Dell told staff to deflect complaints with FUD
By Barry Collins
Posted on 22 Nov 2010 at 10:32
Newly unsealed court documents have revealed how Dell instructed its support staff to spread uncertainty about a known fault with its desktop PCs.
Dell was sued by Advanced Internet Technologies in the US, who alleged that the PC maker had deliberately concealed defects in its computers. The case was settled out of court in September, but documents submitted as part of the case show how Dell instructed its staff to deal with the rising tide of complaints.
Dell fell victim to an industry-wide problem with faulty motherboard capacitors in 2003. The capacitors suffered from an overheating problem that caused them to bulge and fail, resulting in dead PCs.
At one stage Dell estimated that between 45% and 97% of its SX270 OptiPlex computers would suffer from problems caused by the faulty capacitors, according to a report in the New York Times, which applied for the documents to be released.
Yet, instead of issuing a recall or informing customers of the known fault, Dell instructed its support staff not to draw attention to the issue. An internal Dell document ordered staff not to "bring this to the customer's attention proactively".
When confronted by a corporate customer who had seen a number of their machines fail and was worried about the rest of the fleet, the Dell staff were instructed to "emphasise uncertainty".
Dell did replace all machines that were affected by the faulty capacitors, taking a $300 million charge in 2005 to deal with the problem.
In a statement sent to PC Pro, Dell said: "In talking to customers, we want to be sure we have all the facts in responding. There was uncertainty about the issue because the actual failure rates were not known at the time and turned out to be much lower than the theoretical projections.
"Dell suspended its use of Nichicon capacitors after it discovered that Nichicon had a problem in its manufacturing process. Dell actively investigated the failures, audited the Nichicon plants and fixed-on-fail computers that suffered a capacitor failure. Moreover, it voluntarily extended the warranty on potentially affected motherboards."
There is a lot more of this kind of thing happening than is reported.
I have had several machines (mostly laptops)in for a repair that on further investigation is being experienced by many others around the globe. It is mostly mainboard/ overheating issues that generate from a design fault (a couple of HP laptops spring to mind)
The general attitude from manufacturers is to initialy dismiss the problem completely, then fudge it for long enough that people's warranty will expire. They may then offer a fix for a (very) few models in the hope that most people will get fed up & get another machine.
I know that there are court cases currently being pursued in the US by people who have been left with a useless piece of hardware.
It's really not good enough on the part of manufacturers. They know there is a problem but would rather let it go to court than fix the initial fault.
By Narnain on 22 Nov 2010
my dell desktop motherboard went faulty 2 days after the warranty runs out..my dell laptop M1730 is on its 4th motherboard, great for a £2000 laptop...luckily the laptop came with 3 year extended warranty..this runs ot in april..im betting the board will go faulty shortly afterwards..never will i buy dell again
By JamesBub on 22 Nov 2010
[place a renowned brand here]...never again
One can say it about every computer brand. Back in 2003 I have purchased quite a few SX270's and in January 2008, years after three year guarantee run out, several of them died nearly simultaneously. When I phoned our account manager he immediately admitted that this particular model had motherboard issues. The systems have been replaced without any difficulties. This is the letter they have send to me at that time:
By the way: this has happened in The Netherlands.
Dear mr. xxxxxxx,
Dell recognised a motherboard component issue that may affect some OptiPlex? SX270, GX270, SX280 or GX280 and Precision 470 and 670 desktops. Although not all systems are affected, Dell implemented a unique program in EMEA to provide out of warranty coverage for a period of time on motherboard failures related to leaking or expanding capacitors on affected systems.
The motherboard replacement program was valid for 5 years from the original date of purchase of the system or January 31st 2008, whichever occurred first. Therefore, this program ended on January 31st 2008. Accordingly, customers who would like to replace an out of warranty system should contact their sales team.
But since these systems, were reported before that date we will replace the motherboard within waranty and you can expect the engineer tomorrow between 8.30 and 17.00 hours.
Rference numer is: ###########
By stasi47 on 22 Nov 2010
Just one effect of cutting costs
When costs are cut, these are the sorts of things that can happen. To keep costs down a cheaper component or manufacturing process is used, the manufacturer doesn't own up when things go wrong - or in this case actively seemingly pretended there was no fault - and engineering quality is the victim of accounting cost cutting.
That's why buying cheap is so risky.
By SwissMac on 22 Nov 2010
RE: buying cheap is so risky.
My SUN Ultra2 I've purchased back in 1995 was all but cheap. It died 4 years later. The motherboard replacement/upgrade from Transtec in 2001 would set me back around DM7000 (~€3500). I must admit it more or less renounced my affection for exotic systems; since then I am into cheap generic systems. No Macs thus. :-P
By stasi47 on 22 Nov 2010
Buying cheap IS risky
Cheap computers are risky, it's just that people are prepared to take the risk because they think the capital cost is so small, forgetting to value their own time when unproductive.
Even if you can go to the shop and buy an off the shelf component and then fit it, it still takes 2 hours away from your life you can never get back.
I value my life but some people don't have one.
By SwissMac on 23 Nov 2010
If you're suggesting Apple is more reliable because of it's price, I suggest you look inside - where exactly was that motherboard made?
Oh, yes, the same factory that produces Foxconn boards, not the most expensive on the market - Not by a long way.
By greemble on 24 Nov 2010
This applies to almost all types of Electronic goods.
It's what happens when companies allow themselves to make purchasing and profit decisions under the advice of the Accountants and CFO's who only see profit, and always miss long term issues like this.
Europe should force ALL equipment to have a 5 year warranty out of the factory on anything like this and including household white goods, TV's the lot.
It's all such a waste to throw this stuff away after a year or two.
By Gindylow on 25 Nov 2010
What do users expect?
In these days of litigation I am not surprised that Dell hedged on admitting a universal problem. However when I suffered this with a number of GX270s they accepted the issue, replacements within warranty were quibble free and prompt and they extended the 3 year warranty by a further 18months on the mobo to catch any which survived. They even included the PSU as well as in many cases these failed at the same time.
What more could I ask?
By MIssingLink on 26 Nov 2010
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