Phone users feel cheated by shoddy after service

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Phone users feel cheated by shoddy after service

As the ranks of smartphone users keep on swelling, so do the number of complaints about carriers’ poor after-sales service, and service providers appear less enthusiastic than before to correct the situation, according to the local branch of the YMCA, which released a Consumer Reports-style report yesterday.

The association also urged service centers to provide details of the fees tied to their after-sales service when consumers buy replacement parts as these differ from one center to another.

Around 70 percent of smartphone users who consulted representatives at a service center after their phone malfunctioned said they were unsatisfied with the service they received, according to the YMCA’s survey, which was funded by the Fair Trade Commission.

Because smartphone users have to rely on evaluation reports provided by the representatives, and in the absence of standard fees, fears are growing that they are being overcharged.

“Consumers are being put in a position where they have to make decisions based simply on what the worker at the service center tells them,” the YMCA said in its report.

It investigated labor fees and part prices at centers operated by three smartphone manufacturers - Samsung, LG and Pantek - during the month of September. Apple’s iPhone was excluded.

Almost half of those who take their faulty handsets to service centers in Korea require a new main board, which costs them an average of 209,700 won ($195). LG charges the most (a median 260,000 won) and Samsung the least (160,000 won).

However, the YMCA found that consumers were paying anywhere between 100,000 won and 240,000 won at service centers across the nation for smartphones made by Samsung, and between 142,000 won and 360,000 won for LG phones - all for the same part and service.

The YMCA said manufacturers claim they apply the same price guidelines across the board at their service centers, which has led to confusion as to how the final fees can be so divergent.

Out of 1,082 smartphone complaints reported to the Korea Consumer Agency from January to June, 711, or almost 70 percent, related to service center staff performing an unsatisfactory service and not providing enough detailed information, which gave rise to a dispute. Complaints that parts were too expensive made up 13.9 percent of the total.

“Consumers have the right to know what problems they may encounter with their handsets,” the association said. “Smartphone makers should consider posting both on- and offline the service fees they charge for changing parts to avoid confusing the public.”

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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