03.Forced to wait and denied rights
Long wait times
You’d probably expect to wait a week or two if your mobile needed to be sent to a manufacturer or repair centre.
- However, many readers had to wait four or five weeks and some even several months to get their phone back.
- Unlike fixed-line services, there’s no industry-wide benchmark or customer service guarantee for mobile repair times.
3 months waiting
Soon after Donna bought her Nokia in November 2005, it started doing strange things and turning itself off. “I complained to the Telstra shop where I purchased the phone and they sent it to their repairer,” Donna says. “That took approximately two weeks. When I got the phone back it had lost its ringtones and screen savers. It was returned to Nokia to reset its factory settings. After plenty of calls and complaints to the repairer, my phone was returned after around three months. It works now.”
Denied legal rights
In July 2006, following an action by the ACCC, the Federal Court found that LG Electronics had made false or misleading statements about consumers’ warranty rights. Our research found that retailers sometimes provide misleading information too, including incorrect statements about consumers’ right to a refund, repair or replacement.
Tanya’s cheap phone ‘died’ after three weeks. Initially, the retailer said “bad luck” because Tanya didn’t have a computer-generated receipt (the shop’s computer was down when she made the purchase, so she’d been given a handwritten receipt, but the shop then denied ever issuing handwritten receipts). When she pushed on this issue, the record of her purchase ‘appeared’, but the shop continued to deny Tanya her rights.
“I explained that under consumer law they had a responsibility to repair or replace the malfunctioning phone,” Tanya says. “Consumers would expect phones to last longer than a month — and it was still under warranty.”
Eventually, the retailer did send it to the manufacturer for ‘assessment’. Tanya heard nothing for four weeks. After pursuing the retailer, she had a call to say the phone was “stuffed” and had been “water-damaged”, voiding her warranty.
“I’m certain the phone was never immersed in water, but the salesperson said water damage is caused by moisture and easily happens even if the phone is left near a bathroom or in a car. He said it happens to thousands of phones. I asked what recourse I had and was told I could have the phone independently assessed at my own cost.” (High humidity and extreme temperatures can damage phones, but we think claiming moisture damage to a new phone can be caused by leaving it ‘near’ a bathroom is stretching it.)
“The poor customer service appalled me,” said Tanya. “I guess with cheap phones one doesn’t expect a lot, but to last less than one month is unacceptable.”
Within two weeks of purchase, Anaree’s phone started to continually switch itself off, requiring the date and time to be reset each time it was restarted. She took it back to the retailer. “The salesman disappeared for about half an hour, eventually returning to say everyone at the phone manufacturer was ‘in a meeting’, ” Anaree says. “He next said I couldn’t return the phone as it wasn’t in its original box. He said I had to keep the box for at least a year just in case the phone needed to be returned.”
The salesman also claimed that all mobile phones switch themselves off and need to have the date and time re-entered on restarting, which is clearly nonsense. Anaree disputed these statements and the salesman promised to contact her after he’d spoken to the manufacturer. “I didn’t hear anything for several days so I telephoned the shop and asked for the manager. I was told the manager wasn’t available but would call me. He never returned my call.”
Anaree contacted Consumer Affairs, which confirmed she didn’t need to return the phone in its original box. “They suggested I write a letter to the retailer, but due to work and other pressures I haven’t had time.”