Monday, 16 March 2015

Free repairs and servicing!

We got in to something of an interesting twitter debate with Virgin Media.

It all started when Alex asked Virgin what they meant by their latest advert that says "repairs and service included free". The reason to ask is that, well, of course repairs and service are included free, duh!

What was odd is the response, which is "we're the only service provider to provide completely free service & repairs so it is a bonus".


Now, that is a bold claim, and an odd one. Basically, anyone providing a service (such as broadband) has a legal obligation to ensure the service they provide is as described and working, so has to provide servicing and repairs of the service free (including in the price). Similarly if someone is renting equipment, either separately, or as part of a service, they would have to provide servicing and repairs in the price of the rental. Basically, Virgin's claims seems to be no more than "We do what we are legally required to do, the same as every other ISP" (my wording).

Even so, they continue to debate, and make another bold statement. Alex asked "Pls qualify what u mean by 'completely free repairs and service'?" and they replied "If, for example, any equipment in your house breaks then we'll fix or replace free of charge, no call-..."

A bold statement indeed, after all any equipment is quiet a lot. I asked if that means they offer a free laptop repair, and they confirmed that they only meant "our equipment".

So really, this bold claim in an advert really is "We do what we are legally required to do, the same as every other ISP", which is, in my opinion, a totally crap advertising claim.

Claims of being the only ISP offering this are, of course, totally crap... Well done Virgin marketing dept. Next you'll be claiming coax copper is actually glass fibre - oh! wait?

But well done engaging with us.

19 comments:

  1. I think they're trying to differenciate from Sky, who will (try) to make you buy a new box (until you get through to retentions) if the TV box is at fault

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    1. Perhaps - any ISP (or otherwise) selling something will maintain that for a period (e.g. a year warranty), but including in a service or renting it will maintain as long as the service/rental runs. It is no different to any other service provider, equipment vendor, or rental company.

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    2. I agree that the Virgin fellow most likely had the TV side and set top boxes primarily in mind as he never mentions broadband per se. That got me wondering about the legality of Sky's position. As a Sky TV customer I am held by them to be responsible for the repair or replacement of my set-top box because the 12 month warranty has expired. Now part of what I pay monthly to Sky for the TV service includes £10 for the HD service. I could not receive HD content without a working HD set-top box, therefore I am paying 'rent' on a proportion of the set-top box's functions so should not Sky be legally responsible for any faults?

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    3. You could also subscribe to an extended warranty costing more than a replacement box :-)
      I'm also wondering what there legal stance is on hard disk life. As its a known issue that the average/expected life of their hd is below 6 years, it's an issue present at manufacturing and so should be covered as defective by sales of good act 1979?

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    4. ISTR that Sky give you a "free" set top box, which remains their property for the first year and then becomes yours (very much like a subsidised mobile phone). So since its your property, you're responsible if it breaks after the first year.

      After the first year, the £10/month is a subscription to the HD _service_, not the hardware itself; just like you can pay a subscription to the SD service, which again would still require a working receiver. Presumably if your receiver breaks, there's nothing stopping you buying a Sky receiver from someone else (e.g. ebay).

      Of course, the Sale of Goods Act would presumably still apply, so if you can prove that it broke due to a manufacturing/design defect, you could still get a free repair/replacement outside of the warranty period.

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    5. > ISTR that Sky give you a "free" set top box, which remains their property for the first year and then becomes yours (very much like a subsidised mobile phone).

      I don't know whether it is the same for all or not, but my understanding of Vodafone's offering is that, when one takes out an airtime agreement "with a phone", ownership of the phone passes immediately, rather than after the 12 month (or whatever) airtime period is up.

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    6. > the average/expected life of their hd is below 6 years, it's an issue present at manufacturing and so should be covered as defective by sales of good act 1979?

      (Not legal advice, just my view on things.)

      This is perhaps a little confused: the Sale of Goods Act does not prescribe that an item must work for six years. Rather, it provides that goods sold in the course of a business must be of satisfactory quality, meaning that they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory. It gives effect to this by implying this requirement as a term into the contract between the business and the purchaser.

