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'Fairness' in dealing with returns while abroad

While dealing with the dreaded “bloated battery” manufacturing defect, I came up against a warranty/return hiccup that will become increasingly important as people who bought Fairphones in Europe slowly migrate to other regions.

In my case, I bought the Fairphone while living in Germany but have since moved to Cambodia for development work. For all intents and purposes, the mobile conditions in Cambodia match those in Europe, so I had no problem with connectivity (3G, 2G, Wifi, all fine). About a year after I received my phone, the battery began to bloat, causing power problems and making it impossible to close the case flush. After reading the forums and acknowledging the manufacturing problem (see related post), I stopped using the phone for safety reasons and contacted support.

To make a long story short, after some back and forth, in which Fairphone support initially refused to send the free replacement to Cambodia (she wanted to send to a friend in Europe), I quoted their Territoriality policy:

“If you live outside Europe and want to return or repair your Fairphone, we’re still happy to help. However, you will need to cover the shipping costs.”

After seeing this, the support person agreed to manually ship the battery to Cambodia and invoice me the costs. So let me pose the obvious questions:

  1. Should Fairphone be liable to ship to all customers who have since left Europe?
  2. Should the customer have to cover the cost (I do not know yet if it will be a reasonable amount or not) due to manufacturing defect?
  3. When faced with a few weeks to a month without the phone, should one consider a company with more interchangeable parts? (Is it reasonable for FP to suggest I buy a generic battery?)

Thanks for your input

Continuing the discussion from Battery bloated:

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Hi! Here are my thoughts on your questions:

You should not have to cover the cost of the replacement parts, but IMO, I think it is, unfortunately, your responsibility if you move to a country, which is outside the Territoriality policy of Fairphone.

If you can get hold of a generic battery (they should be hard to find, I guess), then you could surely use it, but be aware that it can do damage to your FP. In your situation, I would buy a feature phone for around 20 € and use that one until the new battery arrives.

Generally speaking, I kind of know your troubles. I spent a year in Panama and bought a X-Mini loudspeaker there, which stopped working after some months. I guess the postal situation there is similar to the one in Cambodia… Anyhow, I would have needed to send the loudspeaker to some agency in the US and it was just not worth the effort. It can be pretty frustrating, if you go to other countries, where you do not have the commodities of warranty policies and an easy door-to-door post service.

Bottom line: Developing countries are developing countries because this is what the “developed countries” made them to be. But, sometime we have to ask ourselves, aren’t we the less developed ones? Is a invalid warranty really a problem, compared to the “real” problems many people face?

I hope I made my point clearly enough, if you have troubles finding the statement, don’t hesitate to ask! :wink:
Stefan

I changed the category from Repair to Café because I think it fits best there.

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I am no expert on EU law, however they were setup to protect us consumers when we buy things from anywhere including physical shops and none physical stores (i.e. online/mail order).

The regulations are clear (Source: http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/shopping/shopping-abroad/guarantees/index_en.htm):

If an item you bought anywhere in the EU turns out to be faulty or does not look or work as advertised, the seller must repair or replace it free of charge or give you a full refund or reduction in price.

Also remember that EU law entitles us to a 2 year warranty

So FP are liable for the cost of replacing. They could perhaps argue that they would not pay the full shipping cost to Cambodia, but at the very least you should be no less disadvantaged than had you been in your home country from where you bought the item.

A question to ask would be how much the shipping would have cost had you been within the EU and what the difference between this and what they have invoiced you for.

(PS I will flag up to FP to get a better understanding of the policy etc)

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@Hart
That is very unfortunate. But as the Fairphone is currently sold in Europe only, i think it is ok to send a bill for the shipping cost, as stated in the policy you quoted.
On the other hand, regulations are clear and you have a right for a replaced battery. Fairphone should try to send it to anywhere in the world (except North Korea perhaps) where legally possible.

In your case and since you are not the only one with a bloated battery, i actually think it would be better if Fairphone covered the costs, but that is only my opinion.

In short:

  1. Yes,
  2. I think it would be better if Fairphone covered the costs, but since it is and was always stated in their policy, i think it is ok if customers pay the shipping. Fairphone is still a small company without worldwide representations.
  3. Good question. Sadly batteries are not standardized. Clearly more known brands with some oders of magnitude more devices sold make it easier to get spare parts.

