Electronic device returns and warranty woes
14/06/2018 An average phone, laptop, camera or game console will cost you a couple of thousands, and these days, they may only last for two years at best! In extreme cases, some consumers could only enjoy its use for a few months before it gives in.
Unfortunately, stores can make it quite difficult for you to return a faulty device for repairs, a replacement or a refund.
Store warranty vs. manufacturer’s warranty:
Your device typically carries three warranties, the third being the implied Consumer Protection Act warranty which we will touch on later on.
Most stores have a 30 day warranty (return policy) with some extending to 60 days on most or all their products unless indicated otherwise. You will find this policy information on your receipt or on the store’s official website. It is always important to familiarise yourself with a business’ return policy it as it can contain important one-liners on exclusions and exceptions for instance.
The manufacturer’s warranty will differ from product to product, for electronic devices this typically runs for one to five years. This warranty, i.e. the written product guarantee, is usually included inside the packaging of the device. This piece of paper obligates the manufacturer to repair, replace or refund you what you paid should the device stop working during the warranty period.
Both of these warranties require you to have the original packaging of the product and/or receipt, the guarantee or any other documentation given to you when you bought the product.
Six month implied warranty
In addition to the afore-mentioned warranties, the CPA entitles you to return your device for a repair, replacement or a refund if it stops working properly within six months. It is important to remember that this only applies if the issue is material, i.e. it reduces the device’s ability to satisfy the need that it was bought to satisfy. If, for instance your laptop no longer charges after three months or your new phone’s screen starts flickering after a week, then that would constitute a return under the CPA warranty. Note - this implied warranty overrides the store policy at all times.
You also have the right to choose your preferred remedy, you can’t be forced to have your device repaired if you want a refund. However, the CPA doesn’t obligate the store or manufacturer to accept your return or refund you at your discretion if you simply changed your mind about the purchase.
Unfortunately, all three warranties exclude damage that is a result of your negligence, even if it was an accident. If you acknowledge that you mistakenly dropped your device in water, and you ask the store to send it it in for repairs, you will be liable for the costs and can’t refuse to pay these. Always enquire about how much you’ll need to pay and insist on a quote before you give the go ahead.
Who do I return the device to?
The store you bought it from should be your first point of contact. They will send your device to the manufacturer for repairs, it is hardly the case that they will fix it themselves.
There are many excuses that stores give to refuse such returns, especially if it falls outside the time periods specified in their return policy, so you need to be very firm when you do. One such story is that the manufacturer’s warranty expired while the product was on the shelf or in storage. This is not accurate as the warranty only kicks in when you buy the product, regardless of how long it had been sitting in storage.
Getting into direct contact with the manufacturer may prove to be a quicker complaints channel, but sometimes the manufacturer will refer you back to the store. If the store is unresponsive however, you should contact the manufacturer and explain this to them.
Resolver tip: If you notice that something is wrong with your device, take it in to be checked out, don’t wait until it blacks out completely before you decide to return it. Also make notes of when you bought the device and when you noticed the issue or took it in for inspection.
There is very little you can do to control whether or not a device malfunctions, but you can take good care of it and follow the manufacturer’s usage guidelines to improve its longevity.