SMART SPENDER>CONSUMER HELP
What to do when you open a newly purchased product that happens to be damaged or simply does not work?
By Excel V. Dyquiangco
You’ve probably experienced or heard the horror stories that come with purchasing a new gadget, appliance, or even a brand-new car. Ken Santiago (not his real name) even describes his whole incident as a “nightmare” when it took him almost a year to settle his case with the cell phone company and then with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Last 2007, he bought a cell phone worth P20,000, only to break down after awhile. He asked for a replacement and was given a different brand but it became of no use too. And then the whole “nightmare” happened when the cell phone company refused to accommodate him. When he asked the help of DTI, he was told that he can file a case but he just decided to accept the money offered by the retailer even though it was way below the price of the original phone he bought.
“The P13,000 I got, I think, is not worth it, considering the bad service I got from the seller,” Ken says. “I just had no choice but to fight for my right as a consumer.”
Ken is not alone. Some consumers right now – perhaps including you – are eager to fight for their rights, but don’t really know what to do about it. Fortunately, DTI offers some helpful tips once the product that you have bought breaks down – whether you’ve had it for a few days or years.
“When you buy a product, you immediately have the inherent remedy,” says Atty. Pedro Vicente, director in charge at the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection of the DTI. “That’s why we have what we call the 3R’s – refund, repair, and replace.”
According to Atty. Vicente, once your product seems to be of no use anymore, here are some things that you should do under these different scenarios:
1. Under warranty. Whether you just bought the product or you’ve had it for some time but it’s still under warranty, present the defective product immediately to the retailer – whether it’s just for a major or minor fix. The consumer has the option to have the product changed, repaired, or have the money refunded.
2. Lapsed warrant. Once the warranty has lapsed, there is no other choice. “When the consumer has had it for the longest time, he needs to pay for the repair or for other services that he wants imposed,” says Atty. Vicente.
3. No settlement. If the retailer refuses to have your product replaced or refund your money, and it’s still under warranty, you can file a complaint at DTI at tel. no. 751-3330. You can also file a complaint at the consumer welfare desks at selected establishments, such as those found in malls or small stores. According to Atty. Vicente, DTI serves as a mediator between you and the retailer. “Look at it this way – DTI acts like both a judge and a prosecutor.” Such process can take at least one month or longer, depending on the nature of the complaint. When witnesses keep on popping up, the issue might be settled a little bit longer.
For consumers within Metro Manila, you can file a complaint at either DTI’s Pasay, Quezon City, or Makati branches. For those outside Metro Manila, you can file a complaint at the regional branches.
But according to Atty. Vicente, in order not to go through all of these proceedings since it could cost you your time, resources, and efforts, the best way to protect your consumer rights is still to ensure that what you have bought is indeed of good quality. He gives you a lowdown on the things that you need to look out for:
- Know what you should buy. If cell phones are your thing, know its features. Do you want it to have a camera? Or do you need a cell phone with Bluetooth? The same goes with other appliances such as a television, refrigerator, or microwave oven – know their features. This way, you know that you won’t be shortchanged. “Consumers should be aware of the product features and the benefits they should gain from the product,” says Atty. Vicente. Ken adds that, “try all the features to check that everything is working right.”
- Don’t be an impulsive buyer. Never approach a store to buy a cell phone or a gadget which looks “good” and “fashionable”. Chances are, you could get frustrated or disappointed because you don’t know how to use the product. Study the material first.
- Choose where you buy your products. Always buy your products at registered stores and don’t just rely on anywhere else. This could guarantee not just the quality of your product but you can be sure of the internal remedy – the 3Rs.
- Examine and observe. The business name or the state of warranty should be explicitly stated and written on the packaging of the product that you plan to buy.
- Ask questions. There are products which have implied warranty, which means that the warranty is not stated in the packaging. If this is the case, talk to your retailer or seller the things that you need to know such as the warranty. Also ask hypothetical questions – what if the product you bought breaks down? Who can you approach? Be sure that your questions are answered clearly.
- Always get the receipt and keep it. At least when your product breaks down, you have proof. “I have an envelope for all the receipts and warranty certificates of all the products that I purchase,” Ken says.
Ken indeed has learned a lot of things with his experience. “Whenever I buy a new gadget now, I use it for the whole week to make sure it will not give me any trouble,” he says. “I understand that I can return a defective unit within seven days upon purchase. And of course, I always ask the stores if they give assistance to their customers.”
So when it comes to buying new products, always make sure that the usefulness and benefits of the products are maximized according to what you need. Rest assured, you won’t be having any problems dealing with defects anytime soon.