Faulty capacitors give resellers the mother of all headaches

The clandestine world of corporate espionage has hit the hip pocket of Australian channel. Resellers are finding they can't get motherboard vendors to honour warranties on faulty products.

Faulty capacitors on motherboards have affected PCs worldwide, but the problem is only now beginning to surface in Australian components.

The capacitor problem reportedly began when a Japan-based scientist working on an electrolyte formula for use in capacitors stole the formula and then sold it to a Taiwanese company.

Unfortunately, the composition wasn’t quite right: hydrogen gas builds up, causing the capacitor to bulge and - in the worst case - burst. This means that motherboards can fail over a period of months, which has hampered diagnosis of the problem.

However, resellers report the products have made their way to Australia. They are now facing an uphill battle to get vendors to honour the warranties on faulty stock.

“Certain brands of motherboards have been dropping like flies,” Ian Grieve from Computer Ambulance Services in Queensland told ARN. “I would estimate a 70 per cent failure rate within two years.” Other retailers had experienced the same problem, he said.

According to a report by IEEE Spectrum, the only motherboard manufacturer to admit to the problem was ABIT Computer in Taipei. However, it is clear other vendors have also used the components.

IBM is the only PC vendor to admit to being affected, but as reports flood in from around the world, it is obvious the scale of the problem is growing daily.

Disaster recovery and risk management specialist, Tim Cousins, said he had noticed a disturbing pattern of computer failures that fitted in with the capacitor problem.

“The symptoms leading up to the failure include the system failing to boot, locking up or rebooting randomly,” he said in a message on his Web site. “This develops over a long period of time with increasing severity. On the claims that we have looked at the erratic and illogical behaviour of the computer system generated extensive and unsuccessful repairs and ultimately the replacement of the computer.

“We believe that many capacitor failures have been undiagnosed or misdiagnosed,” he said.

With no-one willing to take responsibility for the problem, resellers have largely had to foot the bill for faulty products.

Greive said he was waiting for a class action against manufacturers and distributors who had refused to honour the warranties on the faulty motherboards.

“I have made good to my clients on every single board and that has cost me thousands of dollars,” he said. “The manufacturers and distributors have only got a limited amount of time left before someone like the ACCC starts imposing regulations in this industry, as they have in others.”

Sales manager at Century Technology in North Sydney, Jimmy Song, said he hadn’t experienced any problems with motherboard failures.

“ But I did have a client bring in an IBM Aptiva and when I looked at the capacitors, three were faulty,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it.”

However, Cousins said the extent of the problem could be far reaching.

“We are yet to see the full ramifications of this problem, how the Australian Insurance Industry reacts and how the warranty returns will be managed back through the supply chain,” he said.

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