I have been asked to advise on a rather worrying deal being offered in every high street in the UK. How about a free laptop if you sign up to broadband for 24 months?
Sound too good to be true? Well the fact of the matter is it probably is. Let's look first of all what is offered.
A Dell Inspiron Laptop, the 1520. A laptop no longer sold by Dell for £329
Windows Vista Home edition. Say no more
AOL, on their pseudo "maximum speed for where you live" which we all know actually means a lot less then you can get, but we'll charge you loads anyway.
Interestingly, I didn't do call outs for all three of these things. I don't mind laptops so much now, as long as people understand when it breaks physically, they might as well throw the thing away. Vista Home, well we all know how reliable that is don't we? We should, but all you have to do is type in Vista Home edition problems into google to see the 7,280,000 hits listed. So that's easy enough, isn't it? Surely, if you own the laptop, you can just wipe it clean and install XP instead? Well apparently not, because that'll invalidate the contract, leaving you with a £350 bill for the laptop. And how would they know you've downgraded the laptop? Well , AOL of course, would send your system information to Carphone Warehouse, leaving you open to their wrath.
And whilst we talk about AOL, lets look at how well it runs. The automatic update runs every day, fixing more faults, and causing more faults. The number of call outs I have had where the whole system is freezing, and a quick check of Task Manager and you can see the dreaded "AOLsoftware.exe" running at 98% on the CPU. Stop it, and the AOL program just runs it again. Ok, so why not not run the AOL software? Well once again, the contract states that you have to use their software, presumably to honour the guarantee, but probably really so they can keep an eye on you and the laptop.
So is it a good deal? Let's compare prices.
Broadband is £10 a month. Their price is £20 a month. So take the extra tenner, put it in a high interest account at the bank every month. After 2 years you'll have close to £300. Or, get a loan for £300 over 24 months, and pay a little over £12 a month and get the laptop you want, with the operating system you want, without the crapware and bloatware loaded onto it. It has to be better then that offer.
And last, but by no means least, lets look at the legality of support. In this country, it says you have to provide technical support on a faulty item. This is because if an item that's paid for doesn't do what it's supposed to, then it has to be rectified. So you get a free laptop. This means technically you don't have to have any support because the thing wasn't paid for. This is happening more and more with 'free' ISPs like talktalk and Sky. You don't pay directly for it, so they don't directly support it. Making in a royal pain in the bum to get fixed.
The fact is, with the TV advertising going on, they won't sell them quickly enough. Like lambs to the slaughter. Shall we see how long until they're mentioned on Watchdog?
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