DOJ: News Release

Bullock Announces Settlement with Dell Computers Involving Financing, Rebate and Customer Service Practices

HELENA – Steve Bullock, Montana’s Attorney General, on Monday announced a multi-state settlement agreement between Montana and at least 44 other states and Dell Computers, stemming from the computer company’s rebate, financing and customer service practices.

As part of the settlement agreement, Dell will pay consumers across the nation $3.35 million and change its practices relating to financing and credit offers.

“This agreement will lead to money in the pockets of consumers who were wronged and, just as important, it will make Dell clean up its act,” said Bullock. “I urge Montanans who may have been affected by Dell’s business practices to contact my office to see if they qualify for compensation.”

This multi-state agreement is the result of numerous complaints from consumers about the Texas-based computer company Dell, Inc., and its subsidiary, Dell Financial Services, LLC. Grievances lodged against the company range from customers not receiving the next-day service they paid for, customers applying for zero-percent financing but then being charged higher interest rates, customers having trouble obtaining warranty service on their Dell computers, and customers never receiving promised rebates.

The settlement announced today applies to complaints made after April 1, 2005. Montana consumers can find out if they’re eligible by reviewing the frequently asked questions related to the settlement. To be eligible for restitution, consumers must file claims before April 13th, 2009.

Under the agreement recently reached, Dell Computers agreed to change its practices in the following areas:

FINANCING AND CREDIT OFFERS

  • Disclose in advertisements for promotional credit offers that the majority of consumers who apply will not qualify for the best annual percentage rate (APR), and further disclose the range of initial APRs that consumers who are not considered the “most qualified borrowers” are likely to receive.
  • Inform consumers who are considering applying for promotional financing that the application is for a revolving open credit account, that minimum monthly payments are required, and that approval of the account does not guarantee that the consumer will also qualify for conditional financing promotions (such as zero-percent interest for 90 days).
  • Explain how finance charges are calculated, disclose any penalties, and inform the consumer whether subsequent purchases made using the credit account will be subject to the same or different financing terms.
  • Disclose whether the applicant has qualified for any conditional financing promotion at the time of credit acceptance.

WARRANTIES AND SERVICES

  • Fulfill its warranty obligations within 30 days from the date of notification or receipt of a defective product.
  • Disclose whether phone-based troubleshooting or remote diagnosis is required before Dell will provide on-site repair or warranty-related service.
  • Provide the next-day services it advertises.

REBATES

  • When a rebate is available, provide the necessary rebate documentation at the time the product is delivered or the service is provided.
  • Mail rebates to consumers within the specified time frame, or within 30 days if no date is specified.

ADDITIONAL PROCEDURES AND POLICIES

Implement written policies to ensure compliance with the settlement, including procedures that address issues such as:

  • Informing consumers of their right to cancel orders made with the Dell Credit Account within three days after receiving final credit approval.
  • Communication between Dell and Dell Financial Services when a consumer returns a product purchased with credit.
  • Removing consumer accounts from collection agencies and providing accurate information to credit reporting bureaus.
  • Substantiate any claims Dell makes about the quality of its customer service. For example, Dell agrees to use the term “award-winning” to describe its customer service only if the company received such an award within the past 18 months.

To make a claim under the settlement, call the Department of Justice, Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500 or toll-free at (800) 481-6896.

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