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For an ethical company, is transparency optional when it comes to defective products statistics?

Dear everyone,

On the Fairphone website, you can read “Transparency is how we work”.
(https://www.fairphone.com/en/how-we-work/)

I asked Fairphone this questions: “I need to know if the FP3/FP3+ is really more reliable than the FP2, statistically speaking. Can you give me some numbers that can be compared between the FP2 and FP3/FP3+ ? Number of known defective phones per 100’000 sold phones for example ?”

I asked two times and finally got a mostly negative answer: “This is internal information that I do not have the approval for to disclose. You may try contacting our dedicated research team. […]. If the team wants to go further with your proposal, they will reply within 10 days. Otherwise, you will not receive a response”.

One defective phone means a replacement & shipping or at least spare parts. That has a small but still negative environmental impact.

If the Fairphone company, the customers and the public really want to know the total final environmental impact of Fairphone products, defective phones statistics have to be taken into account and made available to the public as well.

Even if the answer from the Fairphone company doesn’t look very good, I will keep pushing to get these numbers. I will keep you all informed.

What do you think ?

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

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In my opinion if they hide stats, it’s because revealing a too high number would create a bad buzz on their brand and risk to drawn them.

They must not be good at all for FP2, which was their first entirely home-designed and modular smartphone. They could’ve drown just with the repair costs, which I think is why they’ve made a fundraiser for FP3: they didn’t make enough benefits with FP2.

For FP3 the stats must be much better though, I think you’re unlucky: I’ve used FP2 warranty to the latest second for almost all parts of the phone at least twice each, however except for the falling letter of the backcover, no major issue on the FP3 that need me to send the phone or ask for a replacement piece yet. So it’s still not perfect at all, remember it’s a small company which innovates a lot.

They don’t want to create bad advertising with bad statistics. However I agree with you I’d love them to be fully transparent. They might reveal the full numbers one day, if they can resist the consequences, but not sure they will: it could only hurt them if they’re too bad, which I think is the case.

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I agree. And I think that even a number that actually isn’t that bad would hurt them, simply because it can’t be compared to anything since no other company publishes such numbers. If FP said that 10% of FP2s were defective, and 3% of FP3s, the headline on tech sites would probably be something like “Up to 10% of Fairphones sold are broken!”. And you would never see a similar headline about Apple or Samsung because they will never release their numbers.

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Haha I think it’s more around 50% for FP2 (especially for first gen screens with their failing touch-sensitivity, overheating issues…) at least, not even taking into account the rubber backcover and the microphone design flaws, which concerns 100% of the devices :sweat_smile:

Oof, I had no idea it was that bad, I never had an FP2. If they had released this information before the FP3 came out it’s not impossible this would have tanked them…

I told you so, now maybe @Swiss-fairphone will understand :grin:

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Dear Antoine,

No I don’t understand.

When you are like most people on the planet (the word “planet” means that it includes non western countries too and poor people in western countries as well), when you try to make ends meet every day (I don’t mean a fitness subscription, I mean food and rent), you can’t just keep loosing money on two successive defective smartphones that you need to work and to earn a living and for which you had to take a credit that you need to pay back.

Guys, you need to stop this collective “Everyone needs to take a hit for the Fairphone Team because their are facing incredible challenges, whatever the individual costs” (this is not a quote of any forum member, this a general mash-up of many answers to dissatisfied customers I have read).

As a company, I don’t think it is right to claim “Transparency is how we work” and be reluctant to disclose numbers that doesn’t suit your agenda or marketing strategy.

But I guess, Fairphone is becoming like Apple. Happy few on the planet that can afford it become fans and defend the company at all cost. Just read your own post: despite you said that you’d love full transparency, you just said that it is mostly OK for a company that claims to be transparent to “hide stats” to survive.

This is really scary: you don’t realize that the opinion you are defending is an impossible one.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

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I think it comes down to FP being part of a (terrible, unjust) market system. They need marketing, they need to hype the good stuff and understate the bad stuff. It sucks, but that’s the game if they want to keep their head above water. The FP2 has tons of weak points and if FP had shared all the numbers about those weak points along the way, I don’t imagine there’d be an FP3 right now.

I mean, imagine if they were to share those numbers for the FP3, as you suggest. No other company shares these kinds of numbers, meaning there’d be no points of comparison, so any number could be (and will be) construed as unacceptably high by critics. People who would have bought a Fairphone wouldn’t do so because they read about the x% of defects within x number of months of purchase, not realising that other phones may do as badly or worse.

