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

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.

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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)

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A good question would be: what counts as a defective product? See the red graph on this page for the breakdown of CO2 emissions per module of the Fairphone 2.

Even if all back covers are replaced and most of the bottom modules, it still has little impact because those modules together account for 2% of the CO2 emissions. Add to that a couple screen and battery replacements (the screen was changed in summer 2017, so probably about half of the FP2’s was sold with an old screen.) I don’t recall the number of screen defects being particularly large except for some bright spots, which many people decided to live with.

So you can say, that the average phone was defective for… 5% of its CO2 emissions?

That number in itself still doesn’t mean anything. You don’t know the CO2 emissions saved by people not buying a new phone but repairing their existing one.

The page that I linked at the top of this post has some more statistics (from 2016) that you may find interesting.

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Another of these threads where I constantly think while reading: Yes, I understand that you demand all that, I would love to have all that too. And in the very same moment: Please, from time to time: Reality check —

  • the phone has to be fairly produced, of course with conflict free ressources as far as possible and in an environment friendly way
  • it has to be modular so it can easily be fixed,
  • which should rarely be necessary because it has to be of superior quality
  • It has to receive the latest security updates at max. one month after the G-company has released them and
  • the newest Android major version as fast as possible but without any major flaws since that wouldn’t be fun (referring to other threads here, also in other points)
  • an alternate, G-free OS must be available and officially supported,
  • new, improved modules should be available quickly e.g. a better camera
  • Fairphone has to act in an ethical way as far as possible,
  • be transparent up to a point where it hurts,
  • react to all support requests within a short period of time and with
  • very accurate answers to the (legitimate) questions
  • And when I think about it, yes, it has to be reasonable priced obviously, not more than say 419,- for the FP3.
    (I could go on with this, but I guess you got the point :wink: )

Please excuse the ironic touch, it’s really not about offending people, I totally understand the demands and frustrations and it’s also not about defending Fairphone this time. The point is: Reality check.

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Swiss-Fairphone, I do understand you concern and agree with most of you positions.
However, fighting about transparency seems useless to me. No company will be fully transparent as they have competitors. Never. Digtec-Galaxus are not transparent and have no problem to lie to customers about availability and delivery of items (“we are sorry it’s supplier’s fault”). Maketing with “unsatisfied customers” is just marketing.
Probably Fairphone has to be more precise about what is transparent, I agree.

In a way, having bad support or product for a company like Fairphone is much more frustrating than having problems with Samsung or Apppple. Let’s hope Fairphone will improve support AND keep ethics. Keep faith and, again, good luck!

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Even though this blogpost is a bit old, I guess it still holds true for Fairphone:

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Dear domino7,

I will give a very general answer, because there are too many specific mini-debates that can derive from these questions to talk about it at once.

These are very general considerations regarding the philosophical, political and legal realms, not information that you would find in a proper scientific paper on philosophy, politics or law specifically talking about transparency.

I think there is a misunderstanding here. The political and (growingly) legal meaning of transparency of governments, corporations and other commercial or non-commercial entities doesn’t mean “fully transparent” in the common term (or police state sense or totalitarian sense). As with everything in the political and legal realms (I am not sure for philosophy), other notions (such as proportionality, human rights, etc) come into play to balance the equation. Of course, these other notions come in different shapes depending on

  • the country you are in
  • the era
  • if you are in the philosophical, political or the legal field
  • the specific sub-field
  • etc

Example 1: proportionality
In Swiss law, proportionality is defined, most of the time, as a three criterias test, roughly

  1. suitability : can the measure achieve the goal
  2. necessity: is the measure the least damaging/invading/etc one to achieve the goal or is there a less damaging/invading/etc measure that can achieve the same goal
  3. proportionality in the strict/narrow sense: does the measure seem balanced when every significant public and private interests are taken into account

Example 2: right to privacy (of human beings and sometimes corporations themselves)
Transparency applied to the Fairphone company can never go as far as some extreme cases that were mentioned by one of my fellow forum member that didn’t share my views (I don’t find the post, it seems to have disappeared, so I don’t remember the exact words, can anyone help ?): it was mentioning horrible things like disclosure of the incomes of each Fairphone employee, adress of their living place, etc. These would be clear and gross violations of the right to privacy of the human beings that are employees of Fairphone.

Something similar but weaker can be found with corporations (in some countries) where some things are considered part of the “private life” of a corporation (with sometimes more specific legal notions deriving from the right to privacy and/or freedom of trade&industry)

  • membership list of an association
  • trade secrets that the corporations cannot (or decided not to) protect with a patent
  • etc

Totally with you here. I never said DigitecGalaxus was a transparent and ethical company. Me and my clients suffered many times the consequences of their very inaccurate delivery estimates or their strange notion of what is an “available item”. I only gave that example to answer to many forum members stating that a negative information can never ever be good for a company.

One last point:

I think that is the main point here. Aside from respecting other notions (proportionality, human rights, etc), my political opinion is that transparency shouldn’t be a limited, targeted and money-making exercise and that you can just be precise about the scope of your “transparency” to be done with it.

