Survey reveals most smartphone owners in the dark about warranty claims process

Data will inform development of educational webinar and free multilingual consumer guide

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June 9, 2022—A survey conducted by Consumer Action, a national consumer education and advocacy nonprofit, reveals that despite most smartphone owners (63%) being aware that their device came with a manufacturer’s warranty, they do not know how to file a claim under the warranty. The survey, conducted via SurveyMonkey between April 27 and May 17, sought to learn how much consumers know about their smartphone warranties, how many purchased an extended warranty, how satisfied they are with their devices, and what they do when they run into problems. The survey is part of a project by Consumer Action, funded by a grant from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, to educate smartphone owners about their warranty rights and how to exercise them.

Smartphones are complex, costly devices (Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone has a price tag of over a thousand dollars). A warranty is vital protection against defects that reduce or inhibit the phone’s functionality or longevity. While virtually all new, and many used, phones come with a manufacturer’s warranty, nearly one-third (29%) of the 619 survey respondents who own a smartphone said they didn’t know if their phone came with a warranty. Between that and the nearly two-thirds of smartphone-owning respondents who are aware they have a warrant but don’t know how to file a claim, and the three-quarters (75%) who don’t know where to complain if their product warranty claim isn’t resolved satisfactorily, there is a great potential for unnecessary financial loss, and a clear need for education to help consumers understand their warranty rights and options.

As part of the project, Consumer Action is developing a consumer publication that will cover, among other things, what to expect from a manufacturer’s warranty, how extended warranties and device insurance work (including what is typically covered and excluded), how to file a claim, what to do if you are dissatisfied with how your claim is handled, and the rights that federal and California warranty laws give consumers. The publication will be available as a free download on the Consumer Acton website later this summer, in English, Spanish and Chinese.

The organization also will be presenting a free webinar on Aug. 30, during which Consumer Action hosts and expert guests will focus on the information in the consumer guide as well as explore consumer protection efforts related to warranties (such as the fight for the “right to repair” devices) and provide tips for resolving warranty-related issues.

In addition to revealing that most consumers are unsure of how to file a claim under their manufacturer’s warranty, the survey also showed that nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents purchased an extended warranty for their device at the point of sale. Of those consumers, 34% purchased a manufacturer’s extended warranty (Apple Care, Samsung Care+, etc.) and 43% purchased the extended warranty from their wireless service carrier (T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, etc.).

Consumer advocates generally advise against purchasing an extended warranty, encouraging consumers to instead purchase reliable products, understand their manufacturer’s warranty and other protections they may have (through a credit card or state law, for example), and self-insure (be prepared to pay for a repair, should you ever need one, out of your own pocket).

“Often, the cost of a repair is not much more than the cost of the extended warranty,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action. “By setting aside the price of the extended warranty, you’ll have it if you need it—and if you don’t, you can put that saved money toward the cost of a new phone when the time comes. That way, you aren’t constrained by the terms of the extended warranty regarding submitting a claim for approval, who is allowed to do the repair, shipping requirements, turnaround times, and so on.”

Encouragingly, 70% of respondents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the performance of their smartphone, though one respondent complained of “always having problems with our new cell phones.” When asked what they do when their smartphone is not working, many of the respondents take a DIY approach, with 30% saying they “review the owner’s manual and troubleshoot the problem," many commenting that they do a web search to find solutions, and one saying, wisely, “Contact a teenager.”

“We appreciate the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment again putting its confidence in Consumer Action’s proficiency in designing a cost-effective consumer education project, successfully reaching the target populations, and delivering unbiased, accurate information in an accessible way,” said Ken McEldowney, Consumer Action’s executive director. “With 85% of Americans owning a smartphone, and 15% of adults being reliant on their smartphone for internet access, the vast majority of U.S. households can benefit from a better understanding of how their devices are—or can be—protected and how to get the repair or replacement they’re entitled to.”

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change.

About the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment

The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment is an American grantmaking, research, and advocacy non-profit based in Oakland, California. Founded in 1992, it has been rated a four-star charity by Charity Navigator and is a 1% for the Planet recipient. The organization supports grassroots initiatives that help build a world in which individuals, organizations, and communities are empowered to promote stewardship of nature, inspire people to take action, and hold government and corporations accountable.





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