@Hart: my battery problems were solved with SW upgrades, and by changing the access point settings of the operator. This are the first things to check. Then, if it continues to drain, switch of WiFi and BlueTooth auto search. Also push notifications (Facebook, Gmail etc) that are on continuously drain the battery. Other reason for drainage: weak 3G signal. Finding good base stations is energy-intensive. But especially; upgrades and the access points. They are apparently pre-set for Germany and the Netherlands, and in Finland I had also problems. Try this first

From a technical perspective, high-end phones are not designed (yet) for emerging / developing markets; think of environmental conditions (heat/direct sun, humidity etc).

On the non-tech aspects. slow reply cannot be excused. Legal obligations/guarantees: I have my doubts. The dead on arrival is not the case. So the cheapest thing for FP is just send a new battery; good PR. But still not cheap, since you are not allowed to send Li-ion batteries via regular mail. And Do the EU regulations cover mobile devices, it’s a different category.

Taken from the warranty policy of FP:

[quote]Within these two years, consumers can request the seller to acknowledge the defects and/or the lack of conformity. As a consequence, the seller will have to repair, replace or refund the price of the product in question, following the process below:

  • The seller must be notified of defects within two months of their discovery.
  • With some exceptions, defects that become apparent within six months of delivery are presumed to have existed at the moment of delivery (i.e. they were manufacturing defects). If the seller disagrees, it must prove through technical diagnosis that they were not manufacturing defects.
  • After six months from delivery, defects that become apparent are no longer presumed to be manufacturing defects and thus the consumer has to prove they are.

[/quote] [Source]

I don’t think that it has to be dead on arrival. As the warranty policy states, the consumer, who suspects to have manufacturing defects, which appear after six month from delivery, only has to prove that they really are manufacturing defects. IMO a bloated battery is a very strong indication for a manufacturing defect. Clearly it is not apparent at delivery, but develops later.

Agree, a DoA case is open for debate. Critical is the time between receiving the device and reporting. Once reported you cannot use the device any more (strictly taken). In many cases it is cheapest for the company to send a replacement part. I had once problem with my new Lenovo laptop, and they replaced it with a new one directly from the factory, all cost incl transport paid. Was a 100% Europe.

But as said in my previous post, it may be technical/settings: access point and/or SW update issue. I was about to send my phone back but I was too lazy ;), Selecting and changing to the right access points is not trivial. In many cases the operator has it on it’s website. A friend better at the tech solved the problem (access points) for me. Tech support could (after checking operator details) help using chat

I think, there might be a misunderstanding. :wink: We are talking about bloated batteries here, like in this picture:
https://forum.fairphone.com/uploads/default/857/ec16eefb8e1e86a2.jpg from this post. I am pretty sure, it is not about settings. In fact it is highly dangerous to continue using such a battery.

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ouch; never associated the image with the story. Nokia had a similar problem with some of their batteries (model BL 4C) in the time frame 2007-2009. Check this in Engadget ( http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/14/nokia-branded-batteries-at-risk-of-exploding-46-million-devic ).

Hi all,

The policy is indeed that as soon as it mentions a bloated battery, we recommend not to use the battery anymore and we make sure to ship a replacement battery (free of charge and free of shipping within European countries) as soon as possible. In order to do this properly, we need a filled in RMA form, which now is the most delaying factor.
If it is problems with charging, we have a list of troubleshoots that people can try first.

If we ship to outside of Europe, we have to do this manually - we are not set up for export outside of Europe. Logistically, judicially and tax wise.

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Sorry to revive a somewhat moribund post, but I’d like to return primarily to point 3 again. As I determined with customer support, while Fairphone is technically “happy to help” ship spare parts outside of Europe if the customer covers the additional cost - this does not address a ‘fair’ timeframe in which all of this should occur. While we tend to focus on the financial inconvenience faced by those who have moved outside of Europe (namely shipping and a temporary mobile phone), the biggest concern for me was actually always the loss of smart phone functionality.

