said in the statement.

On Friday, BlackBerry shares were up a little over 2 percent in morning trading to just over $13.80 per share.

According to its last quarterly report, BlackBerry has sold 1 million Z10 units — figures that did not include U.S. sales. The company is preparing to release its second BB10 phone to British and Canadian customers in the next few weeks. The much-anticipated Q10, has a full keyboard and is expected to show strong initial sales to users of older BlackBerrys looking to upgrade.

Related stories:

BlackBerry optimistic, realistic about U.S. launch

Orders of the keyboard version of the new BlackBerry start in Canada

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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