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tastywheat

Getting a faulty product replaced under ACL

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About a month a ago, I experienced a relatively sudden failure of my 2.5 year old Macbook Pro. I posted about it in the Apple section here. After a bit of troubleshooting and research, I discovered I was not alone, and a manufacturing defect had affected thousands of other users who owned MacBooks from that manufacturing period (early and late 2011 with discrete graphics cards). Thanks to the ABC show 'The Checkout', I was aware that this issue would probably be covered by Australian Consumer Law's statutory warranty. The following is rough guide to determining if this can be applied to your case, how to calm statutory warranty, what your options are, and concludes with thoughts about the ethics of the ACL. While care has been taken to ensure everything said here is correct, I am not a lawyer, and it is a good idea to verify my claims.

 

What is it?

The ACL applies to all purchases made after January 1st, 2011, and is designed to protect consumers by harmonising a number of previous consumer laws and trade practice acts. The Checkout does a pretty good job explaining the basics in this video:

 

 

Statutory warranty means that the retailer the product was purchased from is responsible for repairing or replacing any item that does not meet 'acceptable quality' standards. The ACL is a way to ensure goods sold in Australia meet a minimum standard of quality (among other things), and particularly for technology goods, it's a way to combat designed obsolescence. You can read more about your consumer rights at the ACCC website, here.

 

When does it apply?

ACL can be applied to goods that have failed before their 'expected lifetime' based on the average consumer perceptions. It's important to note that this is controlled by the consumer, and not the retailer. This can be difficult to determine objectively, but a good basis is the cost, intended use, and failure method.

 

It does not apply to goods that have failed due to misuse. Damage due to dropping or water, and use outside of intended applications (which probably includes overclocking and hacking), will void the retailers obligation for statutory warranty.

 

For my case, I argued that the expected lifetime of a laptop is 3 years. I backed this up with ATO guidelines, and a New Zealand Dispute Tribunal case referenced as 'S v W&N Ltd, 2010', which determined that a laptop who's motherboard failed after 2 years and 11 months was deemed to be of unacceptable quality (our ACL is based on New Zealand consumer law).

 

How to claim it

If you're confident that your product has failed before its expected lifetime due to a manufacturing fault or a reasonable lack of quality, the first thing you need to do is to document the problem with as much factual information as possible. This is easy if the problem is permanent, but might be difficult if the problem is transitory. If this is the case, my recommendation would be to try and capture a video of the problem, or print out log files that clearly show a problem.

 

Next, you need to provide proof of purchase. As The Checkout video explained, this can be in the form of a receipt, bank or credit card statement, or other reasonable means of proof. The ACL encourages you to approach the retailer, as opposed to the manufacturer or importer. It is illegal for the retailer to claim that it is not their responsibility, and try to pass the problem on.

 

To get the best outcome, it's best to treat staff with respect, but remain assertive with your language. Don't be emotional, don't make emotional arguments, and keep in mind that the staff member has a duty to investigate and verify your claim. Try to make it as easy as possible for them to do this, and make sure you specify that the warranty claim is under ACL, and that you are aware of your rights as a consumer.

 

I prefer written communication, because it provides a record of what has been said, and is generally received as a more formal complaint. This was the email I sent JB:

 

Hi JB,

 

I purchased a 17" Macbook Pro from you on the 1/12/2011 for the sum of $xxxx. The receipt is rather faded, so there is a chance some of the numbers I've provided are incorrect. However, I can back up proof of purchase with a credit card statement if necessary.

 

Unfortunately my Macbook has recently died, with symptoms similar to what other users describe in this support thread started on Febuary 1st, 2013:

 

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/476657...=0&tstart=0

 

Both early 2011, and late 2011 models with discrete graphics cards have been affected, and it appears to be a manufacturing fault. I am extremely confident that my issues are not caused by improper use, or user inflicted damage.

 

I've read your Voluntary Warranty Guide (February 2014), but I am unable to read the relevant November 2011 guide as the link provided (jbhifi.com.au/warrantyguide/nov2011) is no longer active.

 

Based on the February 2014 guide, I understand that your Warranty Policy only covers products worth over $1000 that are less than 2 years old. However, I believe that the expected life of a premium Apple computer is at least 3 years, which matches guidelines set by the Australian Taxation Office for devaluation.

 

I would like to make a claim for statutory warranty. Can you tell me what I need to do to proceed with this claim?

 

Regards,

 

Tastywheat

I tried to keep it is brief and factual as possible, with no emotional language, and an assertive request. I'm not a great writer, so there's probably a better way to organise the argument. I'm posting this here to provide a basic example.

 

The response was a phone call from the store manager where the item was purchased the following morning, agreeing that it would be covered under ACL if the fault was verified, and to drop it off at my local store. Great!

 

However, when I went to drop it off at the local store, the store manager was reluctant to receive it. He tried to point me towards the JB Voluntary Warranty Guide, arguing that JB had worked with the ACCC to work out these values, and that the expected lifetime of a laptop is 2 years. I asserted that acceptable quality was set by the consumer, and that a JB representative had already made a verbal commitment to assess the item. He reluctantly agreed to accept the item for assessment, and I made sure that the repair sheet included a note that this was an ACL claim.

 

Nearly a month later, I was notified by phone call of a $1,298 repair bill to replace a faulty logic board. The repair sheet noted that it would be repaired with refurbished parts.

 

Options - Repair, replacement, or refund?

