Consumer rights and warranties

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Warranties are important at any time of year, but with Christmas just two weeks away they will be on a lot of people’s minds more than normal.

If you buy a faulty device, the retailer may replace it or offer a refund. Alternatively, it may be fixed under the manufacturers warranty. Now don’t be fooled by standard terms and conditions offered by retailers, because the Sale of Goods Act 1979 covers consumers for a period of 6 years, providing that “Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description.”

If you do end up using the manufacturer’s warranty, make sure you are prepared. I am lucky in that respect, as I am able to diagnose most PC related problems myself and can tell when a manufacturer is leading me down the garden path. If you feel you are feeling unfairly treated, stick to your guns. Research consumer law if you have to.

Now it used to be said that someone who has a bad customer service experience would on average tell twenty four other people, while someone who has a good experience will tell only two or three. We live in an online world these days and that has turned the old sayings on their heads. For instance, it is quite common now for disgruntled consumers to vent their spleens in a very public fashion on Twitter, or Facebook, Google+ or one of the other networks. They may visit sites like Amazon and leave bad reviews too. Similarly, people that have good experiences may also post about it, so it does balance out a little. What this means for businesses though, is that one disgruntled customer could tarnish their reputation very easily by sharing their story with thousands or even millions of people.

This behaviour is okay! It is right that we as consumers should want to help our fellow humans by giving advice, recommendations and pointing out shoddy business practices.

What if the situation is reversed and you are the business owner? Perhaps you own a restaurant and someone leaves a bad review, or maybe a trainee does a poor job and a customer complains on a public network? The best thing to do in that situation is to join the conversation and make amends. You can turn a bad situation into a good one if you handle it the right way.

This does mean that you need to have a presence wherever your customers are. If that means Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Amazon or anywhere, you must be open to connect with people on those platforms. Failing to respond to genuine customer concerns will only reflect badly on you and your business.

I have heard many business owners in the past query why they should join ‘another’ social network and what is the benefit to them anyway? Well, the simple answer is you need to be there to fight fires and spread the good word about your business brand.

Alan Stainer