I bought a Motorola mobile phone last week. A few days later I found the sound of the phone was odd, like that of a radio not tuned properly. I went back to the shop and asked for a replacement, backed with the "three warranties policy", which says that the customer can return a commodity if it is defective within seven days after purchase or ask for a replacement within 15 days.
The salesgirl made a few calls with the phone and told me the sound was all right. I was not surprised by her answer but insisted I be given a new phone. Realizing that she had met a tenacious customer, the salesgirl said she could replace it provided I proved that the defect was "not the consequence of improper use".
I was angered by the answer. How could one do anything to a mobile phone to cause sound distortion? A problem with the sound quality can only be caused by a malfunction of the audio-frequency magnifier in the machine. Obviously the defect could not have been caused by my "improper use". What's more, there was no sign of physical damage to the phone.
But she insisted: "I'm sorry, sir, it's our rule. Look at these warranty terms on the back of the invoice where you signed your name." Yes, I signed under the terms which state that any request for a refund or replacement should be accompanied by a certificate from the producer's service center.
I had no alternative but call at Motorola's service center. There were a dozen or so customers waiting there. About 15 minutes later, it was my turn. A service woman tried my phone and told me it needs to be tested. The phone was then taken to a backroom.
After another 25 minutes, my phone was brought back. The service woman admitted that the defect was caused by a glitch inside the phone. She signed a certificate and told me to go back to the shop to get a new one.
At the shop they gave me a new phone "just taken from the warehouse". I asked for more units to choose from but was told it was the only one they had in stock. Responding to my doubts, they swore they were telling the truth. "Or you can come a few days later when more phones arrive from the plant," they said.
I knew I had to accept what I was given, because I could not afford to waste more time on the matter.
Though no fault of mine, I had to spend so much time and energy to enforce my rights as a consumer. In other words, I paid for Motorola's mistake. Should the company compensate me for the time, energy and money (travel fare) I had spent? It should, but I doubt it, nor would any other manufacturer in a similar case.
My wife said: "Be content with what you have attained. They've done their best to replace the substandard phone with a new one."
She may be right. Manufacturers today provide a much better after-sale service than in previous years. Consumers should feel content with the progress. But I still find I was unjustly treated. In the final analysis I had paid the cost for a company to make good a defective product. The final price I paid had been raised in fact.
To be honest, I would not go to Motorola asking for compensation. Most other consumers would not either, for they know the time and energy they spend would far exceed the compensation they may get.
However, something should be done to counter this unfairness. It was due to some customers' fight for compensation years ago that led to today's "three warranties policy" and the law on protection of consumers' rights.
Our legislature and government should take a fresh look at the warranties to make it more amenable to consumers.
(China Daily 08/22/2007 page10)