Friday 4 December 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice 

I have a problem with Lotus Trading in Francistown. On the 10th September I bought a Nokia N97 phone from them at P1,999. Around the 15th September the touch screen stopped working. On the 23rd September I took the phone back to complain about the defect and I was told the store only changes phones if hey are returned within 3 days after purchase. At the store they kept insisting that the phone was dropped but this is not true. There is no evidence that has been dropped, it has no cracks or even scratches to show it was damaged.

The only option I got from the store was to take the phone for repairs for 3 months and for me to pay for the repairs if they are not manufacturer-related. I am very unhappy about this.

I still have the phone with me because I thought the option that I was given was ridiculous. This store has failed me, why should I pay such amount only to lose the phone for 3 months while they repair it. What also annoyed me is that they refused to lend me another phone when mine is taken for such a long time.

I hope you will help me to fix this?

This is very suspicious. Very, VERY suspicious.

Let’s begin with the obvious things. A store can’t just decide they’re not going to fix an item they sold you when it goes wrong just because they don’t want to. Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that suppliers must sell you things that are of “merchantable quality”. That means that the phone they sold you must be “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. In simple terms this means that cellphones must be able to make calls. Cellphones with touch screens must have touch screens that work. Simple enough?

Nokia cellphones, like phones from all reputable companies, come with a 1-year manufacturers warranty. However, there are situations when that manufacturers warranty doesn’t apply. So-called “grey imports”, where the supplier has bought a lot of phones from Region A of the world but is selling them to consumers in Region B often aren’t covered by the manufacturers warranty. However as a consumer you have a right to be told about this BEFORE you buy the phone. The supplier can’t just tell you there’s no warranty after they’ve sold you the thing and it’s gone wrong.

What’s more, the supplier is forbidden, by law, from denying that there’s no warranty unless they explained that to you before you bought the phone and, more importantly, that you “specifically consented” to it. Unless you signed a piece of paper acknowledging that you were happy for there to be no warranty then there IS a warranty.

However, I think you should demand a partial refund, not a complete refund or a replacement. Here’s why.

Firstly I said a “partial” refund. That’s because you did have use of the phone for a couple of months. Obviously that’s not long enough but it did work for a while.

The next issue is that your phone is a fake. It’s not a real Nokia N97. We spoke to the owner of the store and discussed this with him. He admits that it’s a fake Chinese phone that just looks like a Nokia N97. It even says it’s a Nokia N97 but it’s not really. The price also confirms this. A real Nokia N97 will cost you around P7,000, much more than you paid. For readers who don’t know it, the N97 is a top-of-the-range smart-phone with a pullout keyboard, fancy touch screen and a host of amazing features. It’s also hugely expensive.

What’s more, the owner says he discussed this with you and that you confirmed in writing that you understood this and that you also confirmed that you understood that there was no warranty.

I also don’t think it’s worth repairing this phone. The trouble with cheap fakes is that that’s what they are: cheap fakes. They aren’t going to be as reliable, robust and repairable as the real thing. Whether the store is right or not when they say you damaged it isn’t the issue. Cheap fakes break easily. That’s the real reason you pay all that extra money for the real thing. You pay for reliability and the warranty.

I think you should go back to the store and negotiate a partial refund. That’s probably the best you can hope for.

There are several lessons consumers can learn from this experience. Firstly, before you spend money on anything expensive, particularly if it’s a piece of technology, do your homework first. For instance if you do a Google search for “Nokia N97 review” it finds over 2 million hits. Read a few of them first and just as importantly, check the prices they quote. If someone in a second-rate store offers you the item for less than they pay in the USA, Europe of the Far East you know to be suspicious.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, make sure you know exactly what you’re buying. Make sure you know that item you’ve selected is the real thing. Buying fakes is a reckless thing to do. There will be no warranty, no guarantee it will work, no rights to service from the real manufacturer.

No comments: