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BB leaving customers in the lurch

business Updated: Aug 16, 2011 13:23 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani
Nikhil Hemrajani
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The-Research-In-Motion-RIM-BlackBerry-Torch-9810-comes-with-speed-enhancements-a-high-resolution-touchscreen-display-and-a-slide-out-keyboard-for-fast-typing-The-BlackBerry-Torch-9810-will-be-available-in-late-August

It was just a few months ago that Canadian-based manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) known for its popular brand of BlackBerry mobile phones was in the news. It concerned national security and BB’s encrypted email and messenger services that the government wanted access to. The people seemed to be on RIM’s side then.

Now, the handset manufacturer finds itself at the receiving end of the stick again, but for an altogether different reason. Customers across the city who own popular BlackBerry handsets like the entry-level BlackBerry Curve 8520 or the higher-end Bold 9700 are complaining of a host of issues including software crashes and trackpad irregularities.

Worse still, RIM’s five service centres in the city (Khar, Dadar, Borivali, Vashi and Thane) are coming under fire for the terribly long wait-times before customers can have their issues addressed, and for dishonouring the phones’ warranties in many instances. Servicing the phones too takes anything from 10 days to 2-3 weeks, depending on the problem.

“We get over 100 customers a day with all sorts of problems with their BlackBerry handsets. But these high numbers are mainly because of the Monsoon, as these phones are sensitive and can be damaged by water,” mentions a representative at the Redington India Ltd service centre at Khar (W) who wishes to remain anonymous. When prodded on which issues are the most common, he adds, “Complaints usually range from software errors to screen and trackpad problems.”

Trackpad troubles
Vishal Dubey, a customer who was present at the service centre, says, “I waited for two hours before I got my turn. My token number is 150, and it was 97 when I came in. I think this place sees at least 200 people a day.” Ask Vishal the problem with his device and he complains, “I’ve had a trackpad problem from day one. However, BlackBerry told me outright that they don’t offer replacements on phones older than a month. Also, I’ve been told there’s no guarantee that the trackpad will work properly even after they fix it.”

A dealer at Heera Panna echoes Vishal’s problems, saying, “Older models like the BlackBerry Curve 8900 (Javelin) and Bold 9000 had recurring issues with the trackball. But those could be fixed after a bit of servicing and cleaning. Now, we’re seeing issues with the trackpad on newer models too, which are harder to fix.”

The service centres apparently refuse to even look at phones not officially purchased in India. Jay Ruparel, ad-film producer, adds, “When I took my Bold 9700, which I had bought from the UK, to the service centre to fix a problem, they refused and asked me to go to the 1st floor on Manish Market, opposite Crawford Market, instead.”

Users’ complaints
Physiotherapist Arjun Ray says, “I’ve gotten used to the fact that my BlackBerry Torch 9800 crashes twice a day. I’ve given it to the service centre a couple of times, but it hasn’t made any difference.”

Journalist Megha Agarwal adds, “My two-month old Curve 8520’s screen just died without warning. After a two-hour wait, the service centre told me that it was damaged since I had been carrying it around in my back pocket, and offered to fix it for
Rs 6,000. A new phone costs Rs 9,000! So I took it to a local dealer and had it fixed for Rs 1,200. But my warranty is now void.”

RIM responds
On their part, RIM states that in a majority of cases, their centres see grey-market goods or rain-related damage. Neither of which can be claimed under the warranty. Varghese M Thomas, director, corporate communications, RIM, India and SAARC says,
“Wireless communications devices especially smartphones are more prone to damage induced by increased moisture in the Monsoon like the few we have witnessed in India. This is also when we see a surge in such cases at our service centres.”
He adds, “The purchase of BlackBerry smartphones from unauthorised sources (grey market) not only results in void warranty but also a compromised performance. We urge our customers to purchase the phones from any of our thousands of authorised retail outlets across the country to ensure optimised performance, warranty and service.”

What tech experts say
Rishi Alwani, features editor, T3
“While I’ve never had an issue with BlackBerry phones, many of my friends and family members have, whether with the display screen or rapidly depleting batteries. The bigger issue is the dissonance between what you’re entitled to in terms of service and how the official service centre/distributor interprets it. The sooner it’s cleared out, the better, because why should someone with warranty pay for repairs from a third-party grey market store?”

Shayne Rana, deputy editor, Tech2.in.com
“I haven’t come across any issues with BB, nor have I heard any complaints around me or on the Tech2 website. But yes, there is a shortage of service centres in the city, which should be addressed.”