Dell has just been required to pay out over $3 million after it had deceived consumers who purchased its computer products under financing agreements, promising zero-percent finance and then charging them. State Attorneys General reached an agreement with Dell yesterday after announcing they’d found Dell had indeed broken its promise with consumers.
Apparently the computer maker had also failed to deliver promised rebates to those consumers who complained, and had been difficult about providing warranty service.
The $3.35 million total is split between a $1.5 million “restitution account” and $1.85 in legal fees that the 34 states involved had incurred. Consumers who suffered under Dell’s bad practices now have 90 days to apply for reimbursements from the restitution fund.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said “More than the money, this agreement provides profoundly important business practice reforms,” obviously hoping that Dell and its competitors will no longer lure consumers into unfair financing schemes.
Particularly during the current financial situation this is a positive sign for consumers.
For its part, Dell doesn’t sound too “guilty.” It was “pleased with the prompt and reasonable response from the state Attorneys General,” and noted that the affected transactions represented a “a very small percentage of the tens of millions of consumer transactions” that occurred during the period.
Dell itself has already been suffering financially, with falling stock prices, expenses cutbacks and staff downsizing. And though $3 million is just a drop in the ocean for the company it’s another sign that Dell is in trouble. With recent analysis suggesting that consumer tech spending will dip in 2009, the company clearly needs to revise its business practices.