Dell shipped faulty PCs for years, court documents show

Dell deliberately shipped millions of PCs that it knew to be faulty, according to recently unsealed court papers.

The three-year-old documents, obtained by the New York Times, show that at least 11.8 million Dell OptiPlex PCs, which shipped between May 2003 and July 2005, were at risk of failure from faulty capacitors.

They relate to a civil case filed against the company in the North Carolina Federal District Court by web hosting company Advanced Internet Technologies.

The capacitors, says the paper, were supplied by vendors including  Japan’s Nichicon, and were used by other PC vendors too, including HP and Apple. But, they show, Dell was most affected.

According to the documents, shortly after problems started emerging, Dell was warned by a consultant that the machines were ten times as likely to fail as had been initially estimated by Dell. An internal Dell study also showed that PCs containing the suspect capacitors had a 97 percent fail rate.

But not only did the company not recall them, says the New York Times, sales staff were told to conceal the problems. Emails show them being told not to bring problems to customers’ attention.

Dell looked like one of the best players on the block at one time, but has declined over the last few years. In 2005, it announced that it was taking a $300 million charge, related in part to the faulty capacitors.