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The Boston Globe

Business

Consumer Alert

With computer support, know with whom you’re dealing

Q. I would like to know if you have had complaints about Dell customer support, specifically, MyTechHelp.com. I had a problem with my Dell PC and contacted Dell tech support. I was told the tech help would cost $300 for a two-year plan covering two computers. I then received support for my problem. Because I was not sent a receipt, I contacted the number given me by the tech support person who assisted me. That is when I was told that I was dealing with a third party, not Dell.

ROBERTA COBBETT, SWAMPSCOTT

A. You stumbled into an area that can be incredibly confusing. Getting tech support for an older computer leads plenty of people to a place they might not have intended to go.

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While you were seeking — and thought you had received — help from Dell, you weren’t dealing with Dell at all. MyTechHelp.com is not affiliated with Dell, said Christina Furtado, a Dell spokeswoman. But MyTechHelp does buy advertising on Google, which results in prominent placement when someone searches for support for Dell and other brands.

Since the relationship between manufacturer and consumer generally ends after the warranty ends, consumers typically look elsewhere to service their computers. Such service is usually available through a computer repair shop, electronics stores like Best Buy, or office supply stores like Staples. But some consumers still want technical help from their computer manufacturer. Some will charge a fee for a phone consultation. Others might not offer support.

MyTechHelp, which provides support for a variety of brands, has generated hundreds of complaints to the Better Business Bureau and consumer gripe sites, many from folks who said they believed they were talking to the manufacturer. The company denies it misleads anyone.

There are a lot of old computers out there and a lot of people who want them fixed. Know with whom you’re dealing before paying a penny.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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