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N.Y. State Says Dell Deceived Its Consumers

The New York State Attorney General’s office filed suit against Dell last week, claiming the computer giant has used deceptive business practices.

The suit, filed in Albany County Supreme Court by Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, accuses Dell and its customer-financing affiliate Dell Financial Services (DFS), a joint venture between the computer manufacturer and CIT Bank, of taking advantage of customers by using intentionally misleading financing promotions, by failing to provide adequate technical support services and of a variety of other deceptive business practices.

The attorney general’s deputy press secretary told TWICE the office had received more than 700 complaints from consumers before launching the suit.

In a prepared statement Cuomo said, “At Dell, customer service means no service at all. Dell’s consumers were intentionally misled, and they had to pay for that privilege. I hope this lawsuit sends a message to companies large and small that delivering a product is simply not enough — the promises they make must be delivered as well.”

Dell was not available for comment.

Cuomo is alleging that Dell did not live up to technical-support obligations stipulated in its warranty or service contracts. He accuses the computer manufacturer of:

  • repeatedly failing to provide timely onsite repair to customers who purchased service contracts that promise onsite and expedited service;
  • pressuring consumers, including those who purchased service contracts promising onsite repair, to open up their computers and attempt to fix hardware components themselves;
  • discouraging customers from seeking technical support because customers who called the company’s toll free number were “subjected to long wait times, repeated transfers and frequent disconnections;” and
  • using “defective refurbished parts of computers to repair or replace consumers’ equipment.”

Beyond the allegations of faulty technical support, Cuomo is also using the suit to accuse the company of financial wrongdoing via what he calls a bait-and-switch scheme. Cuomo alleges that Dell attracted customers with no interest and/or no payment financing promotions but then failed to adequately inform the consumers who were later denied the chance to take advantage of such promotions of their ineligibility, leaving many to unwittingly finance their purchase at high interest rates.

Furthermore, Cuomo is alleging that DFS incorrectly billed customers on orders that had been cancelled or returned or on accounts which they had never authorized Dell to open. He accuses DFS of continually harassing these customers with “illegal billing and collection activity.” The suit alleges that even though “many consumers repeatedly contacted Dell and/or DFS to advise them of the errors, that DFS did not suspend its collection activity and that Dell failed to expeditiously credit consumer’s accounts, even after assuring customers it would do so.” Cuomo claims that this alleged failure to act has led consumers to be subjected to “harassing collection calls for months on end” and to have had their credit ratings harmed.

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