Customer Care Experience: Part 5

Turning up the heat…

Ok, so it’s taken a while for me to get around to writing this post. If you’ve been following the story so far and have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment then I apologise for the delay. It’s not like I haven’t wanted to write before now, it’s just that I have a lot happening in my life at the moment and so I don’t have the time that I might like for something so frivolous as whingeing about my misfortunes which, frankly, I’m amazed that anybody really enjoys reading about anyway.

If you haven’t read the first four parts of the story, then you can start here for the complete background to this article.

So, without further ado, on with the saga…

Communicating with the merchant

At about the same time that Sony notified me that my handset was uneconomical to repair, I initiated communications with Mobile Phones Direct – the retailer who sold me the phone, albeit it was a purchase that I made a little over 2 years ago. This was in parallel with my communications with Sony and again I wished to keep a record so I communicated exclusively via email. I had no intention of aggressively pursuing the retailer for a satisfactory outcome for reasons which will become clear later on but from a legal perspective I had to make contact with the retailer to see if there was anything that they were prepared to do to resolve the situation. As before, with my recount of emails between myself and Sony, the following are just summaries of the messages that were sent and received.

Mobile Phones Direct Email #1

Me: I explained when I purchased the handset, reported the order and customer numbers so that MPD could verify my purchase and described the scenario that lead to my device failing. I let MPD know that I understand consumer legislation and that under said legislation it is the retailer’s responsibility to rectify the problem.

I referenced and quoted the page of the user guide for the Xperia Z which states that the device can be used in a chlorinated swimming pool at depths of up to 1.5m for 30 minutes.

I referenced and quoted Sony’s website stating that their devices can be used in a swimming pool.

I referenced more recent web pages on Sony’s website that contradict the information in the previous link by stating that the device should not be used underwater.

I referenced another couple of blogs that indicate that Sony have recently changed their stance on how their waterproof phones can be used.

I stated that I interpreted Sony’s change in stance as a clear acknowledgement of a problem with their devices and that if Sony state that they are not changing their stance then all of the user guides, marketing and information about waterproofing must have been deliberately misleading.

MPD: Sony have the ability to test the device to identify what caused the water to enter the handset. I was advised to enter a dispute with Sony based on the advice from them at the point of sale.

If Sony are unable to repair or replace my handset following their assessment, then MPD would require to see the report of the Sony engineers.

Clearly the response from Mobile Phones Direct is incorrect. My complaint should be lodged with the retailer and not with the manufacturer and this is what I was attempting to do. In addition, any report would be mine and while it may assist me to share it with MPD, I believe that it really ought to be their responsibility to get an independent report.

Mobile Phones Direct Email #2

Me: I explained that my handset had already been returned to Sony’s repair service and that I had found Sony customer support to be a particularly poor experience.

I informed MPD that Sony had stated that the handset was not economical to repair and that they were offering me a replacement for a fee.

I explained that I had asked Sony for information about where water had entered the handset but that they “will not speculate”.

I corrected MPD’s last response and stated that from a legal perspective it is their responsibility to rectify the problem and not Sony’s. In this instance Sony had been obstructive and unhelpful and so I stated that it was with regret that I returned to MPD as I was required to do in law.

MPD: No response.

Mobile Phones Direct Email #3 (2 weeks after previous correspondence)

Me: I simply asked whether, seeing as I had received no response to my last email, somebody was dealing with my problem and I mentioned that I was still without a phone.

MPD: They stated that they were unwilling to go further without an official manufacturer’s report stating that they cannot repair and will not replace my Xperia Z. “If you could forward that to us, we will get this looked into for you.”


By now I’m beginning to suspect that retailers and manufacturers are colluding in order to protect their businesses and completely stitch-up the consumer. Sony won’t do anything because the legal responsibility falls to the retailer and the retailer won’t do anything without a report from the manufacturer that the manufacturer won’t provide (and I believe that the retailer knows this)…

Most retailers probably recognise that by now most consumers will have given up because they don’t understand, are intimidated by and/or can’t be bothered with the aggravation of going through the process of making a claim through the small claims court – the consumer’s course for redress.

So it was at about this point that I requested my phone be returned from Sony’s repair service and a copy of the engineer’s report to satisfy MPD’s request.

Joint liability

At approximately the same time that I was requesting the engineer’s report that MPD wanted I decided to initiate proceedings via Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This Section of the Consumer Credit Act states that, when making purchases between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card, then the lender (credit card provider) is jointly liable with the retailer for a breach of contract.

Fortunately I had used my credit card to make the initial purchase ( >£100 ) and so my lender has a legal responsibility to consider my case and apply remedial measures if they conclude that my case is valid. This route to recourse is far less hassle than trying to persuade a stubborn retailer. It’s for this reason that I now use my credit card for all purchases over £100. I even put £100 on my credit card when I recently bought a second-hand car of considerably greater value from a dealer (where there was no other finance agreement), just in case. I highly recommend that you consider doing the same with your purchases, for extra protection.

Incidentally, the car I purchased – a Volkswagen. What’s more I bought it just before the news broke about the international emissions scandal and the so-called cheat devices that VW had implemented in their cars to hide the fact that they were non-compliant with emissions regulations. It subsequently turned out that my car is one of those affected. VW intend to rectify the situation but I may still have a legitimate reason to use Section 75 again within the 6 years that the Limitations Act provides for. This may come in handy and I’m pretty glad that I paid at least some of the purchase price with my credit card!

To be continued…