Consumers of CE/Imaging products have it tough. With ever-tightening restrictions on return policies and often useless extended warranty plans, law-abiding, straight-shooting consumers—not the folks who have abused the system and are, in part, responsible for more stringent return guidelines—have few places to turn when they encounter problems with a laptop, digital camera or other electronic products.
Sure, they can try to return the product. Generally, a customer is okay if they have the receipt, the product is in its original condition and packed back into the box, with no missing parts or manuals–within 30-90 days (depending on the store). Fair enough, although we think 15% restocking fees are out of line. But, more importantly, how many times will someone use their new digital camera or camcorder within the first month or so? Even with heavy use, it may take time for the glitch gremlins to appear.
Or they can send the product back to the manufacturer for repair and wait several weeks or, more likely, several months. And, depending on what’s wrong—and what’s covered in the warranty—consumers may still be charged a fee.
And then there are the extended warranties and replacement plans that the big box boys love to sell, even to the point of absurdity. One time I was encouraged to purchase an extended warranty on a $30 item (with no breakable parts) and while we don’t remember how much the plan was, we remember thinking that it was a ridiculous option.
Out of curiosity, we recently skimmed the 28-page extended warranty on a major merchant’s Web site and, frankly, we can’t imagine how anyone but a lawyer could navigate through the intricacies of this plan. Caveat emptor, indeed.
But what really raised our blood pressure is what happened to an acquaintance who purchased a brand-name laptop and a replacement plan from a large consumer electronics store. She returned the laptop three times for repair but the problem still wasn’t fixed. So it was time to go to the replacement plan. More than a month later, she’s still fighting to get her laptop replaced.
After a recent Internet search, the only references we found for PC lemon laws were old or linked to attorney sites promising to help consumers (for a fee, of course) ). If she had purchased a car in a lemon law state, she would have more rights than it seems she does after purchasing a replacement plan. And that’s just not right. The manufacturers and retailers needs to take better care of their customers who, it seems, are always taking good care of them.