May 8, 2010
How to Get a Rogue Vendor to Honor Product Warranties: Olympus 770 Mu Underwater Digicam
In North America, when a product proves defective during its warranty period, it is replaced by the vendor or the manufacturer with NO QUESTIONS. If you've made a warranty claim in the Philippines, it's a radically different story. It's no longer surprising that even big national chains selling their products in the most prestigious malls behave like fly-by-night companies when faced with a consumer warranty claim. I've heard numerous stories. The consummer gets snowballed, double-talked, given the run-around, stalled indefinitely, that in exasperation, the consumer just throws in the white towel and walks away in anger and frustration. This scenario happens everyday and the rogue vendors are getting away with it.
My Story...What I did to Win my Case
I found myself in a similar situation when my Olympus 770 Mu soaked in water during its warranty period. Not surprisingly, the Trinoma vendor (let's call them by a fictitious name...Electron World) gave me the usual run-around. Here's an account of the measures I took to make this vendor finally honor the product warranty. You can use these as a template to claim yours.
Olympus 770 Mu Underwater Digicam
Let's be honest here. The reason why anyone will buy this camera is because it can take underwater shots for up to 10 meters WITHOUT a marine pack. So at the very least, that is what this digicam should deliver, right? And if the camera fails to deliver that promise within its warranty period, the company should uphold the warranty, and replace the camera with presumably a better model, right? Well, my experience with this camera and the company selling this has been very dismal on both accounts.
Known Issues with the 770 Mu
It all started with my purchase of the Olympus 770 Mu - the first offering for an underwater digicam - up to 10 meters! After a few uses underwater at a shallow depth (less than 5 feet), salt water got into its guts rendering it useless. I heard the same story with friends who also owned a 770 Mu. They were all useless now. I went to Electron World in Trinoma to claim my warranty as it was well within its warranty period.
My jaw dropped when they offered to replace the lens. WHAT? I told them there was nothing wrong with the lens. The camera's guts got soaked in salt water and they have to replace it with a better model specially because the 770 Mu already has known issues about its underwater shortcoming. There was a long drawn tug-of-war that dragged on for a month. It was obvious they had no intention of honoring the warranty clause. Finally, after threatening with media exposure and a lawsuit they agreed to replace the camera with a brand new model. At P28K, it wasn't cheap - I wouldn't just walk away from my claim on the basis of a vendor brush-off. I was prepared to go the whole 9 yards on this one.
Dealing in Bad Faith
Instead of the better model, what Electron World gave me was the same model that came in a bubble wrap - not in its original manufacturer's box. But they insisted it was brand new. I felt extremely suspicious. I later found light scratches on the camera, and the smoking gun - the digicam's internal memory still had a picture of the previous owner! I told them off about their dishonesty but they insisted they've already done what they were supposed to do. In short, they just gave me the "So What?" attitude. They really had no intention of honoring the warranty - this big national chain with stores in the most prestigious malls in the country...reneging on their obligation to honor the warranty!
The Letter Writing Campaign
Realizing they wouldn't do anything just by my verbal claim, I was constrained to write a letter to any and all stakeholders - Trinoma Mall, Olympus Asia, Olympus International Headquarters, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
I urge you to read the letters. The letters are almost the same but slightly altered to address the unique interest pertaining to a particular stakeholder. You can use these letters as a template in case you need to write yours.
Trinoma replied to me saying they can only talk to the store management but cannot take a stronger action as the vendors are independent tenants. I was disappointed that they would take such a lame stance. Any consumer defrauding that takes place in Trinoma takes away from the mall's prestige. They didn't seem to see that big picture.
Their office in Japan wrote me saying they will internally deal with the problem but will not disclose what arrangements would be decided upon.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
DTI was the most action-oriented and the most effective. They scheduled a hearing!
With What Defense?
When the DTI hearing was set (together with all the calls Electron World has been getting from Trinoma and Olympus), I thought they would finally relent and simply give me a replacement. NO! They confirmed participation in the hearing. I was thinking...with what? They have absolutely no defense!
The DTI Hearing
At the very outset, the Electron World lawyer insisted they gave us a brand new model. I guess she wasn't briefed by her colleagues that their claim has already been proven to be a lie. My representative stood up and in front of all the parties, told her to her face she was a liar...and by being a liar, he would refuse to entertain any of her arguments.