The store manager at this point withdrew the offer to repair my laptop, even though the fault was confirmed. He tried again to use the Voluntary Warranty Guide to argue that the laptop was too old. I'm not really sure why he changed his mind, but after probing whether it might be something I could renegotiate in store, I decided it was going to be simpler to take it back to email.

 

If the fault is considered repairable, then the retailer is only obligated to offer a repair. This repair needs to be completed in a reasonable amount of time, which appears to be around 4 weeks based on my readings. However, if the problem cannot be repaired, or the repair cost is greater than the value of the product taking into account devaluation, then the problem is considered 'major'. For 'major' faults, the consumer, not the retailer, is given the right to choose between a repair, replacement, or even a refund. An indicator I've seen to determine this is whether you would have purchased the item if you had been made aware of the issue at the point of sale.

 

I'll talk about the ethics of this in the conclusion, but I judged the problem to be 'major' because of the significant repair cost, which would be using refurbished parts that may have the same latent defect. I emailed JB with the following:

 

Notice of intent to lodge ACCC complaint with respect to ACL warranty claim

 

Item: Macbook Pro 17"

Purchase price: $xxxx

Purchase date: 1-12-2011

Receipt number: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Case ID: xxxxxx

 

Timeline

14-07-2014

- Experienced a latent defect in the form of a faulty logic board, which has affected many other machines of the same manufacturing period.

- Major fault, would not have purchased the item if I had been aware of it.

 

16-07-2014

- Contacted [person 1], manager of the [suburb] store the item was purchased from, by email.

 

17-07-2014

- [person 1] called to communicate it would be covered and repaired under ACL if the fault was confirmed through an independent repair agent.

- Instructed via email to drop the item at my local [suburb] store.

 

17-07-2014

- [person 2] communicated scepticism that I was still within the ACL warranty period, but that he would submit the item to be assessed.

- Item lodged for repair.

 

23-07-2014

- Faulty logic board confirmed by [3rd party repair agent].

 

10-08-2014

- First notified of repair costs of $1298 via phone call.

 

11-08-2014

- [person 2] confirmed in person that the item would not be covered under an ACL warranty claim due to age.

 

Comments:

- I believe the expected lifetime of this product is 3 years. This figure is based on the perception of quality of Apple products, cost compared to competitors, and ATO guidelines for the effective lifetime of a laptop.

- I am unsatisfied that it took JB Hi-Fi 18 days to communicate the outcome of the diagnostic test, and that the offer to repair the item if the fault was confirmed has been withdrawn without explanation.

 

Requested resolution:

- I believe the issue experienced constitutes a major fault, and there is no guaranty that a repair will use a part without the same latent defect. Because of this, I would now like the item to be replaced with a machine of equivalent specification, as outlined by the ACCC replacement guidelines. If this is not possible, I would like to request a refund.

- Compensation due to loss, and lost productivity, related to not having access to a personal computer at a rate of $xxxx per week, calculated from 11-08-2014 onwards.

 

Please contact me if you would like additional information, or documentation to back up any of these statements.

 

Regards,

 

Tastywheat

The target audience was the regional manager of JB, though it was sent to the local store. Again, I tried to be as brief and factual as possible. I made sure that all the necessary information was given to verify my claim. Using a timeline, I tried to make it as easy for the manager to identify any issues that do not conform to JB customer service policies.

 

The ACL also entitles you to compensation for losses suffered due to the failure of the product. I included this claim not because I thought I was entitled to compensation, but to put pressure on JB to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The figure was calculated using extremely conservative figures, ensuring that it was something that could be objectively measured.

 

In my case, I received a call back from a regional manager almost immediately. The following day, I received a call from the store manager who agreed to replace my laptop. If you ask for a replacement, the retailer is obligated to meet or exceed the specifications of the faulty product. For me, this resulted in a brand new late 2013 15" Retina Macbook Pro. The statutory warranty is reset on replacement, so in theory JB are responsible for the new machine for another 3 years.

 

Closing thoughts

While I think the ACL has been implemented with good intention, I also think there is the potential for it to be abused. In my case, I think it's reasonable to expect that a high end laptop that has been treated with care to last at least 3 years. While the responsibility to manage this problem should lie with Apple, under ACL, it's the retailer who is required to deal with it. I have mixed feelings about this, but I can see that the arrangement offers better consumer protection, because retailers have greater leverage with the manufacturer or supplier. In theory, the material costs should be passed on, but I'm not sure whether the manufacturer/supplier is also liable for the labour costs.

 

I don't feel that I was necessarily entitled to a replacement. If JB had stuck to their word (and maybe improved on their communication), I would have been very happy with a repair. However, by being generous, I'm more likely to purchase from them again, and also recommend them to friends and family. I think my experience with the local store manager was unfortunate, but he was courteous and professional about it, and the problem (from my perspective) was very quickly resolved once escalated. I intend to pay this generosity back through loyalty.

 

What does this mean for things like extended warranties and things like AppleCare? I've always felt they were pretty dodgy, and I've been angry with what I would classify as predatory behaviour that has caught my ageing parents out in the past. I think for a lot of cases, the ACL makes extended warranties redundant. For me, my laptop is my primary tool for earning income, so after this experience I've decided that AppleCare is worth it for my situation. Other benefits of extended warranties might include faster repair/replacement turn arounds, and coverage for loss, theft, or accidental damage. However, it's worth checking that you don't already have this cover under home and contents insurance.

Edited by tastywheat

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This is good to know.

 

Taking it to email would have to work for me, I find in person and on the phone I get too sarcastic and emotionally attached to the situation.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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