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Difficult to get compensation for moisture damage – so say previous ARN cases

As PC for All’s Consumer Emergency can show today, it is not entirely obvious to get compensation for a phone damaged by moisture, even though the IP classification says that it must withstand a certain amount of water, and even though, in our particular case, it is possible to question how the seller actually arrived at his assessment. For IP rating in all its glory, moisture damage still seems to be moisture damage – and that’s something neither shops nor manufacturers seem to want to deal with with pliers.

But should we really just accept this? Shouldn’t there be reason to assume that an IP-rated phone shouldn’t have to crash after we’ve had it in a wet pocket, or talked for a while in the drizzle?

– What you as a consumer really have to rely on here is the right to complain for three years and that the burden of proof for what the fault is due to is on the company during the first six months from the purchase. It thus gives a consumer stronger protection than what one has when six months have passed. If it had been more than six months since the purchase, the burden of proof for what caused the error would have been on the consumer, says Johanna Persson, supervisor at the Norwegian Consumer Agency’s information service Hello Consumer.

– The right to complain that you have under the Consumer Purchase Act means that you can complain about all original errors during this time and that you can demand that the company that sold the mobile phone correct the error free of charge.

Johanna Persson
Johanna Persson is a guidance counselor at the Swedish Consumer Agency’s information service Hello Consumer. She also answers reader questions for PC for All, and helps clear up the issues we raise.

The burden of proof on the seller

We take up the case of Vedija Prse’s moisture-damaged iPhone XS Max – where the mobile operator Tre refused to give her any compensation, and where they backed down only when the insurance company Trygg Hansa strongly questioned the handling.

According to Johanna Persson, the burden of proof in this case is on Tre. It must be said that the mobile operator admittedly stated that the mobile phone was damaged by moisture, but no explanation could be given as to why the rubber strip was broken.

– What the consumer can argue for is also that the mobile phone should actually withstand dust and splashes, and be clear that it is not herself who has caused the error. If it is possible, it might be a good idea for the consumer to contact another company in the industry just to get a statement about what this error could be due to, i.e. that it could for example be a manufacturing error and that the phone considering on the fact that it is ip68-rated, should have survived splashes. That would strengthen the consumer’s argument against the company.

Vedija Prses did this, as you know, when she hired Datanova with the help of the Consumer Emergency Service to get a statement. Datanova also determined that her iPhone XS Max should be able to withstand the moisture it was allegedly exposed to.

– I recommend that the consumer make written contact with the company to complain and make demands. For example, she can send an email and then save that email as proof that she has complained and made demands and when she has done so. Should the company still refuse to pay for the repair, the consumer can make a report to the General Complaints Board (ARN) to have the matter heard.

ARN cases rule in favor of the seller

The cases that the Allmänna Reklamationsnämnden (ARN) have taken up regarding moisture-damaged phones with IP classification are not many, but they rule exclusively in favor of the seller.

One brings up a Sony Xperia model with a missing gasket on a protective cover. There, ARN believes that the gasket was not missing at the time of purchase, and that Sony should therefore not be held responsible for the moisture damage.

The second is also about an Xperia model, where the customer deliberately immersed the phone in water. There, ARN considered that it was a handling error, and not a sampling error – and thus Sony could not be blamed for the moisture damage here either.

The third and final case involves a Galaxy S5, which stopped working after the customer had the phone in a wet jeans pocket. The seller, Phone House, claimed that the moisture damage occurred as a result of a crack in the phone’s camera lens – and that it therefore had no responsibility for the matter. ARN went on the Phone House line.

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