Most people on this forum want FP to do well and understand that they need to make decisions that benefit them in the broader context of the electronics market and the global market system as a whole. If there were a groundswell of people demanding this information FP could possibly change their minds about that, but as it is, they would be placing themselves at a considerable disadvantage.

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Dear everyone,

Transparency doesn’t mean you are not allowed to defend and explain why and how numbers (or other informations) are what they are.

Transparency doesn’t mean you can’t do (ethical) marketing. On the opposite, it shows a company assumes what it does, the good and the bad. It could be hell of marketing campaign (the startup DigitecGalaxus did it in Switzerland and it worked, now it is one of the biggest online retailer in the country).

Transparency just means having the balls to look straight at and share the cold facts: the failures, the successes, all of it, own it, learn from it (including listening the harshest external critics) and get better after that before winning the market.

Information is power.

Nothing good ever comes from a lack of transparency, except, perhaps, in the short-term, for those few who keep the information for themselves.

Every company can choose to claim (or not to claim) that they are transparent. But If a company chooses to say that, it must go all the way through, even when it hurts.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

1 Like

Could you explain what DigitecGalaxus did? If you’re referring to the data breach that they disclosed, weren’t they required by law to do so?

Ok, so suppose FP would have said, “50% of the FP2s were defective, now please buy the FP3” would have they have “won the market”?

True. But whose power? As @rmf said, releasing negative information about your company when nobody else does puts you at a huge disadvantage.

I also would like FP to be more open, but in the current environment I’m afraid the only possibilities are the somewhat transparent FP we have now, or no FP at all.

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And what would you do with this information? You demand this information in several threads and allover the community forum, so many discussion with your “yeah cool, xyz, but what about defective products statistics?”.
So what will you do, if you have these numbers? Can you compare it to what? Will you see, that your FP3 is one of the unlucky monday models? No company ever will give you these internal business numbers. Fairphone promised transparency of supply chain, materials and prices, and they delivered.

Just that Fairphone has Fair in their name, does not mean they are a non profit organisation.

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I happen to agree to all those, that correctly state, that transparency can only ever go so far.

Will they have to disclose every information one or the other user (or anyone else) is asking for?
How about the income of the employees in the Netherlands, the rent, they pay for their office, the products, they are working on right now? I bet you all I got, that you will find for all thes informations interested parties.

They have to stay in business.
They are new in the market and develop a revolutionary device: a modular smartphone. Google gave up on project ARA, that went in that direction.
The FP2 was a kind of test, what is possible regarding modularity. You can change the screeen without any tools, just click and snap; that’s it. This design showed to have taken modularity a step too far, since it resulted in lots of troubles with the contacts, since the phone was rather flexible than sturdy. Add to it the fact, that many people - count me in - took the phone apart and disassembled the screen just for showing off (and advertising Fairphone), which has added to the tear and wear of the connections.

The FP3 is the first phone directed at the mass-market, as I see it. The presentation of this new phone kind of shows this.
Why should they compare it to an (in a certain way) experimental Fairphone 2, that was designed completely different.

I rather will have, that they treat users with defective devices professionally and do the repairs and exchange of phones swift and smooth.
So far, I have no indication to doubt this. Should the FP3 be such a bad phone, one can be sure, that the media and internet would be filled up with it, since the phone was hyped at the start. E.g. the German media company heise.de has done quite a few articles on the FP3, but I can’t remember one about it being a troublesome device. Even the quite extensive commentary sections to those articles, did not delve into this subject.

And, as @uodalricus already posted, every number they would publish, would most likely be held against them. Most people would not read more than the headlines, let alone lengthy blogposts by Fairphone explaining the background and important factors to interpret the numbers correctly.
Let Fairphone do the statistics and use them to enhance the products and processes; that’s what’s important. I would - of course - think about changing my mind, if I got the feeling, that they don’t do that and sell crappy phones instead. So far I haven’t.

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Dear BertG,

I don’t know if this is enough indication for you to doubt that Fairphone treats users with defective devices professional: the customer services have

  • repeatedly not read e-mails properly
  • repeatedly not answered questions that were asked (off-topic answer or no answer)
  • repeatedly not answered at all unless you insist by multiple channels (e-mail, phone, etc)
  • took several weeks to answer simple questions (but asked me once to answer in less than 24 hours)
  • closed my defective FP3 case (still under warranty) without solving it

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

Dear uodalricus,

No, I am not talking about a data breach. I am talking about their marketing strategy. One example: in their billboard publicity campaign, they decided to put posters containing a customer comment: sometimes a comment of a satisfied customers and sometimes a comment of a dissatisfied customers.

