160907_EM_DellInspiron
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Should Dell Honor an 'Implied Warranty' on a Lemon PC?

Leslie Woz's Dell laptop is a lemon, and now it's off warranty. Should the company honor an implied warranty?

Question:

I need your help with a Dell Inspiron laptop that died from a failed motherboard after 14 months. While on the surface it would seem that this is beyond the 12-month warranty period, I believe that we had a valid case for an exception because the laptop did not function correctly from day one, required three onsite visits by technicians who took the laptop apart and replaced numerous parts, as well as several very long technical troubleshooting sessions over the phone in which it was discovered that the laptop had the wrong or outdated software.

The laptop was finally repaired to the point of being usable three months after the purchase date, and I believe that it is only fair that the warranty should have started at that point. It is also my contention that the several service calls which took the laptop apart could have very well caused harm to the motherboard. I asked Dell to consider these facts and repair the laptop at their expense. They have refused.

I am pushing this issue because I think that it is only right for a company to stand behind their product. When a product is sold that is totally defective, then that product should have been replaced, and the warranty restarted. Dell seems to think that they do not have to stand behind their product.

Having worked for Fortune 500 companies, I'm well aware that there is an exception process for warranties that would seem to apply when a product has shown itself to be grossly problematic, as ours was. When this was brought to a supervisor's attention, he agreed that Dell had an exception process, but could not articulate why our computer would not apply. He simply kept repeating that our computer was not under warranty, and there was nothing he could do.

Bottom line: I firmly believe that Dell sold us a significantly defective product. I want it to pay for the repair of the laptop motherboard. Can you help?

— Leslie Woz, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

Answer:

Your Dell warranty lasted a year, no more, no less. (Technically, it's one year "beginning on the date of invoice," according to the manufacturer.) The company can bend its own rules whenever it wants to, but it doesn't have to.

Your warranty came with so many exclusions, it makes me wonder what is covered. Not covered are software, some external devices, accessories or parts added to a Dell system after the system is shipped from Dell, products purchased through the Software & Peripherals department, and any monitors, keyboards, and mice that are not Dell-branded or that are not included on Dell's standard price list.

Well, shoot, if I'd read this before buying a Dell, I would have had second thoughts about the warranty. Certainly, even if Dell would extend the warranty, who's to say it would mean the company would replace your motherboard?

You followed all the steps to a resolution, including starting a paper trail and then appealing your case to four levels of Dell's executive customer service contacts. But nothing seemed to work.

I think your computer should have worked when you bought it. Although there's a very limited one-year warranty on your Inspiron, I believe there's an implied warranty that the computer will work as advertised for a full year. No, that's not written in any contract, but when you buy a computer from Dell, that's the impression you're left with—and that counts for something.

I contacted Dell on your behalf and was encouraged when I heard back from the company right away. A representative apologized for your problems and promised to send your repair request to Dell's "escalations team" for a resolution.

But that resolution never came. A Dell employee contacted you and said that despite all the problems with your Inspiron, Dell was not going to cover the cost of fixing it.

I'm hesitant to write about a case that wasn't resolved, but you encouraged me to cover your problem in a column as a warning to others: When Dell says 12 months, that's exactly what it means.

Christopher Elliott is Money's reader advocate. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with your problem at his consumer advocacy site.

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