AOpen distributor Servex has come under fire from one of its Australian resellers for failing to support the Slot 1 motherboards advertised on its Web site.
Servex is promoting the boards as supporting Pentium Celeron chips but a number of customers of Sydney-based reseller Programmer's Paradise are running into problems when they try to install the boards without a BIOS upgrade - a fact that Servex had failed to stipulate was necessary.
Gillian Eades, the director of Programmer's Paradise, was furious when she started receiving complaints from some of her 10,000 customers around Australia when their systems failed to fire up.
Servex's solution was to upgrade the boards via its Web page, but this was a little difficult for some clients, including Stefan Holbon from Oden Laundry Design, who didn't have access to an operational Pentium II.
"My business wasn't operational for a week while this problem was being sorted out. I even rang the distributor to complain and they called back with a fake name and refused to give me a number. My mobile phone had caller ID so I just rang back."
Servex's general man-ager, Johnson Husiang, denied this version of events adamantly.
"The mainboards were sold to them [Programmer's Paradise] in late July and early August, the BIOS on the mainboard does not accommodate Intel Celeron 300A because the particular CPU has not been released.
"However, AOpen did provide an updated BIOS once Intel Celeron 300A was released in the market, which was mid-September 1998."
And yet . . .
Yet Eades checked her invoice records and told ARN last week that the motherboards in question were sold to her on the 26th of October, not in July as Husiang had suggested.
Two BIOS upgrades were initially sent to Programmer's Paradise but neither of them were operational.
The situation continued to deteriorate when Servex refused to rectify the problem and, according to Eades, just wasn't interested in her complaints.
"I called them six times before someone got back to me, only to have them tell me that it wasn't their responsibility," Eades said.
"If people wanted a BIOS upgrade they could send their motherboards back to Servex and have it done but it would all be at our expense. Or alternatively, we could drive out to our customers with a spare Pentium II and perform the upgrade ourselves.It was outrageous."
Eventually a courier was arranged to take an upgraded motherboard to Holbon, but according to Holbon and Eades, Servex changed its mind because the courier was too expensive and again stated that either Programmer's Paradise or Holbon would have to organise the upgrade themselves.
Husiang insists that Servex could not have done anything differently.
"It is a common issue in the PC industry when you already have a mainboard with an older version of BIOS and would like to use the later-released CPU.
"Servex can only make sure that all AOpen mainboards we sell have the latest version of BIOS and are compatible with the CPUs designed for and available at that moment of time."
However, the technical aspect of the scenario was not the issue that most bothered Holbon and Eades.
"I was annoyed at Servex's attitude towards me, rather than the fact that the motherboard failed to work," Holbon said.
Eades concurred and was also angered by claims that Programmer's Paradise was incompetent in dealing with the issue.
Resolution to the conflict finally arrived when AOpen's Taiwan office reprimanded its Australian distributor (Servex) and accepted liability for the motherboards.
Programmer's Paradise has now taken Servex products completely off its price list, Eades explained, saying that other motherboards it sells don't require a BIOS upgrade.