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Unsealed Court Documents Allege Dell Ignored PC Problems

The New York Times said that court documents related to a lawsuit over problems with its OptiPlex PCs between 2003 and 2005 which were recently unsealed show that Dell went out of its way to conceal the problems.

Those recently unsealed documents, according to The New York Times, indicate that at least 11.8 million Dell OptiPlex PCs shipped between May of 2003 and July of 2005 were at risk of failure from faulty capacitors shipped by Dell's Asian component suppliers, in particular those from Japan-based Nichicon.

The New York Times reported on Monday that it had a chance to examine the unsealed documents related to a civil case filed against Dell in a North Carolina Federal District Court.

The capacitors, which leaked fluid and could harm motherboards, were also in use by other PC vendors including Hewlett-Packard and Apple, the Times reported.

The lawsuit was filed in 2007 by Advanced Internet Technologies, a Fayetteville, N.C.-based provider of Web hosting and related services. AIT executives were not available for comment at the time this story was published.

According to the documents, a consultant warned Dell that the PCs with the bad capacitors were 10 times more likely to fail than Dell originally estimated. Furthermore, Dell employees appeared to have gone out of their way to conceal the problems, the Times said.

Dell in 2005 said it would take a $300 million charge to repair faulty circuit boards.

Dell on Tuesday declined to discuss the revelations in the unsealed court documents. However, in a statement, the company said the Nichicon issue is old news, and the implication that this situation affects Dell currently is incorrect.

"The AIT lawsuit is three years old, and the Nichicon capacitors were used by Dell suppliers at certain times from 2003 to 2005. Dell worked with customers to address their issues, and Dell extended the warranties on all OptiPlex motherboards to January 2008 in order to address the Nichicon capacitor problem. Faulty Nichicon capacitors affected many manufacturers. It is speculation to suggest that Dell was affected more than other companies. The AIT lawsuit does not involve any current Dell products. Dell is responsive to customer issues and we continue to remain focused on our customers, their needs, and our growing record of superior customer service."

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