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BlackBerry demands investigation into "false and misleading" Z10 report

BlackBerry has asked US and Canadian regulators to investigate what it considers to be a "false and misleading" analyst report about returns of its new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone.

That report, from Detwiler Fenton, said that "key retail partners have seen a significant increase in Z10 returns to the point where, in several cases, returns are now exceeding sales, a phenomenon we have never seen before."

BlackBerry president and CEO Thorsten Heins, however, begged to differ.

"Sales of the BlackBerry Z10 are meeting expectations and the data we have collected from our retail and carrier partners demonstrates that customers are satisfied with their devices," he said in a statement. "Return rate statistics show that we are at or below our forecasts and right in line with the industry. To suggest otherwise is either a gross misreading of the data or a willful manipulation. Such a conclusion is absolutely without basis and BlackBerry will not leave it unchallenged."

BlackBerry's chief legal officer, Steve Zipperstein, said the company is asking the "appropriate authorities in Canada and the United States to conduct an immediate investigation."

"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.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.

BlackBerry said: "Detwiler Fenton refused to make either its report to investors or its methodology available to BlackBerry, even after [BlackBerry] said the firm's findings were 'absolutely false.'"

In a recent statement, Detwiler's general counsel and chief compliance officer, Anne Buckley, said the firm is "confident in our research methodology and we welcome any regulatory inquiry."

"Detwiler Fenton is not the only research provider publishing similar reports regarding customer reactions, sales, and returns of the BlackBerry Z10," Buckley continued. "It should also be noted that neither the research analyst or director of Detwiler Fenton has any financial interest in [BlackBerry]."

Fellow North American research firm ITG also issued a report on BlackBerry this week, which found that the Z10 launch "started poorly and weakened significantly as the days passed." ITG, however, did not discuss returns of the Z10, and was not called out in BlackBerry's request for an investigation.

The Detwiler report, meanwhile, said that the chief complaints about the Z10 and are "the unintuitive nature of the user interface, the maps app, and the lack of apps - issues that become apparent once consumers have had several days to use the device. We've also heard of reports indicating the phone has a tendency to slow down after several hours of use."

Detwiler suggested that the upcoming BlackBerry Q10 will sell better than the Z10 because of the enterprise update cycle, but said BlackBerry will "have minimal success in attracting new users to its platform."

BlackBerry announced recently that it has sold more than one million Z10 smartphones since February, which Detwiler said was respectable. "But we caution investors that there is significant return risk to these numbers and believe that future results are setting up for a disappointment," the firm concluded.