Twenty months ago Barry gave me my very own laptop. I think he was tiring of trying to kick me off the computer in the study so that he could use it. In any case it has so many peripherals attached to it that it is often rather temperamental. In the conservatory his laptop was full of business affairs and I didn’t want to risk doing something irreparable to it. I’m okay with computers so long as they behave themselves in a reasonable manner but as soon as they start being awkward and mischievous I back off muttering, ‘It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything.’
So my brand new shiny expensive VAIO was a delight. Sleek and stylish with a beautiful keyboard, magnificent resolution, blu-ray DVD player, inbuilt webcam – it had everything I needed and more. It was superb and every time I used it I smiled to myself and learnt a little more. Barry had purchased an extended warranty, which was pricey but we thought it would be wise. A few months after I’d acquired it there was a problem. It stopped working. It was promptly collected by a carrier and returned to Sony for repair. It was returned equally promptly. A couple of months later it exhibited a further problem and again was repaired by Sony. We were so glad we had extended warranty.
The week before last I tried to open the laptop and there was a nasty creaking noise and a great deal of resistance. Barry looked at it closely and discovered that the left-hand hinge had broken. He contacted Sony and arranged for it to be collected then carefully closed the case. After a day or so he contacted Sony to inquire about progress and was informed that the hinge had broken through ‘accidental damage’ and therefore could not be repaired under warranty. £219:00 please! We discovered that a replacement hinge costs around £35:00. There then followed days of telephone calls and a frustrating lack of headway. Barry went through the wording of the warranty with a fine-tooth comb and found no mention of ‘accidental damage’. He asked for a diagnostic report and was emailed a photograph of the damaged hinge! In the course of many phone calls he patiently pointed out to several of the Sony support staff that had he purchased a fridge and the door hinge had failed, the fridge manufacturer would accept responsibility and replace certainly the hinge and possibly the fridge forthwith. Sony were immoveable. Since they could find no cause for the failure they could not guarantee that a replaced hinge would not break; therefore £219:00 might have to be paid again – and again!
Barry spent many years working for one of the largest IT providers in the world and had seen a number of damaged and defective laptops but had never known hinges to fail. Looking on the web we came across many frustrated, angry VAIO owners who had experienced broken hinges, some within a month or two of purchase. They all reported the same pattern in their contact with Sony support. Sony would not accept responsibility for the failure of one of the most significant components in their product. Surely a smoothly functioning, reliable set of hinges is key to a laptop in being ‘fit for purpose’ under UK law?
If we decided not to proceed with the repair Sony would send back the laptop at a cost of £141:00 to us. After further calls they finally agreed to return it post-free. So we await my damaged VAIO. If we replace the hinge ourselves we will invalidate the warranty but as that doesn’t seem to be fully inclusive that hardly seems to matter.
One thing is abundantly clear; we will never buy another Sony VAIO. We will also advise anyone looking for a laptop to avoid Sony and opt for one of their competitors. The advice from one of the largest laptop suppliers in UK (who seemed to be somewhat aware of VAIO problems) is to purchase HP, Toshiba or ACER for better product reliability. It is a pity about VAIO; as one web page commented, ‘good components, poor casing and dreadful support.’
VAIO’s proud boast - "be like.no.other" – has a resonance that Sony surely never envisaged.