Samuel calls 'cased closed' on handset warranty fight

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Samuel calls 'cased closed' on handset warranty fight

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel expects that the competition watchdog won't need to seek undertakings on handset warranties from mobile telephony resellers after striking agreements with Telstra, VHA and Optus.

Speaking to CRN after announcing Optus' decision to offer 24-month warranties across all handsets purchased under 24-month plans, Samuel said that a combination of new laws and market competition should keep the rest of the industry in line.

Samuel said that included in the undertakings agreed to by Australia's largest telcos were efforts "to procure their resellers to bring about the same result."

"The major telcos have all now announced that they will deal with [demands for warranties that match the term of plans] in a receptive fashion," he said.

This will create a market expectation that 24-month warranties are required, he said.

"Any operator who now says it won't is one consumers should be wary of."

The fact Optus has chosen to bear the cost of the second 12 months warranty on Apple iPhones, he said as an example, will force their two biggest competitors to adapt.

"I am confident you'll find VHA and Telstra will likewise respond," he said.

But beyond competitive pressure, Samuel said new consumer laws in force as of January 1, 2011 have clarified the ACCC's long-standing position on the matter.

At its most basic level, these new guidelines insist that a customer has a right to a refund, replacement or repair on a product with a major defect.

Suppliers, however, will have more choice in whether to offer these options if the defect is minor and able to be repaired.

Market forces are again the motivation for suppliers to take the side of the reasonable consumer in this latter category, he said.

So if a mobile reseller wants to be difficult around warranties, there are two consequences," Samuel said.

"One, the ACCC will have something to do about it, and secondly, customers will go elsewhere in future."

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