I took my PlayStation 3 (PS3) around my friends the other night for a fun evening of button bashing and beer drinking. Midway through the evening I suffered a problem all gamers fear – their prized console breaking down. On my knees, I turned it on and off, plugged and unplugged it, hugged it and begged it to no avail. I eventually faced up to the realisation that my console had beeped its last blink.
There was another problem though. My one year warranty had expired by a few months. I phoned Sony and was told I would need to pay £145 to have it repaired. £145?! I was livid. I’ve always found Sony’s products to be of a high quality. I have an old PS2 (and an even older PS1) that still works like a dream. For an expensive purchase such as a PS3 to break down after less than 18 months made me feel cheated. Surely there was something I could do?
I spoke to friends, looked online and found that my problem was not a rare case. Many people had experienced similar scenarios with their PS3 breaking mere months after the warranty had expired. One of my friends had gone through three PS3’s in a two year period. Sadly the overwhelming majority of them had accepted Sony’s response that it was out of guarantee and had paid the repair fee.
I looked into my legal stance on the matter and found some good news. Electronic items sold in Europe are now covered by EU consumer rules which give the buyer a right to repair or replacement if the item fails within two years. This is not a new rule, and the law in the area is complicated but a check on the European Union website confirms the two-year guarantee.
I also referred to the Sale of Goods Act and came to the conclusion that the technical problem suffered by myself and others with Sony’s PS3 went against this act that states all goods sold have to be of "satisfactory quality and fit for purpose".
Armed with this legal knowledge, I went back to Sony and argued these points successfully. I also pointed out that Sony had a reputation for quality and this was in danger of being tarnished by placing a faulty product on the market and charging people an extortionate repair bill to fix it. I warned them of the damage the X-Box “ring of death” caused their main rival Microsoft.
With credit to Sony, they took what I said on board and advised that they would wave the repair charge and fix my PS3. But the issue remains that they most likely wouldn’t have done this unless I had some legal weight behind my argument. What concerns me is that many consumers are largely unaware of how the law can protect them in these matters, and I wonder how many retailers and manufacturers have taken advantage of this?
My recommendations: Manufacturers and retailers:
- Even If you’re a small business you still need to be aware of consumer laws and any changes that come into affect. Ignorance could have serious legal ramifications on your business.
- Make sure your products comply with The Sale of Goods Act and other relevant legislation.
- Good customer care is vital. Handle a complaint well and you may increase the customer’s loyalty. Handle it badly and you may lose custom and even create a negative impression of your business. You can be sure that an angry customer won’t keep their feelings to themselves.
- Seek advice from friends and family. They may have experienced a similar issue.
- Never accept at face value what you are told by a seller.
- Make sure you know legally where you stand.