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On the 11th September a customer of the PC World computer superstore in Colliers Wood, London took his laptop back for an under warranty repair. The computer was only a few months old, and a crack had appeared near the left hinge which is indicative of an internal joint failing. Whatever, it is pretty straightforward to agree that this hardware issue is something that is covered by the warranty. Not least because if left unrepaired the split will eventually cause the screen to fall off if experience is any indicator of events. PC World agreed, until they noticed that the customer had committed the mortal sin of replacing the Windows OS with a Linux distro instead. All of a sudden, all bets are off and the Linux leper was refused a warranty repair and that was the end of the matter.

The tech guys at the store agreed it was a hardware fault that could hardly be said to be impacted upon in any way by a software issue, but their hands were tied. This was a management thing, and the manager he say no.

Well, it might have been had the customer not also been a blogger. When faced with such injustice bloggers do what comes naturally and blog. He did just that, here. Pretty soon the blogosphere caught on and the story was Dugg, Sladshdotted and otherwise flung around the virtual grapevine, and now the madness of PC World was visible to the watching world.

Yes, there is an argument that says you cannot expect a store that only sells Windows and Mac laptops to support customers with Linux related problems, but this was not a Linux related problem. Yes, there is an argument that says the store tech guys will wipe the hard drive and re-image with a default Windows install as the first stage of the repair so as to be facing a clean config to work from, but in that case does it make any difference what OS is on the thing to start with?

There is simply no excuse for being quite so inflexible, when the fault is so plainly not a software one, and alienating a customer in this way.

Indeed, that's pretty much what a spokesman for PC World told the UK IT magazine PC Pro when it enquired on the chaps behalf while investigating the story. There was "no question that is invalidated his warranty, it was simply a misunderstanding" the spokesman claimed "rest assured there will be no similar misunderstandings in future."

So, all is well that ends well then.

Perhaps if it has ended well, or at all, but it has not. Fast forward to Friday 14th, a full day after the PC World spokesperson gave that assurance, when the original blogger returned to the same store with his Linux laptop. His report comes complete with video evidence of the encounter with the manager of PC World who repeated that by installing Linux the customer had invalidated his warranty and no repair could be made. Surprisingly though, he also refused to give this in writing and just told the customer to telephone head office instead.

This is not an isolated incident by any means, reports are now popping up of other people turned away by PC World for hardware repairs due to a Linux installation. One even reports that PC World told him that Linux was 'alien software' and so the numerous dead pixels on the screen could not be repaired under warranty. Perhaps the Linux spaceship had landed on the display causing the damage? Makes about as much sense as PC World is at the moment…

Back to our blogger, he did as he was instructed and called the head office number. After some confusion, caused largely by being put through to sales, he managed to talk to the tech support people. Guess what he was told, that a report had been filed about his machine which said that the damage to the hinge was caused by 'the way the customer opened it' and was not under warranty. He was also told that he had been advised to 'remove Linux and restore Windows then come back' which the video evidence published on his blog would seem to clearly dispute. As if all this were not daft enough, the best is yet to come: the hinge is not covered by warranty because it is a wear and tear item.

Yep, you heard it right: don't keep opening and shutting your laptop as it may damage the hinge and PC World cannot repair it if that happens. Especially if you happen to be infected with the Linux disease for good measure…

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Last Post by dews
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LOL "avoid PC World from now on"????

I do not shop whit them, back home this sort of company will get close realy fast. I get my hardware and software from online retailer and is cheaper and I do not loose warranty over something stupid and specialy like Unix on my machine :D

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So there's beaurocracy, lying managers/employees, and an unwillingness to honor their warranty?

I've only ever seen such bad press with Britney Spears

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UK isn't it? Isn't the UK covered by EU consumer protection laws?
If it is threatening a lawsuit under those laws will set things moving, as under EU law warranty must cover things that can be reasonably expected to work for a reasonable period.
What that entails is described in the law, and I'm pretty sure a failure to cover hardware failure because of a customer's choise of software isn't legal and neither is denying warranty coverage for hinges.

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These guys at PCWorld seem 'unhinged'. I already have a cracked hinge on my Toshiba and since its out of warranty - maybe I'll install Linux.

Jay

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Told you ppl about MS making it to the market in a way that the OS is considered as physical part of PC or laptop. It only complements the 99% of shops that will abuse any detail in order to refuse to cover for faulty-by-manufacturer product.

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Perhaps you might like to read another episode which shows the detereoration of PC World:

john-benson18@blueyonder.co.uk


3rd October 2007

The Managing Director
PC World
PO Box 1686
Sheffield
S2 5YB

Dear Sir,

Yesterday I made some purchases at PC World in Tottenham Court Road, and a copy of the bill is enclosed.

At the checkout, a salesman was at the till, standing next to the female cashier. HE checked me out and asked me specifically if I required 3-year cover for the printer. I said no! I also queried the total price and he mentioned everything except that item which I had not required but which now appears on the bill! Like most customers would, I took his word for it.

This is fraud. I do not require a refund but, as a long-standing customer, I will never use your stores again and will inform everyone I come in contact with, the reason for my decision!

I am 77 and have been in computers since 1965, I am therefore well aware of the changing retail landscape! I am not surprised your stores are practicing a “pile ‘em high and sell them cheap” policy!

I suggest the contempt with which your retail customers are shown, unless you actively seek help, is the prelude to closure for them.

And you deserve it! You might also care to look at your faulty tagging system. Purchases do not get de-activated at checkout and at other stores with a similar system in Tottenham Court Road trigger an alarm! Of course they are aware of PC World’s failure and ignore it, but it does annoy customers!


Yours faithfully,

A J Benson

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Hi, Very nice and informative article. I didn't knew about this thing. I used to recover my Linux files with the help of stellar phoenix inux data recovery. It helps me lots of time whenever i didn't had backup

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It seems that the average American is really being 'strangled' by sad companies like MS.

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