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November 5, 2012

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Electronic goods' warranties a clause for concern

EXPATS who buy computers, smartphones and other electronic products in Shanghai are routinely assured that warranties extend to their native countries or anywhere else they go in the world.

Caveat emptor!

A case in the Huangpu District People's Court recently pointed out just how wary buyers need to be.

The case involved a Japanese expat who alleged that a brand-name laptop he bought in Shanghai wasn't covered after all for warranty repairs when he was back in Japan. The plaintiff won a refund of one repair cost but was denied other damages he sought. He appealed the decision but lost.

The consumer, surnamed Koike, said he bought a branded laptop for 3,799 yuan (US$612) via an e-commerce site in China in February 2011. Since he was in a hurry, Koike said he didn't ask for a Windows XP operating system to be installed and later had to pay 979 yuan to a repair station on the website for a 2G memory chip and the operating system.

Koike claimed he later discovered that the system he received was a pirated Chinese copy of Windows XP and, when he complained to the repair site, he was given a legal English-version of the system.

But when he returned to Japan in July 2011 and his laptop was malfunctioning, the Japanese site of the repair services declined to fix it under warranty.

The company in court countered that Koike was a permanent resident of Japan and wasn't covered by the warranty for "global travelers."

Close attention

The moral of the story is that consumers need to pay close attention to international warranty clauses of the electronic products they buy. In many cases, the warranty clauses have different stipulations for different countries. To invoke them, passports are required and fees may be charged.

Huang Jianping, secretary-general of the Shanghai Electronic Products Repair Service Association, said some companies don't store spare parts in different countries, which means they have to get the components from headquarters. That can result in delays of up to several months.

The Chinese branch of Hewlett-Packard Development Co said it provides repair service for only certain types of computers or notebooks sold locally. Asustek Computer Inc China has similar requirements, providing after-sales service only for the same types of computers sold at local repair centers.

Dell China said it provides service only for computers with a three-year guarantee period.

And Lenovo China said it provides only limited global repair service -- that, too, on hardware, not software.

"Service procedures may vary by country, and some services and/or parts may not be available in all countries," its warranty states. "Some countries may have fees and restrictions that apply. Certain countries may not have the capability of servicing all models of a particular machine type."

Samsung China said it has opened global repair service in some countries, such as Japan, South Korea and the United States, but users need to pay for the transportation of components.

The Huaihai Road M. branch of Apple Inc said global repair service is provided, but it depends on different policies in different countries.


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