After-sales services taken for granted, feel consumers

By Vinod Nair — MUSCAT: Feb. 27 – Despite the proactive efforts of the authorities and big claims by the dealers, After-sales services of consumer products need to be more professional in the country. There is this feeling that consumers are left to fend themselves by the retailers once the purchase deal is concluded. “They just support with a stamped warranty card and contact details of the authorised service centre,” feel a large number of consumers. Affected buyers can easily approach the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) with their grievances though there have been reluctance on their part to take a legal course.
Retailers argue that it will be unfair to brand them insensitive because no businesses would like to lose their customers. “Consumers are never short of options, but at the same time businesses cannot afford to lose loyal consumers though they constantly seek to expand the client base,” said a senior manager of a leading retail brand.
“In most cases consumers intentionally or unintentionally refuse to accept the actual fact. After-sales in this part of the world are generally the responsibility of the authorised dealers or service centres. All details of the products are available with them. Consumers have to just approach them with the relevant documents and the faulty product, but they expect to the retailers to take the responsibility,” he added.
Service centre executives, however, feel the consumers are unreasonably impatient. “We need to identify the problem first before we can rectify or replace them, but consumers demand solutions within hours if not minutes,” said an executive with an automobile company. “In most cases, especially with mobiles and tablets, consumers demand replacement pieces instantly,” he said.
There are enough safeguards for consumers and they can approach PACP, who has been taking the matter seriously. For example, a consumer brought a mobile worth RO 240 with a one-year warranty period. After few days, the device reported malfunction, including its touch features. He approached the store who in turn directed to the agent who after three weeks ordered the replacement of the phone with a new one. However, the shop refused to give the new one or the old erratic phone.
As he approached the court seeking a refund or replacement of his phone, a judgment was pronounced that included three month’s punishment or a fine of RO 2,000 if the consumer’s concerns were not announced within in a month of the verdict.
In a related incident, PACP managed to reach a settlement where it was agreed to replace a defective vehicle with a new one. The 2016 model car started malfunctioning during the warranty period and there were delays in the addressing the consumer grievances.
According to statistics provided by PACP, the total number of complaints in 2015 declined since 2014 and Muscat came first with the highest number of received complaints. It added that in general most complaints received in 2015 were against the automotive sector and its services.