You are either transparent all the way or you are not (again, transparency “all the way” in the political and/or legal meaning, without violating notions such as proportionality, human rights, etc, in other words not in the common sense or police state sense or totalitarian sense).

In my political view, statistics of defective products:

  • are not inside the privacy bubble of human beings who are employees of Fairphone
  • are not inside the privacy bubble of the Fairphone company as a corporate entity
  • cannot be kept secret by the proportionality political argument : the goal here is that consumers that buy Fairphone products (at least starting from the FP3) can be sure that they are buying a product that has reasonable chances to work (at least for basic functions such as making phone calls and browse the web). The measure I am proposing is the disclosure of defective product statistics of:
  • the very experimental, crowndfunded, pre-ordered FP1
  • the less experimental, retail available FP2
  • the (supposedly) mature, retail available FP3
  1. suitability: this measure will allow the customers to take an informed and responsible decision to consider if Fairphone products (at least starting with the FP3) are
  • still experimental toys you buy to support a promising project
  • tools you can count on as a vital professional tool that anyone (with any budget, including tight ones that just have the means to buy the price of one smartphone) can buy and trust to have reasonable chances to work
  1. necessity: there is no real alternative for the customer to fully know if he is buying an experimental toy that will fail half the time or a tool you can count on as a vital professional tool with reasonable chances to work

  2. proportionality in the strict/narrow sense: I am sorry to be shocking to some of you but I think that the interest of a consumer and human being to eat, have a shelter and buy a smartphone (a vital tool nowadays) that can at least make phone calls or browse the web is still something more important that any corporate interest (even if it is a cool, innovative, ground-breaking, ethical, fragile, maturing startup company). A corporation doesn’t need to eat and seek shelter. It cannot really die (it would be a bankrupcy). And even when it “dies” (bankrupcy), it can, in many cases come back to life in bankrupcy laws of most legal systems if certain measures are taken on time !

Fairphone needs as much support as it can get, but, as a fellow member pointed out, it is not a non-profit organization either that you give donations to. It is not even a startup company making its first (or even second) experimental product. The customer that buys from retail a third generation smartphone of Fairphone is not

  • a non-profit organization making donations either
  • or an investor that accepts the risk of losing its entire investment
  • or a state that gives a grant

Fairphone is a commercial corporation that sells to a customer a retail product under warranty with minimum reliability requirements. And for now, in my experience, I have more proofs or clues that:

  • the Fairphone company doesn’t honor the warranty
  • the Fairphone products (at least starting with the FP3) are sold as mature retail available products but seem to appear more and more still as an experimental toy
  • there is no way to know anything for sure because the Fairphone company refuses so far to disclose defective products statistics

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

Thank you @BertG for this link. It appears to me that the transparency goal of Fairphone concern CSR and not production quality (even if they mention quality).
The last paragraph:
Looking ahead

Our aim is to give consumers as much access and insight into the processes behind the production of their devices so that they can form new relationships with the things they own. I’ve already heard people say that they feel more connected to their Fairphone, even before they’ve been able to use it.

…is not precise enough as it does not apply to all processes behind the production. IOW: I am happy with my Fairphone because it has been produced with ethic choice of suppliers, good working conditions for production team but NOT because it works fine.

I do maintain my position: Fairphone should be more precise abut what Transparency is for them to avoid disappointment.

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Dear domino7, Dear Antoine,

I guess I agree with you to disagree.

Sorry if I got a bit too passionate and carried away (Antoine). I really hate what usually comes with a lack of transparency (corruption, favoritism, possibility to hide other crimes, possibility to deceive others, etc). That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t respect your opinion. If I offended you, I am sorry.

It was a good talk though, thanks. Maybe I will convince you some other day (or the other way around …).

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

I am sorry, @Swiss-fairphone, I have not much time to answer these days.
I do mostly agree with you but I think you just “push it a bit too far”.

3. Proportionality…
I don’t agree with you. Yes, of course FP3 shoud allow to phone and browse internet. BUT having a defective statistic will cause more damage to the company (and its employees) than problems to customers.

Customer that buys a FP3 is not one the the tree option you mentionned but is accepting that this device may be a bit experimantal. This is true aslo for those using /e/ OS.

the Fairphone company doesn’t honor the warranty
Not acceptable at all, I agree.

there is no way to know anything for sure because the Fairphone company refuses so far to disclose defective products statistics
Try, one minute only, to be in the position of Fairphone company. Pleasy try. Will you disclose such statistics ?
I remember McIntosh 128 and 512 in 1984-85. These computer were almost not usable. Crashes every 15 minutes, it was a nightmare… They shouldn’t have realeased such unmature devices but they had to, otherwise they would have dissapeard (or not existed). Yes, discussing the pro & cons of the existence of Apppple is another point.

Anyway, as you said in your last post, it was a good talk, no offence. I don’t like corruption, etc… But maybe because I’m probably older, I may be a bit more pragmatic :wink:

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Steep theses, apart from “toy”, that’s probably true for every smartphone.

