Smart Computing

Lemon Law Woman

When Life Gives You Lemons: Sue

Reprinted From Smart Computing Magazine

Odds are you've had trouble with a PC at some point or know someone who has. Either way you're probably aware that some big computer companies can be tough to work with once they have your money. Research on consumer satisfaction with computer companies and their customer service departments indicates the majority of consumers are satisfied with their computer purchasing experiences, but many are still seething with frustration over their treatment by PC makers. Some people live with PCs that don't work properly even after months of trips back and forth to manufacturers for repairs. Consumers tell stories of unresponsive tech support teams and interminable delays, and many give up in the end because taking action costs too much and they need a computer that works now.

Some companies are responsive to their customers' problems and work hard to provide timely, reliable service or equipment replacement. Others, however, are not. Some companies faced with large numbers of service claims actually prefer litigation to fixing their customers' problems. "The layers of tech support consumers have to go through aren't accidental," says Pennsylvania attorney Craig Thor Kimmel. "Some companies use them to rid themselves of as many as 80% of their pending claims and call that 'customer resolution."

Kimmel's firm has been helping clients with auto lemon law claims for about 10 years, so when Pennsylvania state Rep. T.J. Rooney decided to introduce legislation for a computer lemon law, he contacted Kimmel & Silverman for help. In April 1999 Kimmel helped put together a pending computer lemon law based on the language of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which requires manufacturers to inform consumers of the terms of their warranties and to honor them. The PC lemon law includes specific provisions for computer companies, requiring them to guarantee a two-year period of functionality and prohibiting them from blaming customers' problems on preinstalled software under most circumstances.

"Most customers don't want a refund of their money," says Kimmel, who gets about 150 e-mails per day from consumers asking about their rights in dealing with manufacturers. "They purchased a specific computer for specific reasons, and they want it to work." The computer lemon law will entitle consumers to timely replacement of their PCs if manufacturers can't fix them and requires manufacturers to pay claimants' legal fees as well as any expenses incurred in resolving their claims. Kimmel says he expects the measure to pass successfully in Pennsylvania and that his firm's web site (Computer Lemon Law) has sparked interest in several other states (and possibly at the federal level), as well.

For more information, visit Computer Lemon Law.

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