Customer Care Experience: Part 4

The Warm Up…

By now you should be aware of the situation that I was in when my Sony Xperia Z mobile phone terminally malfunctioned, the process that I went through via the dedicated Sony Xperia repair-service, the response that I received following receipt of my handset at the repair centre and how it frustrated me.

This chapter of the ongoing situation that I’ve found myself in details the approach that I took next, the reasons why I chose to do so and some of what ensued.


So at this point, and arguably I could have considered it earlier, I had a choice about the approach that I was to take from here, assuming that I didn’t just want to give up completely. I could continue to pursue Sony in the hope that they would see sense, value my custom and make an effort to retain me as a future customer. The problem with this approach is that they have no legal duty of care to me as I purchased my phone from an online retailer and not directly from Sony. The handset is also now out of the Sony warranty period. I am almost entirely reliant on their good-will to keep me as a customer and their desire to keep any potential bad press regarding their products at bay. Alternatively I could pursue my dispute with the retailer who sold me the device.

Technically the correct approach is to return to the trader who sold the goods as, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (only applicable to goods purchased in England prior to 1st October 2015), the retailer entered into a contract of sale with me at the time of purchase where that unwritten contract stipulates that the product that I purchased must be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time. In my case, I think that I could successfully argue that my phone suffered at least one of the following…

  • unsatisfactory quality (waterproofing failed on first use and after a period of time that was unsatisfactory)
  • not as described (was never waterproof to the extent claimed)
  • not fit for purpose (as it wasn’t waterproof as was claimed)

and/or

  • it did not last a reasonable length of time (but this may be open to debate).

In addition, the Limitations Act in English law gives the consumer up to 6 years to complain about a product after purchase.

I decided to pursue both. I was already engaged with Sony and, as you all know, I was unhappy with their response, so that required further clarification anyway. However, I also now decided to contact the retailer, Mobile Phones Direct to see how they would look after me, although if they had required me to send them my handset then there would have been a delay as I retrieved it from Sony who still had it until I decided what to do.


Communications

I have been interacting with both Sony and Mobile Phones Direct almost exclusively via email so that I have time to plan and consider my approach and everything is documented. However, the main problem with this method is that there is a 2-day wait for an answer from Sony and so the whole saga takes much longer than it might do over the telephone. In addition I often take more than 3 or 4 days to consider my response but always respond to Sony within 5 working days so as to keep the original support number that is assigned to my case open. Sony closes a support request automatically after 5 days.

For brevity, and to demonstrate a degree of professionalism on my part, I don’t intend to publish verbatim any of my personal email communications or the responses that I received. The following are therefore paraphrased summaries of the original communications with quotations only where appropriate.


Sony Email #1

Me: I expressed my dissatisfaction with the response from Sony’s contracted repair centre. I reiterated that I had used my phone in water in good faith and that damage was not caused by misuse or something that I could have otherwise prevented. I requested clarification of why my device is “uneconomical to repair” and explained why I feel that this statement lacks transparency. I mentioned that the offer of a “functionally equivalent device” is ambiguous and that the price quoted is insulting given the lack of abuse to my handset. I asked them to elaborate on what was being offered to me and informed them about what I had expected Sony to do in order to rectify the situation.

Sony response: Sony confirmed that their engineers found liquid damage and stated that it is not covered under warranty as there were no defects in design, materials or workmanship.

“As with any issue on your handset our engineers would fully examine the handset and the issue…”

Sony confirmed that they stand by the quotation and I was encouraged to either pay for the replacement or the handling fee for return (which I consider to be nothing more than a ransom as, at this stage, I had received no evidence that Sony had actually done anything but there is no way to get your device back without paying some money for it).

Sony email #2

Me: I sent the following queries:

1. If the Sony engineers can categorically state that there was no fault with the design, materials or workmanship, then they must have determined and be able to say how water entered the phone. I expressed my interest in this matter because I can confidently say that I was not at fault and these are the only other possible causes.

2. Precisely what is meant by the offer of a “functionally equivalent device”, as my previous request for clarity in this matter has yet to be addressed.

Sony response:

1. Sony stated that they cannot speculate.

2. Offer is for reconditioned Xperia Z.

Sony email #3

Me: I explained that I would not be accepting the offer of a reconditioned handset, not only because there is clearly a fault in their design, materials or workmanship (so why would I want another?) but the quotation provided (£266) is almost the same as to purchase a new Xperia Z from Sony’s own webstore (£289). I also stated that I would not be purchasing another Sony product.

I asked if the pressure test that is mentioned on the Sony website was conducted by the engineers as a means of confirming or otherwise the integrity of my handset for water-resistance. I explained that this should provide conclusive evidence as to whether there was a fault or not.

Again, I reiterated no misuse on my part and so fault must be design, materials or workmanship. If categorically not, then point of water entry must have been determined.

Sony response: Cannot speculate how water got in.

“Full testing would have been conducted which would have left a non-manufacturing fault” (i.e. blaming me)

Sony email #4

Me: I expressed frustration at Sony not being prepared to speculate about how water got in to my Xperia Z and yet in the same email apparently being prepared to speculate about what tests were conducted by the engineers. I explained that an engineer’s report or notes should be available to them, stating what tests were performed and their results. I said that I simply wanted information that should be contained in the report. I then made my first request to see the full engineer’s report for myself.

Sony email #5

Me: This email was purely to provide further information to Sony. I had requested the return of my Xperia Z but I wished them to know that I was making the payment under protest, as I had yet to receive any evidence that my handset had been properly reviewed by an engineer or my situation adequately considered. I also reminded Sony that I was waiting for a copy of the engineer’s report (second request), as requested previously.

Sony response: This response only contained information concerning the breakdown of charges for the return of my phone.

Sony email #6

Me: I thanked Sony for the information about the breakdown of charges for the return of my handset. I asked about when I might receive the engineer’s report (third request).

Sony response: This response was to inform me that my details had been passed to the Sony offline escalations team.

Sony email #7

Me: I simply thanked Sony for escalating my case.

Sony response: Sony called my home while I was at work. My wife was promised that I would receive a follow-up email and told that I could also phone the switchboard and ask to speak with somebody in the escalations team.

I never received a follow-up email.

Sony telephone call #1

Me: I called the Sony support switchboard and asked for the escalations team as my wife had been advised.

Sony: Nobody was available in escalations to take my call.

Me: I requested to be contacted by email instead.

Sony: My request was noted.

I never received an email.


Seeing as this post is now quite long, I intend for the next post in the series to be an account of my communication with the retailer and the subsequent action that I have taken. You should then be right up to date.

To be continued…


You can find more useful information regarding consumer rights in England and the UK on various websites including the following:

Citizens Advice Bureau

The Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis) – Consumer rights

Wikipedia