The Electron World party talked amongst themselves. When they reconvened, they said they've decided to replace the digicam with a brand new model of the better Olympus 1030 SW. And that's it! That was the end of the hearing. They finally realized they had no defense and that they had been dealing in bad faith from day 1.
Olympus 1030 SW
Shortly after the warranty on the new 1030 SW expired, the digicam soaked water! I poured the water out, took the memory and battery out and used a hair dryer to remove any water left. It worked after a few days but remained temperamental. Sometimes it would give error messages. Of course I'm on my own now as the warranty expired, even though at this point, Olympus already knows their underwater digicams have water-issues.
I just wish Olympus would get its act together and perfect this technology before they do any kind of mass marketing. They're selling a product that's questionable in performance, and they're having their products sold by equally questionable distributors. Because of my aggravating experience with Olympus and its local distributor, I would be extremely hard pressed to buy another Olympus product.
ps - Canon
Let me cite an exception though. I've had a very good experience with Canon's after sales service. My Canon digicam malfunctioned upon exposure to humidity after its warranty period. But hunidity is already a known issue with Canon. So when I asked them what they can do for me, they gave me an indefinite loaner - a brand new Ixus Digicam that I could use indefinitely! I guess they cannot technically say it's a replacement, so they just gave me that loaner. I applaud Canon for that. I haven't heard any company in the Philippines who subscribe to that policy.
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"Unlike you, I don't have any legal representatives to help me fight Electroworld. Which brings me to ask..How did you get a hearing? Did you call them? Did you go to their office?" -- Maria Erica Ciara Ramayrat
(Apr 14, 2010) I didn't have any legal representative. It was my Dad who represented me as I was busy with Survivor Philippines then. I just followed-up with DTI about my letter and they scheduled a hearing on that basis. I didn't need to hound them. They were quick to act on the matter. No, I didn't go to their office either. It was just the letter and then the follow-up phone call. And I didn't have any inside connection to grease up the process either.
I hope you don't let up. Electron World deserves to be given a lasting lesson.
Maria Erica Ciara Ramayrat
(Apr 13, 2010) Just like you, I have been a victim of Electroworld with the same product - Olympus. The digital camera I bought was cheaper compared to your camera. It's a T-100 and costs around P6000 when I bought it. Only a month after I bought the said camera, i experienced LCD malfunction before it completely got stuck with the lens out. This happened while I was using it in school. I returned it to them right away and demanded for a replacement. But all they did was removed the battery (while it's stuck), put the battery back, turned it on and everything was fine again. They couldn't explain what happened and just told me that they cannot replace it. Instead, they just sent it to Servimax--the service center of Olympus. In short, Servimax, turned the camera on, didn't find any problem and returned it back to me. They didn't do anything.
Since I can use the camera again and since they don't want to replace the camera, I forgave them and told them that if anything happens again, they should replace my camera. Lo and behold, after 5months, the camera won't turn on. They did the same procedure of sending it to the Service center. The center said that this time, they know that the problem was the battery because they tried another battery and the camera worked.
The camera proved to be very unreliable and obviously, defective. Now they want me to buy a new battery for the said camera and then what's next--wait for the next issue? I couldn't take it anymore so I sent an email to DTI. I've been following this up for a week but the latest they told me (just earlier) was that they have forwarded it to CWD (Consumer Welfare Desk) and that if it won't be addressed, that's the only time that they will take actions.
Unlike you, I don't have any legal representatives to help me fight Electroworld. Which brings me to ask..How did you get a hearing? Did you call them? Did you go to their office? So far, I've been calling DTI for a week now. I also sent them emails containing the details of my bad experiences with Electroworld and my demand to have it replaced or better, get a refund.
I'm only a student so this is really a big deal for me. I would appreciate your insights.
"The trouble with most Pinoy consumers (which vendors exploit) is our inability to go the distance in following-up their claim"
(May 19, 2010) ...very true. But in some cases, like mine, it wasn't a follow-up issue. I didn't really know what to do, short of getting a lawyer and filing a case against them in court....which is really aggravating and expensive. That would really be discouraging. I didn't know then there was such thing as DTI or even writing the mall. They just popped up as I researched the available avenues. That's also the reason I posted this blog to serve as template for those frustrated in claiming warranty.
(May 19, 2010) The trouble with most Pinoy consumers (which vendors exploit) is our inability to go the distance in following-up their claim, thinking it's not worth all the hassle. Good thing the DTI is acting on these complaints, otherwise everything would be hopeless.
(May 11, 2010) ...good job on pursuing your claim against Electroworld!
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