9 April 2013

Warranty wrangles

Telecom refunds charge to repair software fault.

Consumer member Aimee Wilkes has received a refund from Telecom after it charged her to repair a software fault in her 13-month-old smartphone.

The company told Aimee the phone was "out of warranty" and that she had to pay to get it fixed. But the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) says otherwise.

Aimee bought the smartphone on a 24-month plan from Telecom in October 2011. Just over a year later, the phone started freezing. "It got to the point where I could only get a couple of minutes’ use before it froze. I took it back to the store and was told that it definitely had a problem but as it was outside the 12-month warranty I would have to pay $140 to get it fixed," she told us.

When she mentioned the CGA to the store assistant, Aimee says she got the brush off. "With the phone essentially useless I had no choice but to get it sent for repair."

However, Aimee also called our advice line to find out what her rights were. Consumer adviser Paul Doocey points out the CGA requires goods to be of acceptable quality: "If a reasonably new phone fails and you haven't caused the fault, then the retailer has to put it right".

Armed with this advice, Aimee got in touch again with Telecom. While the company confirmed the fault was caused by a software problem and wasn't the result of anything Aimee had done, she was told by the store and by Telecom’s call centre that she had to pay the repair bill. "My biggest issue was not so much that I was being charged for the repair but the fact that no one could give me a satisfactory explanation as to why they thought it wasn't covered by the CGA when I believed it was."

When our adviser Paul contacted Telecom, the company agreed to refund the repair charge. Telecom's Frans van Zoggel told us: “Telecom is totally committed to upholding our customer’s right under the CGA and we’re disappointed to hear about this incident, which does not reflect our policy on faulty mobile phones. I have personally apologised to Aimee."

Frans said the company was also "looking hard at our processes" to avoid a repeat of the incident.

Aimee's pleased she got a refund but says it was a very long and drawn-out process. She hopes Telecom sorts out its processes soon to ensure the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else. We do too.

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