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Old 13.11.2011, 02:38
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Faulty Receiver, Bad Service and Consumer Rights

Hi everybody,

I just perused this old thread hoping to find some useful information for my situation but it seems to me that it only confirms I can't really do much. So, the only thing I'm going to do is to share the experience and hope that at least a few others won't repeat the same mistakes.

1) Bought (what I thought to be) a new Receiver for my home theater. Price: roughly 500 CHF. A model from some years back with excellent reviews for its price range.

2) The item is found through toppreis.ch. The seller, albeit seemingly small, has a reasonably high customer rating. I don't remember if I checked their return policy before or after the purchase, but it's in German and Google Translate makes a significant error suggesting that it is possible to ask a refund in case of faults. Later on my understanding of German improves and I understand that the policy explicitly expresses the opposite.

3) The purchase occurs via a bank-to-bank transfer rather than credit card to save some money. In hindsight, this was a big mistake. Credit card purchases offer seemingly much better protection. Unfortunately, having lived in the UK a number of years and accustomed to the consumer-friendly return policies, I didn't quite realized I needed protection.

4) The item, ordered and payed in early July, is delivered about a week later.

5) The packaging is in somewhat worrying conditions. Outside lettering is faded and in some cases teared albeit the structural integrity of the cardboard box seems to be in place. More worrying are the heavy fracture lines in the polystyrene forms holding the receiver and normally offering some protection from impacts. Clear adhesive tape had been used to re-strengthen the fractured forms.
5a) given the packaging condition, I wonder if the item is actually new. Thinking about this issue I realize that the seller's website had no information on the condition of the item, i.e. new or used. No idea then if I can assume the item was sold as new or if anything goes.
5b) later on I speculate, even to the seller, that the item might have been subjected to a serious drop. I.e. from somebody's hands or from a truck's platform.

6) 24-48 hours after delivery I get around disconnecting my existing receiver and plugging in the newly purchased one. To my disappointment the front-left output channel generates a considerable amount of noise/interference. I execute various tests such as swapping cables and loudspeakers to exclude faults of my own equipment and everything seems to confirm a problem with the new receiver. I eventually reconnect my old receiver and as everything goes back to normal I conclude that the new receiver is faulty.
6a) During testing I also notice some sporadic, audio artefacts while listening to music from a PC connected via HDMI. At this stage the "drop" hypothesis forms in my head and points to systemic problems that I judge unlikely to be solved through a simple repair.

7) I inform the seller of the fault the next working day and I'm told, rather than send back the item at my own expenses as I understood from their return policy, to annex a letter detailing the problems observed and hold it to be picked up by a courier. The seller also mention that the courier would get in touch with me to decide on a time and day for the pickup.

8) Things get a little fuzzy here in terms of timeline but after two months of phone calls and emails with the seller, after a failed pick up (the courier had not called to set a date and time), after the courier is found to have lost the information associated with their own pick up reference number (they even left a note asking to call them quoting that number) I'm told by the courier I need to contact again the seller which in turn has to organize another pick up. This time the seller seems to be a little more solicit recognizing that two months to return an item is a little too much. With a few more hiccups/phone calls the pick up finally occurs.

9) Both in the letter annexed to the receiver and via email I make it very explicit that as I suspect systemic problems I'd rather have a full refund instead of a repair addressing one issue but leaving more sporadic and even more annoying problems in place.

10) At this point it should be noted that throughout this period and the following two months up to now the seller responds to my emails with one-liners never really committing to anything: not to a refund nor to specific dates, always ending with "we'll let you know", but never saying when nor what's happening.

11) Now, another two months have gone by since the pick up and I've just been told (after my latest email) that the repair center is in Germany (which is why it's taking so long) and that it -might- take another two weeks. And this is where we stand as of yesterday.

Unfortunately, I feel like I have the law against me as I understand that the federal law can be overridden by specific seller policies and as the purchase didn't occur via credit card. The one thing that I wonder if it would be on my side is the time that is occurring for the whole process. Four months (and counting - including pickup time) to repair a receiver? It seems vaguely unreasonable. Isn't there a limit on how long this kind of things can take? In hindsight it would have been useful to agree with the seller to a deadline for the repair -before- the item was picked up by the courier. Assuming that the seller would have agreed to a deadline at all. I mean: why should they have to?

Perhaps a consumer association or legal advice might help, at least to make sure that there are no further delays. But legal advice sounds prohibitively expensive for a 500 CHF item and a consumer association such as ktipp.ch might not provide useful advice to people with only rudimentary understanding of German (I might investigate on this front).

Ultimately what annoys me the most is that my utterly negative experience with this seller (and the toppreis.ch rating I will be eventually assign to it) will be swamped by the positive ratings of those that were lucky enough to purchase faultless items (excluding sinister possibilities such as the seller having hired people through Amazon's Mechanical Turk to artificially inject hundreds of false positive ratings) and the seller will be therefore allowed to go on without having to change a single thing in their processes.

But I've certainly learned my lesson: pay via credit card and stick to well known, larger shops even if their goods cost more.

Comments and feedback are welcome.

Sincerely,

Manu
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