Having tech problems? Prepare for a fight

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Chris Schulz

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Apple gadgets technology

Struggling to get your broken iPad or malfunctioning TV fixed? You might need to dig in and prepare for battle - but it's worth it in the long run.

A few weeks ago, my pair of beloved Airpod Pros stopped working.

They’ve been my go-to headphones for past year, used for everything listening to podcasts to catching up with the news and blasting music while out running.

They’re in my ears for several hours a day, so, when the right Airpod started crackling and hissing constantly, it was more than a minor inconvenience.

As they were less than a year old, and therefore still under warranty, I thought organising a replacement part would be easy.

I was wrong.


Apple’s AirPods Pro includes game-changing noise cancelling technology. Photo/Apple

Logging onto Apple’s support platform for the first time, I was told to set up an appointment at an Apple Store. We don’t have any of those in New Zealand, so that was out of the question.

The next options were to talk to a support person on the phone, or open a chat window. I chose the chat window.

Over the next hour, I exchanged 42 messages with three different Apple support staff. They asked multiple questions, often repeating what the previous person had asked.

At one point, the service disconnected and I had to start the whole process over with a new assistant.

They were there to help, but they were being far less than helpful.

That, says Consumer Advissor Maggie Edwards, is unacceptable.

“Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the retailer has a set of obligations and they have to sort out the problem in a reasonable time,” she says.

That means sorting out issues with your fancy new phone, headphones, laptop or television should be quick and painless.

Often it never is. For my AirPod Pros, it took all of those messages, paying a refundable deposit, then re-organising delivery for a missed courier package, and sorting out shipping of the broken AirPod to Australia, to sort it all out.

Frustrating? For sure. So here are some tips to help you next time your own gadgets break down.

Find the right person to talk to

This can be half the battle. Do you deal with the retailer you purchased your item from, or go straight to the company who made it?

The retailer should always be your first port of call, says Edwards.

“Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the retailer can’t say, ‘Go to Apple and use the warranty’,” she says.

That means the retailer has a responsibility to sort out the issue for you.

If you purchased the item directly from a company like Apple, then that’s a different scenario.

Like my Airpod Pros, you’ll need to lodge a claim, and each company has a different process.

Often, you’ll find yourself dealing with a technical support team based overseas.

That’ s when the next few tips might come in handy.

Check out your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act

Even if an item is out of warranty, it may still be eligible to be repaired or replaced under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).

“An item should last a reasonable time after purchase,” says Edwards. “A television may only have a 12-24-month warranty, but a CGA claim may give you rights for four or more years.”

That depends on the type of television you own, how much it cost you, and the type of problem you’re having with it.

Either way, Edwards says it’s always worth asking the question.

“Whether the item is still under warranty, or not,  I would suggest going back to the retailer if you still have the receipt or proof of purchase,” she says.

She’s right: last year, when my Samsung smart TV started showing giant black shadows all over the screen, I kicked up a fuss, lodged a claim under the CGA and managed to get it replaced for free.

For more information about your rights under the CGA, visit the Consumer.org website.

Don’t be afraid to keep at it

Sometimes, it just seems like some companies really don’t want to co-operate.

Earlier this year, I had major issues with a set of Bose headphones. I’d already had them replaced, and they’d failed again. I decided I no longer wanted them.

It took dozens of emails spread over several months to organise thiss. Admittedly, this was as the world was dealing with a worldwide pandemic and various stages of lockdown, but the company eventually agreed to replace them with something worth more than the item I originally purchased.

Edwards says it should never take 100 emails for a company to sort out a complaint.

She suggests copying in the Commerce Commission if you feel the Fair Trading Act has been breached.

Failing that, for claims under $2000, she suggests taking the drastic step of going to the Disputes Tribunal if necessary.

Often, Edwards says a decent email is all it takes to get a company to sort out the problem.

She suggests heading to the Consumer.org website and using one of their pre-prepared templates. 

As my experiences show, persistence pays off. You might just have a bit of a battle to find a resolution.

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Chris Schulz

Chris Schulz has 20 years experience writing about New Zealand's technology and entertainment industries. He lives in Auckland.

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