I think you know your question was only rhetorical. I will answer it nonetheless.

No, Fairphone would not have won the market with your slogan. Wether a company decides to be transparent or not, it needs a clever marketing strategy and good slogans. I doubt that

  • any professional marketing employee would use your slogan to present the facts
  • it is the only way to present the facts and sell your product

If you are not convinced about these two points, I can ask on a marketing forum. Do you think I am wrong on my analysis ?

Both true and wrong.

First, when a company is transparent, it doesn’t release only negative information but also positive information. Any decent marketing campaign will use the positive information too.

Second, if a company is the only one to release a certain type of information (regardless if it is good or bad), it can be an advantage or a disadvantage. It depends on how you spin it. On one hand, you release the information (transparency operation): this part has to be completely neutral and objective. On the other hand, you create an (ethical) marketing campaign that puts forward positive aspects of your transparency campaign without hiding facts:
example 1: “We are the only company that releases detailed statistics (including defective products ratio) because we believe the trust of our clients can only be earned if they have all the facts.”
example 2: “Between our first full-scale production smartphone (FP2) and its successor (FP3), we have managed to decrease the defective products ratio from XX% to XX%. This would not have been possible without the feedback, patience and trust of our FP2 customers, so thank you for your continued support !”
example 3: “Between our first full-scale production smartphone (FP2) and its successor (FP3), we have managed to decrease the defective products ratio from XX% to XX%. This would not have been possible without the feedback, patience and trust of our FP2 customers, so it is with gratitude that we invite any FP2 owner for an exclusive on-site or online/webcam visit of our headquarters with one of our employees ! Just click on this link!”
example 4: “Between our first full-scale production smartphone (FP2) and its successor (FP3), we have managed to decrease the defective products ratio from XX% to XX%. This would not have been possible without the feedback, patience and trust of our FP2 customers, so it is with gratitude that we offer any FP2 owner to be part of special and exclusive pilot program of a standard extended warranty of 5 years ! Just click on this link! To learn more about why we think a sustainable product needs a longer warranty period and why we need a pilot program to study it, you can read this post.”

These are just ideas out the top of my head. I am not a professional marketing employee. A full-time team of skilled professional marketing employees could do much much much better.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

I would love to live in a world where this works, but I it’s not a world that I recognize. Maybe you’re right, but I think there’s a reason I’ve never seen such a campaign – one that includes releasing internal details that potentially reflect negatively on company running the campaign I mean. You say that the information just has to be spun right, but does FP with its tiny advertising budget really have control over the spin? It has to rely on tech publications and social media to spread the word after all.

The negative reviews that DigitecGalaxus put in their ads seem to me to be something different entirely. They’re public anyway, aren’t they? And almost every single one of those I found through Google search also happened to be funny in some way, not only negative (except one about the Fairphone 2, which it turns out was already talked about here). What’s more, DigitecGalaxus is a retailer and all the comments are about products they sell, made by other companies, not DigitecGalaxus itself. Having access to potentially negative reviews is a plus for the customer.

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Dear uodalricus,

The world had never seen an electronic company trying to make conflict-free, environmentally and socially responsible products. Then came Fairphone, a huge leap of faith forward.

I am not a professional marketing employee, so I can’t give you an answer to your question, unfortunately.

The only thing I can tell you is what I believe:

  • like everything in life or in business, if you are smart enough, you can do a lot with not much. If you want to be classical and secure, of course, you are going to need a huge budget
  • it is only with that kind of mindset that we have a small chance of getting out of the global warming and biodiversity crisis, not with half-measures (for Fairphone, that wouldn’t be fair to say but I don’t know an other expression: three-quarter-measures ?)

No, no, a lot of the comments by dissatisfied customers were not funny at all. I don’t know if the billboard campaign is still on, but If that’s the case, I will try to find one in the street and take a picture for you.

Yes, DigitecGalaxus is a retailer, not a manufacturer. My point was simply to give an example that shows it is possible to turn a negative information into an advantage. Sorry if I didn’t explain it well: I never intended to mean that you could take the marketing strategy of DigitecGalaxus and just drop it on the Fairphone company. Of course, any marketing campaign has to be tailored to the company, its activity, its target customers, etc. Exactly how ? I don’t know. As I told you, I am not qualified: I am not an professional marketing employee.

But maybe one of our fellow forum member is ?

