Driven to distraction by Dell laptop lapses


YOUR CONSUMER QUERIES:DAVE COUGHLAN sent us a mail after been driven to distraction by the Dell laptop he bought in 2007 for €709. Within a few weeks the battery stopped charging and after repeated calls to the company a technician came out to replace the battery and the motherboard. The motherboard did not work so another one had to be ordered.

The laptop worked for a few months and then acted up so another motherboard was sent out along with a technician. All was well for a few weeks but again it started failing.

Coughlan says he was told at that time he had the option of a replacement or repair, so he chose a repair. He also extended his warranty last year at a cost of €125, which was supposed to cover him until 2013. Last month the laptop started overheating and stopped working properly. Another technician called out to replace the motherboard and fan. There were more problems, he says.

He has now spent many hours on the phone running tests and being sent from pillar to post. Most recently he was offered another motherboard replacement, the sixth. “I’ve asked can I get a replacement laptop instead of repair as no matter what they do it is not working and I was told it wasn’t an option,” he writes.

He was told that it was at the company’s discretion as to whether or not he was offered a repair, replacement or refund.

“Not once in all my three hours on the phone did anyone apologise for the continual breaking of the laptop and the annoyance and disruption that this has caused,” he writes.

He rang the National Consumer Agency, who told him if he was not being offered a remedy, he should put it in writing and see if that made a difference. “If not then the Small Claims Court would be the option if I was still not happy.”

He called Dell again and spoke to another manager who offered him the option of refund but not replacement. “I asked how much would it be and he said that he would have to take into account depreciation of 60 months and after a few minutes told me it would be in and around €11.

“Can you please help sort out this problem for me as I’m at my wits’ end and feel that I am not being taken seriously? I am aware that any laptop will get slower and will need to be replaced over time but from the outset it has been crap.

“I believe that I have given Dell every chance to repair it and I am sick of ringing them and getting pushed from pillar to post and being told a different story by each person that I talk to.”

He says he is not asking for a full refund but if a replacement (working) laptop was sent out “I would be happy to take it”.

We contacted the company on his behalf and at the time of writing are still awaiting a response. The company assured us we would get one and we will update the story as soon as we hear back from the Dell people.

Mobile networks need to do better on banner ad issues

RECENTLY WE carried a complaint about the ease of access to premium rate mobile phone services via banner ads on smart phones. With some such services all you have to do is click on a banner and next minute you’re receiving premium texts which cost ridiculous amounts. You think you are clicking on a banner advert but you are actually placing an order.

A reader, Brian, emailed us some valid points. “When I click on a banner ad – even with a strongly worded call to action – I don’t expect to be purchasing it automatically,” he wrote. “This is not the expected outcome for anybody who clicks on a banner ad on a desktop computer and, by extension, on a mobile device.”

He says the networks target pay-as-you-go customers with the above – it seems that “automatic” purchasing doesn’t happen (or at least used not to) to bill pay customers. “As we all know, most people would not sign up for such texts or make such purchases if there was a clear and standard purchasing procedure in place.”

He says Comreg is “spineless” when it comes to this. “I think it’s consumer pressure that will change this. Networks need to come clean [about the fact] that they are transferring customer numbers to ‘trusted’ third parties and [to let people know] who exactly they are.”

Comreg says its new code of practice, to be published shortly, has proposed a “double opt-in” which means that people are asked (by SMS) and required to confirm (by SMS) their subscription before it can commence.

Council should park restriction

MARK PUECH contacted us with a story connected with Dublin City Council’s parking- by-phone service.

He says it works very well, is handy and saves fumbling with change.

“You can either have a cash account, which I have, or a web account which costs 50 cent a month in addition to the parking charges. Each cash account is linked to a mobile phone which you use to pay the charge.”

So far so good, you might think. The problem is that Mr Puech and his wife share the car and the system only allows one cash account and therefore one mobile phone to each car.

“She is not able to use the service unless I am with her. You can have multiple web accounts per car but each will cost 50 cents a month and first I would have to run down my cash account as they will not close it and refund my balance.

“I think it’s a ridiculous restriction of the service which should be removed.”

Another fine mess at Greyhound

GREYHOUND HAS got lots of flack recently. Lynda from Dublin contacted us about the company. In January it took over the collection of her bins and sent a letter asking for annual payment of €100. The management company of the apartment complex where she lives said “Hold tight, don’t do anything, we’re gonna come up with an alternative”. Then she got a letter from them saying “Cancel your Greyhound account”. So she called Greyhound and was told she would need to send her cancellation request in writing. “They said there’d been one lift and I owed €6 but once I paid that off they’d cancel the account.”

So far so good. She called a few days later as she was having difficulty finding the payment section on its website. “Again, a person said ‘pay the €6 and send the email and then we’ll cancel it’. I paid the €6 online, sent the email and waited to hear back.”

A week passed and she heard nothing. She called and was told she owed €50 because she had availed of the service with that one lift. Greyhound would not cancel the account until this fee was paid. “I queried why I had to pay this after I’d been told all I had to do was pay €6 for a single lift. They just kept saying I’d availed of the service and now owed them €50. Where has the €50 has come from? It’s like they’re making up the rules as they go along.”

We contacted the company after which it quickly resolved the issue . Her account is has been reduced to zero and has been formally closed.