You know the ones. You buy an electronics item, and with the installation instructions or directions, you often find a registration postcard. Manufacturers ask you to return these cards to record your purchase with the company.
One might guess these cards help the manufacturer notify customers in the case of a recall or product defect, for example.
That wasn’t the case for Jim and Sherry Brown, who said they returned the registration postcard for a 46-inch Sony KDL-46XBR5 LCD television they purchased in 2007.
When there were problems with the television 19 months later, they called Sony for help even though their warranty expired the month before. There was no resolution, and the couple figured they’d just live with it and eventually buy a new television.
Then they got lucky. By chance and the initiative of a salesperson, the couple learned months later that Sony extended the warranty on the set, ultimately saving the couple the expense of repair or the purchase of a new television.
The Browns’ issue? Sony, which had the couple’s information on file both from a repair request and from their registration card, never informed the couple of this new extended warranty.
In November 2009, when the television was 19 months old, the couple noticed what they described as “picture anomalies.”
“It first began with the left side of the screen being black and/or having a double-image for the first few minutes,’’ Jim Brown said. “The time the anomaly remained on the screen increased after time. It would take 10 to 15 minutes for the screen to warm up in order for us to view a picture.”
Although the warranty for the television expired one month earlier, the Browns contacted Sony, hoping for some assistance. Customer service told the Browns to contact an authorized service center to diagnose the problem.
‘‘(The representative) confirmed for me that Sony would stand by the warranty and either offer to repair the set or offer me a discounted new set,’’ said Jim Brown.
He took the day off from work to meet the technician, who identified the problem as a faulty LCD panel, Brown said. Brown then faxed a repair estimate to Sony and within minutes, Brown received a phone call.
‘‘Sony said the cost of the repair exceeds the amount that Sony would pay. The only option Sony could offer me was to purchase another TV from Sony at what they referred to as a discounted price,’’ Brown said.
After spending $2,400 for the first television and another $133 for the service call, Brown said he was frustrated and not yet prepared to fork out hundreds of dollars for a new set.
He took a pass.
In April 2010, five months later, Jim and Sherry started to look at new televisions.
They told the salesperson about the problem with their current television, and the salesperson did a little sleuthing.
The Browns were surprised when they learned that in January 2010, Sony had extended the warranty on their model.
“Why was I not contacted by Sony regarding this extension that was announced only one month after my initial contact with Sony?” Jim Brown said.
He called Sony on April 15, explained the history of his television and asked about the extended warranty. The customer service rep told him Sony would pay for parts and labor to repair the set. He was also told that Sony would reimburse Brown for the $133 service call.
It would take more than six weeks for the parts to come in, but eventually the television was fixed and now it’s in perfect working order.
Brown was glad, but still flummoxed about Sony’s lack of notification. He asked the rep why he hadn’t been notified about the extended warranty.
‘‘(The rep) told me that Sony is not contacting customers and will honor the extension if customers contact them,“ he said. ‘‘Why would a customer contact Sony about a warranty extension if they aren’t aware of it?”
Brown’s question is a good one. How many other customers have had the same problem with this model? How many have spent their own money on repairs or to purchase a new set because they were not notified of the new extended warranty?
Sony spokeswoman Elizabeth Boukis said the company does notify customers about extended warranties via e-mail or letter. She’s still researching whether or not Brown specifically received such a notification, she said. (He said he never did.)
“In some cases like Mr. Brown’s, a gap can occur when a warranty expires and then Sony determines that we need to extend the warranty after it expires,’’ she said.
We also asked Boukis to see if she could track down Brown’s $133 reimbursement, for which Brown completed paperwork in May and was told by the company it had been approved.
“The missing check can only be attributed to a glitch in the system,’’ Boukis said. “Our customer service rep confirmed that the first request was submitted when the refund was approved, but for some reason accounts payable had not mailed the refund.’’
Sony says the check is in the mail. Boukis said she will follow up to make sure the Browns receive it.
If you have troubles with your KDL-46XBR5, you have until Oct. 31, 2012, to take advantage of the extended warranty, and you can find details at Sony.com or by calling (239)768-7547.
Brown is glad to hear a check is coming, but since he’s heard that before, he’ll believe it when he sees it.
“I am glad they eventually stuck by their product and paid for the repair, but I still question the process,’’ Brown said. “I know Sony is a leader in electronics, but their service and warranty notification procedures need revision.’’