I bet that those who move from Europe are tendentially more dependent on internet chat, VOIP by mobile, and other internet-only features that help deal with the distance, call cost and time-zone issues. In my case, I am working in a different country from my wife so this was rather critical. Other luxuries like Facebook and even Maps I can live without but I am now on week 3 without a smart phone and, I won’t lie, my wife is agitated. The 30 Euros spent for shipping and a candy bar phone are now starting to pale in comparison to this mountain inconvenience - so much so that my wife has already started saying “I’ll pay for you to get another phone”.

So let’s review: Fairphone is only partially responsible for the manufacturing defect of the battery (FP did choose the supplier and accepted their quality control protocols, so they cannot completely hide), but they are completely responsible for getting urgent spare parts to their supporters in case of a failure. Indeed, it is my “fault” for moving outside of Europe but is equally FP’s “fault” for not having this contingency in mind: did they truly believe all 30,000+ FP users would stay in Europe for the subsequent 2-5 years? And as the “I am now outside of Europe” claims started piling up, it was probably prudent to invest in a mechanism for handling this… at least one would expect them to be if they are, as they write in their warranty, “happy to help” ship outside of Europe.

Instead, a snag regarding shipping lithium-ion batteries outside of Europe will probably leave me smartphone-less for 5-6 weeks. Yes, perhaps I should have just had them ship to a friend in Europe. But then a regular person would have been tasked with obtaining the special certificates for shipping Li-On batteries worldwide.

Weigh in: am I mistakenly upset about the result of this? Should I be more sympathetic that FP is a small operation, or more critical that a small operation cannot more carefully sort out individual problems?

I think there is not much to blame on Fairphone, but rather on international legislation regarding the shipment of Li-Ion batteries. Seems quite nasty to me… :frowning:

I really do empathise with you. Life without a phone is very inconvenient (and that’s putting it very politely).

I think the problem we have here is that FP weren’t setup to ship beyond Europe and with so many hoops to jump through I can understand why they have been hesitant to jump into this.

I think you’re right to be upset, but I don’t think FP have deliberately tried to make this difficult for you. You could argue that they could have foreseen these problems, but you could also argue that they did foresee these problems and made a strategic decision based on the companies abilities, resources and overall strategy.

I know none of that really helps your situation any, but I do hope you get your situation resolved soon!

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I’d like to point out that Fairphone has clarified its policy on warranty and shipment of repaired phones and spare parts.

We also have an explanation article, and here we hope to make the policy very clear.

Fairphone only ships, returns, or repairs within the European Union and some additional European countries. We tried to help some customers (going beyond our warranty policy) by returning repaired Fairphone products to addresses outside Europe. But that created a lot of additional work and confusion for our small team. Our company return logistics are simply not set up for that.

We have clarified our Fairphone and spare parts warranties to reflect this. In case you bought a Fairphone or spare part in Europe, and now you are traveling or living outside Europe, we want to help you. We will repair your phone, but you must send your phone directly to our repair center in the Netherlands - arranging and paying for transport yourself. When we return it, you should present a European address for us to send the materials back. You should then arrange and pay for further shipping options yourself if required outside Europe.

If your product is within warranty, Fairphone can compensate a fair amount that will cover the cost of shipping within Europe.

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Well, it should at least be mentioned here that Fairphone chose the less consumer-friendly way to solve this problem and also failed to apologize to those customers who worked with them to ship outside Europe in good faith. I’m sorry about the extra work load of the small team, but I am also sorry to every customer who was jilted by their inefficiency.

Let it not be left unsaid that one alternative reaction to the poorly-written Territoriality Statement and its aftermath would have been to develop a more streamlined system for shipping outside of the EU. A little investment now can’t hurt down the line when FP2 comes out.

As time goes on, the likelihood that repairs are needed will increases, and this probably is also associated with increases in re-location outside of the EU. Once FP2 comes out and 100,000’s of phones are circulating out there, the problem will only become more acute. One way or another, Fairphone cannot hide in “Castle Europe” forever so this re-writing of the policy sounds like a cop-out. There’s not even a mention in the explanation of future goals to provide outside the EU.

By the way, I now have 3 friends who bought their phones in Germany and were re-located in 2015 for work to North Africa, Southeast Asia and Korea. I suppose they should have sold their phones before leaving?

Indeed, we are taking the feedback and these customer experiences into account for developing aftersales on the next phone (and our ongoing logistics).

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