Robbery made to look ‘legitimate’

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The celebration of Consumer Welfare Month 2012 ended on Oct. 28.  How much public awareness of consumer rights and protection did it generate? How much protection do our consumers get from predatory companies, big and small, who are out to take advantage of unwary or hapless consumers? Here’s an example of how robbery is made to look legitimate in business.

Our 42-inch TV bought in 2009 just would not switch on. No power. This, despite its not being used often (it generates so much heat). The nearest authorized service center gave us a quote (after a few days) of P12,000 for the repair; I was asked to pay the “diagnostic fee” of P700. I was told that the amount would be credited as part of the overall payment. Fair enough, I thought.  Upon my request for a breakdown of costs, I was shown P7,500 for four parts that were supposed to be replaced and P4,500 for labor, “… with three months warranty on same problem.” After complaining to the service center’s head office by e-mail (cc: Department of Trade and Industry), the service center decided to give me a 10-percent discount. I still found the price exorbitant, so I decided to pull out my TV after paying them the imposed diagnostic fee.

But here comes the good news. A few weeks after, a technician recommended by an appliance dealer sales assistant came over and fixed my TV within two hours! For how much? Only P380 for a new power supply transistor diode. When I asked how much he would charge for labor, to my surprise he said “Bahala na po kayo, sir” (It’s up to you, sir). I asked if P500 was fair enough, and he replied “Tama na po yun, sir.” (That’s good enough, sir). I was so touched by his honesty and efficiency, I gave him a total of P1,000 plus some goodies from our cupboard for his family. He was just as happy as I was when he rode off on his motorbike.

But how many consumers are as fortunate as I was to come across honest persons like that TV technician? Isn’t there a law against overpricing? Meanwhile, I say, caveat emptor (buyer, beware)!

—E. J. T. TIRONA,

BF Homes Parañaque

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