Modify warranty policies

10/09/2018 10:54

When consumers pay more for warranty on their products, they place their faith in traders to be able to fix a fault when required.A warranty is a promise, often made by a manufacturer, to stand behind its product or to fix certain defects or malfunctions over a certain period of time.

The warranty pays for any repairs or part replacements covered during the warranty period.Sometimes some consumers sign hire purchase agreements in a haste because they believe the transaction has been made in good faith by the credit providers.

In some instances the trader fails to divulge key information that could assist them in understanding their agreement and warranty information better.A more common issue surrounding warranty is the manufacturer’s use of the third party involvement clause to deny fixing a product initially sold or produced by them.

Many manufacturers will void your warranty if the product you buy has been repaired by someone other than them or someone they authorize. In some cases they also void your warranty if you use parts not belonging to the manufacturer. Some manufacturers go to the extent of indicating that if consumers want warranty coverage, the warranty seal must be intact - meaning a consumer cannot open a product case.

This then means a consumer cannot make even the most minor repairs without consulting the manufacturer.In Fiji most if not all cases of warranty is made null and void when a consumer uses a third party to remedy faults.This could soon change however after Apple USA was handed a US$9million fine by the Federal Court of Australia for misleading Australian consumers.

The case found that Apple had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in its refusal to provide free repairs to Apple devices previously serviced by a third party.At least 275 Australian customers had been denied remedy for their faulty device because they used a third party repairer.

The court found Apple USA, as parent company, needed to modify their policies and conform to Australian laws which meant they were required to repair the phones regardless of whether or not they sought a third party to remedy the faults initially.The case has set precedence for changes across the globe.Manufacturers refusing warranty just because the warranty seal is broken is absurd.

Voiding the warranty means manufacturers are forcing consumers to use their product parts or services as a requirement for warranty coverage. Denying a consumer their rights simply for choosing a third party repairer not only impacts those consumers but can discourage other customers from making informed choices about their repair options.

This can include places that may offer lower cost than the manufacturer.The only likely scenario where the restriction is understandable is if the manufacturer proves that their parts are needed for the product to function. Most times this situation is highly unlikely because there are other businesses that provide parts or services that are equally capable of getting a product to function.

Take for instance broken smart phone screens. They are fairly easy to replace and consumers can either go to a third party or if resourceful enough, they can fix it themselves. But this act alone could void their warranty according to the manufacturer’s warranty information.Many warranty policies indicate that screens damaged by the consumer will not be repaired by the manufacturer. How then do screen repairs conducted by a third party void warranty if the screen damage was not covered by warranty in the first place?

Provisions in policies that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or service harms consumers who could end up paying more, even though cheaper repair alternatives are available.It also harms small business who offer competing products.

Provisions as such are unethical and unacceptable and the Council strongly recommends that manufacturers and traders relook at their warranty policies and modify them accordingly.

Manufacturers also have the option of giving consumers more repairs and service locations that will be able to conduct repairs for free. This way, consumers are not forced to return to the manufacturer for repairs to damages covered under the warranty.

Consumers are also reminded to read warranty policies carefully and not let companies bully them with unethical warranty requirements.Consumers facing similar issues are encouraged to contact the Council on complaints@consumersfiji.org or call the toll free helpline on 155.

*Please note the Council is now located at Level 5, Vanua House, Victoria Parade, Suva