      Where the contract is with a party dealing as a consumer, this implied term cannot be excluded or restricted, and, where there contract is with a party other than one dealing as a consumer, it can only be excluded by a contract term which is reasonable.

      Where you end up is that, if you, dealing as a consumer, purchase goods from a business seller, there is a term in your contract that the goods must be of satisfactory quality.

      If goods are not of satisfactory quality, this implied term is breached. You have six years from the date of the contract to take action in respect of such a breach. However, this is not the same as saying that the goods must work for six years. Goods must work for as long as a reasonable person would expect them to work. In some cases, of course, six years may be reasonable. In others, a year or two may be all that one can reasonably expect. In the case of a pineapple, expecting it to stay good for more than a few days may be all that one can expect.

      What a reasonable person would expect in the case of a hard drive, I have no idea.

      In terms of proving that something is not of satisfactory quality, in the first six months from delivery, the onus is on the supplier to prove that the goods were of satisfactory quality, unless this principle is incompatible with the nature of the goods or the nature of the lack of fault. For example, you could not buy a pineapple, wait five months and then complain that it is now rotten, and that this means it was defective from the beginning. After the six months are up, the burden is on the buyer to prove that the item was not of satisfactory quality when supplied (or breached some other term).

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    7. True, but Virgin's offer isn't a sale. Its a permenet loan. Day 1 outside of a warranty, sky will want full price (initially at least) with Virgin you effectively never fall out of warranty because the item is supplied as a part of the service.

      So in this sense, it is going beyond.

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  2. It sounds like they're trying to claim that, unlike say BT, they won't wash their hands of (or try to charge to repair) any wiring or extensions beyond the master socket. That feels pretty semantic though because I'm pretty sure if you connect your virgin phone or coax line into a non-Virgin installed extension network, they will wash their hands of it too. It's just that the cable network has less legacy of dubious intra-property wiring than the BT network, and thus it's far less murky when it comes to who is responsible for what.

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  3. I suspect the ASA won't consider this advertising, and therefore outside of their jurisdiction.

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  4. Our builders have hacked through our Virgin Media cable, great news, they'll fix it for free :D

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    1. That is pretty much what happened at my mothers. A new tile floor was laid in the porch and in doing so the cable was damaged which ran underneath. Virgin installed a new telephone point in the front room free of charge.

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  5. It does show a difference from most dsl providers who may bundle a 'free' modem (though don't forget the 'postage' charge somewhere in the smallprint) but then when it breaks out of warranty will offer to sell you a replacement. Really it's a case of consumers not realising the modem is not part of the service, but I'm sure it's an attractive feature for normal consumers who've been stung by an unexpected charge. Their wording may be imprecise but it does reflect a problem.

    As already mentioned it's also in line with virgin STBs vs sky STBs, which is often quite an unexpected cost when a sky+ box dies.

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  6. Isn't everything that Virgin Media write supposed to be treated as suspect ?
    Two of my recent favourites:

    They're offering me an installation done by a professional engineer. Wow, what a waste of talent. I'd sooner a professional engineer were designing their network or implementing a new service - not drilling holes in walls and climbing over roofs.

    Their vans announce that they carry customers' traffic over fibre at up to 10Gb/s. I expect they do - surely most ISPs in the UK will ? When I was made redundant from Nortel in 2002 we were selling loads of 10Gb/s (on a single wavelength) kit - that's 12 years ago. Probably the links are faster now - with Nortel I was working on 40Tb/s systems using optical ribbon cable.

    I guess their marketing people just come up with slogans without checking that they really mean anything useful.

    With Andrews and Arnold, up to 100% of customers rate their satisfaction with their broadband as up to 10/10.

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  7. Surely as someone who is campaigning for OpenReach to not charge to fix faults on their own equipment and network, the fact that Virgin Media do this as part of the service is something to be applauded instead of mocked?

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    1. I am mocking the advert not the action - not charging to fix faults is normal, correct, and generally something that should be unavoidable. That is why I am mocking the advert!

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    2. Ah that makes a bit more sense (sorry, just re-read my previous comment and it came across as a bit troll-ish which was not the intent). They do seem a bit more keen on fixing the faults than OpenReach though!

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    3. Agreed, and I do wonder if this is reaction to BT and SFI.

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