Pricewatch queries: A misunderstanding over a broken iPhone camera

Plus: Mortgage matters for potential buyers

We received a letter from Gráinne Finnerty, a third-year student in a school in Mayo.

“Just under a year ago I received an iPhone 5S for my birthday [from a company called Smashteck],” she writes. “I was with my father the day he bought the phone and I got a guarantee. In January, the back camera in my phone stopped working. It wasn’t a software problem because it didn’t work in any application, ie Snapchat, Instagram, Camera or FaceTime, so it had to be a hardware problem, which could not have been my fault,” she says.

“I immediately contacted the store in which it was purchased. I spoke to them over the phone but they told me that I had to pay to have it repaired because I was 21 days over my guarantee. From my knowledge of consumer law, I believe I am covered.

“I have been sitting my Junior Cert exams so it hasn’t been the most important thing going on. I believe I was being quite fair with the store and I even offered to negotiate a price to have it repaired, but to no avail.


“I will be finishing my exams on the coming Wednesday and I would like to have my camera fixed by then without having to pay the full price of €55, as I have no income as of yet.”

We contacted Smashteck and it appears this is a case of crossed wires. The owner told us he was sad to hear Gráinne had an issue with a purchase.

“We genuinely have no record of the correspondence here,” he said. “One of the most important fundamentals of our business here is customer service and taking care of people who buy from us,” he said. “Building repeat business is what we’ve always relied upon.”

The owner spoke to his staff after we made contact, “and one of them does remember taking a call back in January about a faulty camera with the device being out of warranty. As per standard customer practice, Gráinne would have been given the out-of-warranty repair cost associated with a phone and advised to drop it into us for inspection,” he said. “A lot of times, the camera connection can become undone from the main board and is a two-minute fix. As you can understand, we get a lot of phone calls from customers making inquiries about phone repairs. We also get a lot of callers trying to claim warranty repairs on phones that have been physically/water-damaged or phones that were never sold by us in the first place.”

He said that in order to make sure customers were genuine, “we will quote repair prices over the phone and advise the customer to get the phone into us. It’s at this stage of inspection that we can check over the device. We do not negotiate prices over the phone on devices we have not inspected. In Gráinne’s case, if the phone was undamaged, there would be absolutely no issue whatsoever of replacing the camera free of charge.

He asked that Gráinne contact them again and “give us the chance to assign a technician to the job. We will get the camera issue sorted out for her”.

We contacted her and she was delighted with the response.

Mortgage matters for potential buyers

We got a mail from a couple seeking advice.

“We’re currently in the process of buying our second home,” it starts. “We’ve sold our last house, so we have the 20 per cent [deposit] required. We have a good savings history and a few small monthly commitments.

“I’ve gone through all the rates from the various banks. KBC come out the best but with some restrictions – one being having to have a current account with them for their lowest rate. We don’t live too near any of their branches, so this is one negative for us.

“Also, I’m curious to know if they are reliable, or will we just end up looking around for another lender if they up and leave?”

She and her husband have all their accounts with AIB, "and they offer the next-best rate and cut their banking fees on the account that the mortgage is withdrawn from. PTSB have their 2 per cent cashback offer and have a fairly similar rate to AIB for one year only. After that it's currently 0.5 per cent more expensive."

So, her main questions are: “Are KBC here for the foreseeable future, do you think, and are they reliable? Is not having a KBC branch close by a negative? Do you see PTSB reducing their variable rate any time soon? Is there any bank/mortgage that you would recommend in our situation?”

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we have never had an indication from any source that KBC is not in Ireland for the long haul. It appears to be committed to the Irish market. And we would not be overly concerned about the absence of a branch – of any bank – near us because we do virtually all our banking online.

We have no idea if PTSB plans on reducing its rates at any point in the future, and the only thing any bank ever says to us when we contact them to see what they are planning to do with their rates is something along the lines of “We keep our rates under constant review”.

As for the last question, we would never recommend a particular bank or mortgage, although we would follow the advice of Deep Throat in All the President’s Men: simply put, follow the money.