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

Hi @Swiss-fairphone,
After reading all this conversation I eventually understand what you want: You want people to know that your are not satisfied with Fairphone support.
I would have become crazy if I have had the same problems.
Why not start the topic with your real concern ?
Rather than arguing about transparency, you could have explained your problem and asked if others face similar difficulties. Then group people and complain togther to Fairphone… it’s not too late!
Good luck!

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Dear domino7,

No, not really. And definitely not in this thread. But thank you for your good luck.

I would like my personal case resolved in my e-mail and phone exchange with Fairphone customer support (or should I say an almost one-sided conversation) and in one particular thread: FP3 reboots during phone calls

There already are many people grouped in this thread (and other similar reboot threads). Most of them are discrete and post only one or two times.

It just started as a detailed account of my dealings with the customer support so that other customers could know what to do and what to expect. Thanks to these kind of posts, I was able, in the past, to solve quickly my problems with other companies. So, I thought for once, I would make that detailed account so other could benefit from it. I never expected that events would get this bad with the customer service.

Until I got hit by my multiple problems with Fairphone, I supported this company 100%, talked about it all the time and recommended it to everyone around me. After that, I realized that there were pretty big challenges (or problems if you see it on the negative side) that were not being met by the Fairphone company (contract standards, transparency scope, basic customer support, etc).

I saw that the forum allowed for discussion about the “industry”. So, I thought something good could come out of my nightmare case : having a debate about these specific questions and maybe, just maybe, one day, convince Fairphone that they need to continue to innovate, and get into new fairness territories too.

Of course, to illustrate these specific topics, I can’t talk about things I don’t know. So I used some material of my case (e-mail quotes for example). But it seems that, by asking these questions, I hit a nerve with some forum members, some of whom went slighty off-topic. I answered them (naturally slightly off-topic too). That’s as simple as that.

The specific transparency and defective phone statistics topic emerged when there was a mini-clash between “alex21” and “chlh”. We all had different experience with Fairphone product and were starting to point fingers at each others. That’s why I thought it would be best to wait for numbers from Fairphone.

But again, one can see the good or bad side. If I hit a nerve of some forum members or Fairphone fans by asking these questions, it is probably that there is something to be discussed and, perhaps, changed (my personal opinion).

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

I have read the discussion as well.
And I really feel for @Swiss-fairphone, for the bad experience with Fairphone support. Mine was completely different and I never had to wait long, was always treated friendly and got my troubles solved. But I alread read in other threads of this forum, tht experience with support is mixed.

Regarding this “_transparency _” discussion.
In my humble opinion

  • transparency and
  • marketing

are at least absolutely different concepts.
And the digitec Galaxus campaign is the best example thereof.
Ok, they use funny negative critics for marketing.
But that is no way transparent.

  1. the critic is (in the case of the FP) directed against a product and not against digitec
  2. the advertisement does not give any information on the percentage negative critics

Regarding the examples/ideas for marketing slogans, I would agree with @uodalricus, that in the world, as I know it, a (small) company doing that kind of advertisement is doomed. Even more so, when the company is just trying to get a foothold in the market.
Stating that the rate of defective devices could be lowered is sending the message “our products are bad, but, hey, they were even worse before.

Like I would not go to a suregeon, that is advertising, that only X% of his new method of surgery goes wrong, but with the method he used before it were much more.

Why is that.
When I see an advertisement, I want ot learn what I get, when I go for that product or service.
(Advertising just to get attention for the company, like Benetton has done, is reserved for those, that have big money or are already well known - or both.)
And that kind of slogan just tells me, how likely it is, that I will get a defective device. That is no positive message. And, to my knowledge, if one wants to achieve something the message has to be positive.

Edit:
Just to clarify things from my point of view.
It’s just about my opinion about this topic regarding transparency. It’s nothing about Fairphone fandom or the like.

For the handling of the case that @Swiss-fairphone has experienced is in part absolutely inexcusable and I never would or could say anything in defense of that behaviour.

4 Likes

Dear BertG,

I get your point, it makes sense.

Reading about your various posts, I am still on the side of the few crazy idealists on this topic.

But, I am not losing hope, one day I might convince you and maybe even the Fairphone company ! But I guess it’s not today or tomorrow.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

PS: thanks for your support about my case, that’s really nice of you. I am sure that the other more discrete members that went through the same will feel good if you said the same thing on one of the many dedicated threads about random reboots (the one I am in is this one : FP3 reboots during phone calls)

1 Like