Know What You’re Buying…for Computer Service Contracts as Well as Security and Privacy Products

This morning I was watching Good Morning America (GMA) with my sons before they left for school. Noah said, “Hey, they’re talking about my computer!”

Noah has a Dell laptop, and loves it. However, it is his second Dell; we only had his first one for 1 day because it was a major lemon. I stopped documenting the list of problems after problem #25. However, I called Dell, and since we had just received it, they dispatched a box overnight, we sent the lemon back to them, and they sent us a completely different, new, perfectly-working computer within two days. No cost to us; but major inconvenience to a little boy who had gotten the laptop for his 9th birthday and was anxious to use it as soon as possible.
At the time I arranged for the return the Dell folks encouraged me to purchase “in home” tech support; around $300 per year. I turned them down because I have a little shop I use for the (thankfully) rare tech problems I experience that I cannot get fixed on my own. However, the Dell customer service person did make it sound tempting…promising that someone would come right to my house to fix the Dell if there were any problems. Considering I live out in the country, that drive into town to fix a computer is time lost from other things I’d rather, or should, be doing.
The GMA story featured a “67-year-old retiree” who purchased the “in home” support plan, also believing from the pitch that technicians would actually come into her home.

“Barbara Williams, a 67-year-old retiree who runs a crochet club from her computer, paid Dell for an “in-home” service plan that can cost up to $300. When her computer broke down, she called Dell thinking a technician would come to her home to fix it. Instead, the technician at the other end of the line told her to dissect her computer on her own.
“The guy told me to open my computer. And I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘Well, you have to find the memory. I think it’s a memory problem.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know what memory looks like!,'” Williams said.
“He says, ‘Well you have to troubleshoot.’ I said, ‘No I don’t. I said I don’t know what I’m looking at. I don’t know what’s wrong with this thing. I paid for in-home service.'”
Williams said she waited six weeks before a technician came to her home.
The suit also says Dell Financial Services enticed consumers with offers of “no interest” financing when in fact very few shoppers — even those with good credit history — actually qualified. And the suit says some people who thought they were getting zero percent financing ended up paying more than 20 percent. Over time, that can more than double the cost of a computer.”

Yes…the “in home” suppport was actually having a technician *CALL* you at your home to tell *YOU* how to fix the problem yourself, with your own two hands, using your own time, and with your own tools.
The New York state AG filed a lawsuit against Dell, “accusing the company of deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices.”
I never saw the fine print of the hard copy contract for the service, but I know the customer service person who talked to me sure made it sound like the service would “bring a technician right to your home” to resolve any problem with the computer.
Dell isn’t the only company using deceptive, fraudulent and downright illegal business practices to try and sell their products and services. There are a great many information security and privacy product vendors making outlandish claims for what their products can do.
In the past few months I’ve had several vendors send me unsolicited emails telling me about their products that would “guarantee compliance” or “solve all a company’s privacy concerns.”
C’mon folks! Do you really think I just fell off the turnip truck? Then, what really makes smoke come out of my ears is when they send me snippy follow-up email messages *telling me* to respond to their initial unsolicited directive for me to go to their site and spend my time listening to their webcasts, reading their papers, or calling them to learn how they can help me. Such demands do not engender warm fuzzies.
Information security and privacy practitioners, be on the lookout for unrealistic claims about what a product can do. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…probably many, many times; technology solutions ALONE cannot address all your information security, privacy and compliance challenges, problems or goals, and never will be able to. There will always be a significant human factor involved.
Someday perhaps we will see a GMA piece showing an upset CISO or CPO who got duped by a vendor’s outlandish claims, along with a state AG, or the FTC, putting the kibosh on the vendor because of their deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply