Thursday 16 April 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

I would like some assistance with a case of unfair treatment by a major cellphone store in Gaborone. I purchased a cellphone from them, a model Nokia E90 in June 2008 for P7,000.

During the warranty period the cellphone was returned for a number of repairs. In October 2008 it had a defective microphone. The store sent it to South Africa for repairs which were covered under the Warranty. I was without a cell phone for about 2 weeks

In November 2008 I noticed that the display would switch on and off spontaneously. I returned the phone to the store and they fixed it. I was without the phone for about a week.

A few days later I scratched the screen and the store replaced the screen while I waited. This was my fault entirely.

Yet again in November 2008 the display was again unresponsive and the cellphone was returned to the store for a few days.

A few days later the problem of the unresponsive display was still there and was now worse, with the screen remaining off for extended periods. I returned the cellphone to the store a few days after accepting it back. The cellphone was again sent to South Africa for further repairs.

In early December I was informed verbally that the cellphone had liquid damage and that this kind of damage is not covered by the warranty and would therefore not be repaired. I disputed this at the time.

The store still have the cellphone and they are now insisting that the warranty is now void because of the purported liquid damage.

My obvious concern is that the phone was brought in for repairs on several occasions and spent most of November 2008 in their care. They opened the phone 3 or 4 times without them seeing any liquid damage. I deny completely that I am responsible for any liquid that may have damaged the phone as it has never come into contact with water while in my possession.

What do you think I can do?

It sounds to me like you've suffered enough with this phone.

Given that the phone has experienced repeated and varied problems and is still covered by the warranty I think you can go back to them and say that, in the circumstances, you believe that the phone was "not of merchantable quality" as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations 2001. Merchantable quality is defined as meaning "fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased". You bought a cellphone that for a large portion of the time could not be used as a cellphone.

I would also complain that as they consistently failed to repair the phone, and perhaps even caused more damage while undertaking the initial repair, the warranty repair service they delivered was "not rendered with reasonable care and skill" as required by Section 15 (1) (a) of the Regulations.

Regarding the water damage I would demand to see written evidence of this. Of course I can’t say that you did or didn’t cause water damage to the phone and it will end up as a battle between their opinion and your promise that you didn’t cause the damage. However, demand to see that evidence and then I suggest you take the phone to someone else to be assessed.

If they fail to prove that there’s water damage you can argue that they have breached Section 15 (1) (b) which says a supplier has failed to meet minimum standards of performance if "the supplier quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated".

Realistically I don't think you can demand a completely new phone, you have after all had the use of it for SOME of the time since you bought it. However I think you have a right to demand rather more from the store than you have got so far!

Get in touch if you need more help.

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