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Tell everyone you know about Dell’s legal action

Jacquelyn Wright usually gives advice and solves problems for others. But when it came to her Dell computer, the Tarrant County Precinct 4 justice of the peace struck out.

“I want Dell to either honor their warranty or refund what I paid for the warranty,” the judge told The Watchdog about her PC, which lost power.

A Dell phone technician wanted her to open the computer and fiddle with the insides, but she didn’t feel qualified. She was afraid that if she made a mistake, her warranty would be voided.

Sorry, Dell informed her, the warranty only applies after you have done what the phone tech asks you to do.

The Watchdog contacted Dell. The company didn’t respond for several weeks, so I relayed the problem again.

Dell later reported that it had tried to resolve her problem “several times.” A spokesman added, “Dell, however, is willing to reimburse the cost of her power supply.”

That was news to Wright, who told me she had received “no reply from Dell whatsoever” after The Watchdog intervened. The judge, who presides over a small-claims court, added: “They lied. No phone calls. No e-mails. No letters. None. Nada.”

This is not the only example I’ve found showing a disconnect between what Dell says and what its customers say.

Now customers such as Wright have a way to receive compensation for their problems from Dell and its subsidiary, Dell Financial Services.

Last month, Dell agreed to settle a case joined by 47 state attorneys general. Dell will reimburse eligible customers for past business practices. The company also agreed to change some of its practices and procedures involving warranty service, interest charges, marketing, rebates and other customer service issues.

If you did business with Dell between April 1, 2005, and April 12, 2009, you have until April 13 to file a claim with the Texas attorney general’s office for a piece of the $162,000 Dell has set aside for reimbursements.

Dell admits no wrongdoing. “The issues represented only a very small percentage of the tens of millions of Dell customer transactions in the states during the 4-year period,” spokesman David Frink said in statement. “Dell’s goal is to provide the best customer service experience possible.”

Tell that to Gene Morgan, who went to the Dell Web site to find out what kind of memory stick his mother-in-law’s laptop needed. He copied the part number and then purchased it from another company. But the wrong part was listed. The laptop crashed and died.

He complained to Dell about the inaccuracy. He tried for weeks to get the company to acknowledge its mistake. The incorrect part is still listed on the site, he says.

Here’s the disconnect: The Dell spokesman says that a staffer contacted Morgan and explained the situation and that Morgan was “good to go.”

“He told our rep he was calling you that day to let you know his questions had been answered to his satisfaction,” Frink said. “He told our rep that he was then leaving on a two-week trip.”

Says Morgan, “I have not been out of town.” He added: “I never got any response from Dell at all. As for the laptop, we had to buy a new one. It was not a Dell. We would not do business with them after the treatment we got.”

Joseph Johnson of Keller was victimized once by an identity thief and then, he says, a second time by Dell Financial Services, which refused to help him clear up fraud on an account.

The thief opened a Dell account using Johnson’s name, and the transactions were hurting his credit score. Johnson tried for months to get Dell’s help, but no one would return his calls, he says.

After The Watchdog intervened, Johnson said, a Dell staffer called and “told me she was aware that you knew and preferred to keep this out of the papers.”

The account was closed. Dell contacted the credit bureaus. Total time of problem resolution: four months.

Ronald Goldman of Fort Worth did somewhat better. When his computer froze, he knew it was under warranty. But when he sought help, he couldn’t understand the phone techs because of their accent, and he says they couldn’t understand him. He asked to speak to someone in Round Rock, home of Dell headquarters. He says he was told he had to pay $149 for a North American tech.

Bottom line: “She answered many questions. I am on my way to resolve my problems.”

All Dell customers who feel they were wronged by the company should take advantage of the settlement and file a claim. But hurry, the deadline is in 52 days.

Filing a claim Learn about the Dell settlement at www.TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov or call 800-252-8011.

The attorney general’s Web site has Frequently Asked Questions and a claims form.

Dell customers who did business with Dell Financial Services or Dell between April 1, 2005, and April 12, 2009, are eligible.