How Would You Write A Computer Lemon Law?

from the not-so-easy dept

Ed Foster has written up a short blurb for Gripeline discussing how complicated it would be to write a “lemon law” for computers, but suggesting that one is still needed. As he notes, it’s not as easy as just replacing the word “automobile” with “computer” in existing car lemon laws. After all, there are many different reasons why a computer would stop working — and not all of it has to do with the hardware. However, putting a software exception in place would then just make computer manufacturers more likely to quickly blame software problems for any issues. Of course, a few years back some were suggesting that we needed lemon laws for software as well, so maybe the answer is to write an inclusive lemon law. To be honest, however, it’s not entirely clear that such laws really are necessary. While my own personal experience suggests that many computer makers are quite resistant to admitting they sold you a lemon (my laptop with 6 failed hard drives in 18 months was a fun one to deal with), there are enough services and outlets for people to now make their problems very, very public — and that’s made some computer makers much more responsive. So, perhaps it’s as problem that works itself out, as computer makers recognize that there is a huge cost in public relations damage to not responding to complaints.

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Comments on “How Would You Write A Computer Lemon Law?”

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Casper says:

Re: I wouldn't

I don’t know, they may have good reason for suing MS in some cases. A lot of the computers we order have to be wiped and reinstalled from the ground up to get everything working and detecting like it should. In fact, one of my laptops (I won’t mention the brand) came brand new with the drivers all wrong from the manufacturer. My processor was detecting at less then 1/3 speed it should and my through put was nil. I had to manually reload all the drivers twice to get XP to use it correctly and no one could decide who was to blame.

How do you assign blame? Is it the fault of the people who wrote the software, the people who installed it, the people who wrote the drivers, or the people who made the hardware?

jLl says:

Re: Re: I wouldn't

> In fact, one of my laptops (I won’t mention the brand) came brand new with the drivers all wrong from the manufacturer.

You already assigned the blame; and, properly. The manufacturer’s (i.e., “brand”) job is to give you a finished system, with the proper drivers, and they failed at it.

Now, do you sue them for giving you the wrong software? I say “No”…but, that’s your own dilemna to deal with. Just ask them to send you a new “Drivers” disk.

> I don’t know, they may have good reason for suing MS in some cases.

MS’s liability doesn’t include any drivers beyond the few generics that come with Windows. They don’t have any control over which other drivers you ultimately end up with, so blaming them is simply misguided.

ehrichweiss says:

software is to blame many times..

I’m currently in possession of a laptop that a lady claimed was powering down from time to time after she dropped it. I’ve been testing it for about 5 months now(she hasn’t called to ask for it back) and the only problem seems to have been a bad driver or the like because I’m now using my hard drive with it(correct drivers installed) and it’s not given me the least bit of problem. She also was incredibly rough with the thing so I imagine that if it has a shock sensor, she triggered it.

Or there’s MY laptop where upon installing SP2 it would randomly shut down. This happened less than 2 hours after I installed a 1Gb SODIMM module so for about 4 days I blamed the module until I tested it and then switched back to the old one to get the same effects. A simple search turned up that a simple registry entry was at fault over the ACPI settings; I added it and it’s worked fine ever since.

Or my friend who sold a laptop to a lady who then tried to blame him because the drivers for her wifi card weren’t compatible with that version of Windows and that particular model laptop. The lesson she apparently learned was “the wifi card is much cheaper and easier to replace”.

Brian (profile) says:

"Lemon" clauses already exist

I manage large-scale deployments (2000-3000+ PC’s, 1000+ printers, etc), and all of this eqpt is under 2-4 year lease. “Lemon” clauses are already in the contracts clearly defining processes for how to handle a piece that constantly break down with no clear cause. They even use the word “lemon”.

When I present scenarios, vendors like to throw probabilities: “what you suggest is a one in a thousand likelihood”, etc. But in an environment with 5000 units, you’ll see 5???

Curtis says:

Lemon Law unnecessary

A computer is much less expensive than an automobile. So this type of law is unnecessary. Buy from computer companies who will back thier machine with good customer support/service. Do your reseach on the company as well as the machine. If you do your part as a good consumer. The companies who fall behind on thier reputation will soon fade into the abyss.

kilroy says:

Re: Lemon Law unnecessary

But is it really? I mean once the computer is sold and loaded and part of someone’s business the inherent cost of that piece of hardware or software filing can be much higher than the original outlay. ISPs and enterprise applications are shining examples of how many people might just be depending on that technology being reliable.

I remember an incident, or two, not long ago where a software update sidelined a Canadian bank’s network, and another for a large personal communications device provider. Who can say what the ultimate cost of either of those two incidents actually was?

Mike4 says:

I think everyone's missing the point

If I’m not mistaken, the point of a lemon law for cars is for when someone has an issue with their car that the dealership is unable to fix after a number of attempts. All of these computer examples sound like things that can be fixed the first time, except for the example in the story (my laptop with 6 failed hard drives in 18 months).

Mischa says:

Re: Re: Re: Lemons in the Market

Well, that would depend. Mike doesn’t exactly say why he thinks they would be unnecessary. Autos and computers are different in both price and the software component. It seems reasonable to me that there could be a reason lemon laws are not needed for a pc. Not that I can think of one at the moment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Lemons in the Market

Well, that would depend. Mike doesn’t exactly say why he thinks they would be unnecessary.

While he didn’t say it very precisely, he did say “…there are enough services and outlets for people to now make their problems very, very public…” which might sound like he’s arguing that lemon laws are not needed due to the rise of “outlets” for people to speak. I would guess those outlets might primarily consists of blogs. So would the argument be that we don’t need lemon laws if we have blogs?

Autos and computers are different in both price…

Well, that all depends on the auto and the computer. Some computers cost much much more than some autos. But so what?

and the software component.

Virtually all new automobiles are completely dependent on software running on their on-board computers. Not much of a difference there either.

Clueby4 says:

Tech Wild West

I get the feeling of a wild west atmosphere. EULAs, ToSs, No Returns, obtuse and invasive copy protection, spyware, malware, etc

Yea, perish the thought software and hardware manufactures would be forced to stand behind there product.

I would love to see some type of product liability placed on software companies, at the very least software/hardware should be TAX FREE, since the government does, effectively nothing to really help the public at large in that areas.

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