January 16, 2007 6:47 AM PST
Dell hit with class action suit over Inspiron
Dell, which struggled last year with a massive battery recall, now faces legal action in Canada from a user who complained the company continued to sell some models in its notebook line after it knew they suffered from problems.
The class action suit was filed in the Ontario Superior Court by Thad Griffin, a resident of Ontario, on behalf of other users of Dell Inspiron laptops. It alleges design defects make certain Inspirons susceptible to overheating and that this overheating will cause extra wear to the motherboard, resulting in premature failure.
While the class action is not directly related to a massive recall of overheating Sony laptop batteries last year, the publicity from that issue has haunted Dell. The company's share price plummeted after the news broke in August and only slowly recovered through November. Dell has attempted to rebuild its image by accelerating initiatives such as its carbon-neutral strategy, announced last week.
The legal action, filed at the end of last week, applies to Inspiron models 1100, 1150, 5100, 5150 and 5160. It seeks to have Dell Canada replace the defective computers or cover the cost of repairs. The justification for this, according to a lawyer in the case, is that there appears to be "a systemic problem."
"Generally, we're seeing these symptoms or problems occur after the warranties run out. And it would appear as though it's a systemic problem that's inherent to all of these Inspiron models. At least, that's the feedback we're getting," Joel Rochon, a partner of Rochon Genova, the firm conducting the case, said in an interview with the Canadian press.
According to Rochon, there has been a "steady flow" of people bringing their problems to his firm.
But Dell computers do not have any inherent problems, according to Which, an independent product evaluation site in the U.K. that looked closely at Dell laptops after the company's August laptop battery recall because of reports of batteries overheating and catching fire.
"Our surveys show that Dell is one of the most reliable brands out there, but this type of incident could harm Dell's image badly," Kim Gilmour, a Computing Which magazine senior researcher, said at the time. "Dell did react quickly, but it could have reacted faster. It took the company several weeks to issue this mass recall of batteries."
A Which spokesman said the organization has not yet had to time to consider the current issues around the alleged problems with Dell's Inspiron.
When contacted on Monday, Dell would say only that it "does not comment on pending litigation, as a matter of corporate policy."
Dell customers still concerned about the overheating issue should check Dell's Web site for updates.
Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.
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