Absolutely, that’s what is commonly known as “life”. Security is sold very successfully here in the first world (and numbers are great for that because they seem objective), which is understandable, since we all lead lives here at the cost of the majority of the rest of the world, so we have plenty to lose, but in the end it’s an illusion: There is no security in life. The phone can die instantly the first time you turn it on or it can work perfectly for almost one year and counting like my FP3 does. If you don’t want any risk: Don’t buy a smartphone.

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Dear domino7,

I am not saying that it is unacceptable to put an experimental device or unfinished device for sale to keep a company going. A lot of startup companies do that. And many mature commercial or non-commercial entities do something similar or close to it such as selling non-assembled parts. Sometimes it is even a long-term business model, for example, in the do-it yourself market (Raspberry Pi, some Shuttle, Intel NUC kits series). A lot of them even use that as a marketing argument to build up some hype like “be among the first one to try this ground-breaking experimental …”. And it works. The ongoing almost finished DragonBox Pyra venture went even much further during prototyping.

What I think is wrong is to present a product to the public and the customer as a mature, non-experimental, retail available, third generation product and then let the customer discover that it is not at all and then, on top of that, not honoring the warranty (I will not talk here again about my customer service case, a moderator asked me to stop to write about it in multiple places, except in a short reminder mode, but believe me, it is really bad: before saying it is nothing, an isolated case, an exceptional case, that I should not ask for instant answers which I really, really did not (until they asked me to themselves), please read all my posts in this thread and answer there as the moderator asked and not here, thank you very much: FP3 reboots during phone calls).

If I were to do that, I couldn’t live with myself.

I am putting myself in the position of the Fairphone company (for more than one minute). Even if I personally don’t agree and wouldn’t have done it, that is why I can, on some level, “understand” that they didn’t release statistics during FP1, FP2 and the very beginning of FP3 (when they didn’t know how the FP3 faired, the time during which they could have called their products FP3 GAMMA TESTING “Be among the first to try the FP3 and be part of our exclusive GAMMA TESTING feedback program that include a 5% discount and an exclusive on-site/webcam visit of our headquarters with one our employees”). But now, there is no excuse anymore.

They either had success to achieve their aim at producing a fully-functional fair smartphone (that means with low defective products statistics) at the third attempt or they failed. If they failed, they have to take responsability (like every person, corporation or entity on the planet) and face three choices:

  1. keep presenting and selling their products as experimental ones
  2. find new additional investors and try one more time
  3. get out of business or restructure : yes, that is the one and only purpose of bankruptcy laws.

Not divulging statistics or whatever half-transparency politics will not change the numbers and the fact that the project is a either a success or a failure. It just means customers are kept in the dark, that’s all. And the sooner a bad fact gets out (preferably from the corporation itself by its own free will and with a good communication strategy), the better for that corporation to move on and even try to bounce back.

What I like in the USA is that, unlike certain european countries (including Switzerland, I don’t know about the Netherlands), bankrutpcy is not seen as a shameful horrible failure and ugly scar that requires to exile yourself somewhere nobody knows you (or at the other end of the planet for some villages or small towns in Switzerland). It is mostly seen as, yes a failure, but also something you learn from for your next venture.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

Dear Snafu,

I don’t see how your sentence without hard facts and serious statistics leads us anywhere. It is probably true, maybe not, perhaps a little, definitely a possibility: each of us can go on and on with our limited personal experience with what 10, 100 personal smartphones from 8, 9 different brands ?

I could answer you by telling you about my own tiny, tiny piece of reality. I could tell you all about my previous smartphones which had no major problems (I could make phone calls and browse the web) and answer you: “no you are wrong, because my personal experience and numbers shows without question that the other brands are making really mature retail available products and that the Fairphone company is not”.

These are facts that really happened to me. But I still would be as wrong as you, as “chlh” or as “alex21” (FP3 reboots during phone calls). That is why we need to have defective smartphone statistics. Otherwise, everyone of us will be left to speculate, tell our own story of our tiny, tiny piece of reality and just point fingers at each other for eternity.

I think everyone knows that there is no certainty in life, so I don’t see the point you are making. Especially since we are talking about statistics and probability.

I never painted a world in

  • black or white
  • 0 or 1
  • absolute security or chaos
  • 0% defective smartphones = success and 100% defective smartphones = failure

In my understanding, statistics and probability is never about being sure of something. It is about calculating the chances of something being true, or some event to happen, etc. And based on theses statistics and/or probabilities (and other quantitative information), and combined with a qualitative analysis, take an informed decision at the best of our ability. Nothing more. Certainly not being 100% sure that something will or will not happen whatever you do and whatever the circumstances.

In fact, inside mathematics I think statistics and probability are among the least black and white tools that manages quite well to give us a model to “begin” to understand our grey world of nuances (but never perfectly, any model stays a model and never can or will be able to reflect the entire reality). Quantum physics is a good example.

I don’t see how this gets us anywhere.

I never said I don’t want any risk.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

So many words from the mind, so many interpretations of just a couple of sentences from me. There’s a saying here: When the other misunderstands you, then you haven’t expressed it clearly enough, so I guess this one goes on my account. Apart form that, when the discussion comes down to a personal layer combined with cynicism, then I am out.