Refusal to honor warranty
KENTUCKY -- In Feb. 2005 I purchased a P100 camera from my local Sears store. This was the third Sony camera I have had. I have had good luck with the camera in general, and meets my needs as a carpenter, using it to document my work, and for family photo's, etc. Around Thanksgiving, I noticed some of the screws were missing from the case. The camera continued to function normally, and I elected to continue to use the camera, thinking I would send it back for replacement of the screws under warranty after the holidays were over. By January, all but one of the screws were gone, and this allowed the metal case to come apart slightly. This apparently allowed dust, pocket lint, or some other foreign material to enter the camera. The camera began having problems with the zoom, and auto focus, and the lens would get stuck partly in or out, causing an error message that required the camera to be turned off, then back on. It was obvious to me that some debris had gotten inside the mechanism that moved the lens, and was causing the problems. Keep in mind, that the camera continued to take pictures, although the zoom function was useless, causing the camera to "lock up". The auto focus would usually function after a few tries. I went back to Sears, and they told me that the camera was still under the 1 year warranty, and they would have it fixed, no problem. I took the camera to the local Sears service center, and they in turn sent it to the Sony Repair Center in Texas. A few days later, I received a call from the repair center for an estimate for repair of the camera which was $181. The camera cost $329 new. I called the repair center, and spoke to several technicians. This is where it gets interesting. The first tech told me it was abuse and physical damage that caused the damage to the camera and that would not be covered under warranty. The camera did have significant wear, but this was only cosmetic, and absolutely did not impair the function of the camera. I told him it was my belief that the screws falling out of the camera body had caused the camera to literally fall apart, and that in my mind that was a manufacturing defect. After debating with several technicians, such factors as corrosion (none was present in my camera, and the tech later agreed to this), physical damage (only cosmetic, and I have photo's from the camera to support its functionality) abuse (suggesting the camera had been dropped and that caused the screws to fall out), I finally was connected with the customer service supervisor. She listened to my complaint, and told me she would go and examine camera herself, and get a second opinion from some other technicians. I explained that I was taking time off work to deal with this and would appreciate an expedient reply. She assured me that she would do this as quickly as possible and call me back immediately. I did not receive a call back or a message from her. I called her back the next morning, and she told me that the other tech's had agreed, the camera had physical damage, and that had caused the screws to come out. I pressed her for details on what kind of evidence the techs had found to support this contention. The best answer she could come up with was that the techs had examined the threaded holes in the camera body, and could determine that the screws had not come out on their own. I expressed that the camera had been in my possession from the time it was new, it had never been dropped or abused, and that to suggest that the screws had not fallen out on their own was tantamount to calling me a liar. I was also very curious how someone could look at a threaded plastic hole, and make a definitive determination on what forces caused the screw to come out. When I pressed this issue, it was suggested that the screw holes had split open. I asked specifically which holes had done that, since she had the camera in her hands at that moment, it seemed to me to be a straightforward question, easily answered by looking at the camera. All I got was more obfuscation, and excuses. I continued to press her and the tech department for some tangible facts, and got none. I suggested that it was a ridiculous notion to suggest that anyone could look at a screw hole and make a forensic determination as to how or why the screws came out. I recorded the 2 conversations with the Repair center, and told the customer service manager I intended for them to repair the camera under warranty, with no further delay, and if the problem was not resolved to my complete satisfaction, I would investigate alternative remedies, to include litigation, and posting my experience on camera enthusiast web sites, and consumer advocate web sites. I asked her if Sony had ever had any problems with loose screws in the past, and she replied that they had never seen the first loose screw, and furthermore, that it was impossible for the screws to come loose on their own, since the camera was assembled by robots. I offered that Sony keep my camera to use for R+D, and quality control purposes, and simply send me a new one. That did not seem like an option. After a few minutes of investigation on other digital camera web sites, it seems that Sony does in fact have a chronic problem with loose screws, even in the high end cameras costing $1000 or more. Also, there were a plethora of warranty performance issues, with similar complaints of Sony refusing to honor their warranty on any number of technicalities such as lack of sales receipt, lack of UPC code, lack of visible serial number on the product, etc. At some point in the conversation, the issue of the legibility of the serial number on my camera was suggested as a reason not to honor the warranty. The serial number is on a decal on the bottom of the camera. Fortunately, I wrote the serial number on the camera manual when it was new, so I was able to recite it back to her. In short, it seems that Sony is unwilling to honor the warranty on their products, oftentimes citing technicalities as reasons not to honor the warranty. In my case, they have offered several excuses why they won't honor the warranty on my camera. When pressed for FACTS, and specific examples of the "damage" they simply cannot offer satisfactory explanations. The suggestion that a tech can make a visual inspection of a screw hole and make a determination on how the fastener came out is totally ludicrous. I reiterated this to the customer service supervisor, and suggested that if this was their position, they may want to consider how plausible a judge, jury or mediator would find that notion. When I suggested seeking a legal remedy to my problem, I got a different tune, with the customer service rep saying something like, well since you have said that I am going to take this to another level. I am waiting to speak with them again on Monday to see what their remedy might be. In my mind all that needed to happen to fix my camera was to take it apart, and blow the debris out with some compressed air. Sony seems to think they should sell me a year old camera for $181, which I could probably find at a retailer like Sams club, or elsewhere even cheaper. Naturally, I am very disappointed with Sony especially in light of the other similar warranty performance issues. This seems to be a chronic problem not only with the camera's but PSP's, computers, Playstations, etc. It seems if you must have a Sony product, it is a wise investment to get some kind of extended warranty from a reputable retailer. Many internet retailers are not even recognized by Sony as authorized dealers, giving Sony an instant reason not to honor the warranty. I intend to pursue this until I am satisfied by Sony, and I can assure you that the administrative costs of this issue will cost Sony many times the $181 they want to fix my camera.