On July 18, I wrote about problems Microsoft has faced with bad Simplo batteries in Surface Pro 3 PCs. Based on a post in the Microsoft Answers forum by Charles McKay on March 16, 2016, and another post in the Microsoft Answers forum by Kridsada Thanabulpong, dated May 11, it was clear that that many Surface Pro 3 PCs had Simplo batteries that were failing.
Worse, Microsoft was doing nothing to ameliorate the problem, telling customers who were only a few months out of warranty that they would have to spend $500 or more to get their PCs fixed.
Since that time, the technical press picked up the story, and Microsoft went through a couple of denials/clarifications. On July 26, I was told through official channels:
We are aware of some customers reporting a scenario with their Surface Pro 3 batteries in which the system is reporting lower battery capacity than expected. This is a top priority for our team, and we are working quickly to understand the root cause. If you are experiencing this scenario, please contact Microsoft customer support.
Afterward, I received several additional reports that customers who contacted Microsoft customer support were getting charged $99 for the support call. Apparently the tech support team hadn't received the memo. I protested, again through official channels, and saw this reply on July 27:
We've isolated this to a limited number of customers experiencing this issue. We believe this is something that can be addressed via software and are working through the details of how we deliver that.... Customer support now has the guidance to waive the fee so any customers calling in should specifically reference batteries in which the system is reporting lower battery capacity than expected. Hope that clears up the issue with support. We've recently had this issue presented to us so we are responding as soon as we can.
I'll ignore for the moment that this issue was presented to Microsoft on March 16, in the Answers forum, and it took four and a half months to get a response. I'll also step lightly over the assertion that this happens to a limited number of customers -- from what I've seen, nearly anybody with a well-used Surface Pro 3 that contains a Simplo battery will see it die before its time.
What concerns me most, technically, is the assertion that the battery drainage is caused by a bad driver. While that's theoretically possible, of course, it doesn't quite match up with the reports I've seen. The last firmware/driver update was on July 21, and the release notes don't talk about the dock. There was an earlier firmware update on April 19, but the notes only talk about the dock, not the battery. Prior to that, the last firmware update was on Jan. 19, 2016. I've seen exactly zero improvement in failure rate -- quite the contrary. If the problem's in the driver, Microsoft's had four months to fix it, and we've received exactly diddly.
Even if it is a software problem, well, it's Microsoft's software, eh?
Now I note that a law firm called Migliaccio & Rathod LLP, based in Washington, DC, has picked up the problem. In its view:
Almost every state (and the District of Columbia) has a consumer protection statute that broadly prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices. If the reports about the Surface Pro 3 batteries prove true, our law firm believes that the sale of the laptops with the defect may have constituted an unfair and deceptive trade practice that may entitle a purchaser to relief.
M&R says it has experience with similar class actions:
The attorneys at Migliaccio & Rathod LLP have successfully prosecuted several consumer protection class action cases, including a case against Lenovo involving defective laptops, which resulted in a classwide settlement.
Agam Shah, writing in Computerworld, describes the settlement:
Lenovo will refund $100 or issue a $250 voucher to owners of the IdeaPad U310 and U410 laptops to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging design defects in the computers.
The settlement report for the class action does not include reference to M&R or its partners.
If you have a problematic Simplo-powered Surface Pro 3 and you're interested in pursuing your options, you are invited to contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
Update: Nick Migliaccio of Migliaccio & Rathod LLP advises that he and his partner both worked on the Lenovo case. He's listed as Class Counsel in the formal Settlement Agreement.