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PCA attacks ‘shabby’ handling of Great Fujitsu HDD fiasco

We publish Open Letter from trade association

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To: Adam Harris
VP – Fujitsu Europe

From Keith Warburton
Executive Director PC Association

27th September 2002

AN OPEN LETTER

Dear Adam,

I write on behalf of the Personal Computer Association, a trade organisation consisting of businesses from throughout the UK and international IT industry. I have made two attempts to speak with you directly about this matter, with no success. Since this matter seems to have a worldwide impact, I ask that you communicate the contents of this letter to the company’s management in Japan, and seek from them the clarification that has not been forthcoming from any of the subsidiaries.

This is about the issue of faulty Fujitsu hard disk drives; in fact the issue is not so much to do with the faulty drives – of which more later - but the way in which Fujitsu seems to have gone into either “deny” or “ignore” mode regarding the situation, and in doing so is demonstrating lack of regard or respect for their customers.

Following PCA Members' concerns this issue was publicly discussed during the Conference of the PC Association, co-incidentally and simultaneously the matter was raised in the international IT press. Since then I have received many stories from the trade and end users that confirm beyond any doubt whatsoever that the rate of failure of your MPG3xxx disk drives is way above that which might normally be expected. In this context we believe that a 1% failure rate p.a. (i.e. 2% within 2 years) might be acceptable, and 2%p.a. would be regrettable but manageable. 3% and above would be cause for grave concern.

However, I have spoken with a number of very well informed people, and from my conversations with them and from the reports we have received from three continents we can conclude, with a reasonable degree of confidence that the MPG3xxx series drives may well have a failure rate in excess of 20% pa (40% within two years of install). Indeed some of our correspondents would say this is a conservative estimate.

Notwithstanding the actual rate of failure, I believe that the way that Fujitsu corporation has handled this situation is shabby to say the least, and reflects no credit whatsoever upon the company’s most senior management. The days when giant corporations can ride roughshod over the wishes and needs of their customers are, thankfully, long gone. Or perhaps that should be rephrased: in a competitive marketplace, where the customer has choice, any business that has a wish for longevity must be seen to be open and honest and to treat its customers decently and fairly.

Whilst Fujitsu in the UK has cautiously admitted that it has had “reports from some customers regarding increased failure rates over some months” – inferring perhaps that the problem is more to do with customers than the company, we have received reports of Fujitsu in Canada and Germany denying that there is any problem whatsoever. The following verbatim extracts should give you a flavour:

“I am a Tech for a School District in BC Canada. We purchased a brand new lab of Hewitt Rand machines about a year ago. They all came with the MPG3204AT 20 GIG Fujitsu Harddrives.As Hewitt Rand has gone out of business, we have been having to deal with Fujitsu Canada directly.

So Far, out of 30 machines, we have had 26 fail with the "no harddrive" lack of detection by the system. That is 86% and climbing every day. These machines stay running all the time. They were fine for about eight months and then they started to fail at a rate of 2 - 3 per week.

I eventually called and talked to the President of Fujisu Canada himself, Mr Howard Day. He denied any "world wide" issues with these harddrives and said they only have a 3% failure rate. He said it must have somehow been "Hewitt Rand"'s fault. Easy to blame a company that doesn't exist anymore.

As we are a school, it is insane having a lab where 4-6 machines are not working at one time. From the time we request the RMA and send the drives to Fujitsu (our own cost in shipping) and then receive another drive back, it is over 2 weeks turnaround. We have been down as many as 6 drives for 2 week periods.

Your (comments published in The Register) is the FIRST I have found over months of searching that says I am not alone. I was beginning to think that I had "ghosts". Fujitsu has given me quite the runaround over the past 6 months.

1) First they said they would offer us a refund for all the drives so we could go out and buy a different brand. 2) They rescinded that and said that they would only offer us a refund on the drives that had failed. 3) Then they rescinded that and said that they would only offer us a refund if we sent in more than 10 drives at a time, knowing full well that we couldn't be down 10 drives at a time in our lab and still keep classes functioning.”

Or how about this heartfelt comment from a system builder in Germany “We are thankful to hear finally from other people to have problems with fujitsu HDD drives. We bought about 80 fujitsu since 2001. Most of them we had to give back to our distributer, and we got new once back of them who have all exactly the problems you discribe. In August we wrote a letter to fujitsu Munich. Of cause they sayed, they haven't heard of this problem, and they will give us the chance to give them back until December 2002 for each $ 52,-- !! What a joke, we payed 80-90€ and had a lot of costs changing and posting. And why are they doing it anyway”.

These are representative examples from the correspondence that we’ve received. The only response we’ve heard coming from Fujitsu is that “press reports are inaccurate”. In just what way are they inaccurate, exactly? Are failure rates higher than 86%? And that’s the point. Fujitsu’s policy seems to have been to try and contain the problem (of getting a bad reputation) by treating each complaint independently and in isolation. Please recognise that this policy has now failed, and come clean about the whole mess.

I understand that if Fujitsu feels that it has an epidemic failure rate on disk drives – and the way some of your major OEM’s have handled massive swap-out programmes would seem to confirm this – than it may be reluctant to confirm the scale of the problem for fear of impacting shareholder confidence. Frankly, the company has already lost the confidence of a large portion of its customer base; the only way to rescue what little credibility you have left – regarding this matter – is to come clean and implement a decent, honourable, workable and clearly stated solution for your trade customers, a solution that will in turn allow them to look after their customers.

Yours sincerely

Keith Warburton
Executive Director
Personal Computer Association

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