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Ericsson support fails to make contact

Yes, there's a defect, yes, we'll fix it - but no, we didn't tell our channels about it

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In September Ericsson confessed to an embarrassing problem with its top-of-the-range SH888 handset. The defects, the company said, had related to early production models "mainly in the Swedish market," and would be dealt with "at no cost to the customer." No doubt this was the case in Sweden, but defective units would appear to have escaped to other countries as well, and this problem seems to have been compounded by complete ignorance of the defect on the part of local Ericsson operations and Ericsson dealers. The following may therefore be of some interest to our US readers, who we believe have had their first opportunity to buy a localised version of the SH888 this month, just in time for Thanksgiving. We at The Register are the somewhat chastened owners of a stratospherically expensive 888 which started malfunctioning a couple of weeks back, the symptom being that the battery felt loose, and that the phone would switch off when the loose battery broke contact with the handset. We've been in contact with several other 888 owners in the UK who've had similar problems, and the level of service we and they have been able to achieve from Ericsson and its UK resellers doesn't say much for either category, or indeed for their knowledge of UK and EU consumer protection legislation. Customer number one told the reseller (Vodafone) that the phone switched off when being carried on his belt. The salesman helpfully suggested he turn it off while it was being thus carried. (Register fact - top UK cellular operation Vodafone operates an intensive training scheme for its operatives under the Vodafone Academy brand. The Register wrote some of the documentation for this, so possibly bears some responsibility for pig-ignorance on the ground.) Customer number two (The Register) visited Carphone Warehouse, pointing out succinctly that the product was defective and therefore of unmerchandisable quality under UK consumer legislation. Carphone Warehouse's staff said they had no knowledge of SH888 defects, and insisted that as their company policy was that they didn't exchange after 30 days, we'd have to put the phone in for repair. A backup visit to a second branch of Carphone Warehouse confirmed this story, and added the further allegation that the 30 day limit was Ericsson policy. The Register called Ericsson VP marketing and communications Jan Ahrenbring earlier today, and he denied this was the case. Which is just as well, considering it would be illegal. Under UK law Carphone Warehouse's returns policy is justified provide the customer has a reasonable period to identify product defects, but as the defect was one of manufacturing, and was admitted by Ericsson (fairly quietly - we can't find it on the Web site, for some reason) on 23rd September, Carphone Warehouse is clearly liable for a product refund. Calls to Ericsson UK customer support (as recently as this afternoon) confirmed that Ericsson UK had no knowledge of defects in the 888, so the standard route for malfunctions would apply - take the phone to an Ericsson approved service centre. Nobody in the management of Ericsson UK was available to confirm that neither Ericsson customer support nor Ericsson's dealer base had been informed of potential problems or of any form of repair programme. If they have been, we can only surmise that they're awfully forgetful. Jan Ahrenbring did however confirm that there was a problem, and finally, we could confirm what it is. The contact between the handset and the original battery is too loose, and the problem can be fixed simply by switching to a different battery. Our friend customer number two finally ground UK customer support down sufficiently for them to courier a replacement battery to him, but as after this had happened customer support was still insisting to us it wasn't aware of the problem and referring us to a service centre, Ericsson's communications systems obviously take a while to percolate through to all customers, as opposed to those who shout loudest. So what have we got? A major company has admitted a problem, and proactively press-released its readiness and eagerness to fix it at no cost to the customer. Then it hasn't told its subsidiaries or its dealers, who therefore default to eye-rolling surprise whenever a defective unit walks in the door. Most of the customers will therefore settle for a repair, rather than a replacement or a refund, and the visibility of the problem is a lot less than it would have been otherwise. A happy coincidence, you might think, but we reckon it's just a cock-up interfacing felicitously with the corporate machine.

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