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In April 2017, LG Electronics faced a U.S. class action lawsuit involving a defect with its phones, including the G4, G5 and the Google Nexus 5X.
LG admitted to a manufacturing issue, caused by loose contact between components, which would make the phone attempt to restart endlessly until the battery was completely drained.
Nicknamed “boot loop,” this can be a fatal condition for smartphones, rendering them useless.
“High usage or physical damage can cause internal pressure on the central processing unit in smartphones, which can lead to boot loop,” said Puneet Jain, head of marketing for LG Electronics Canada.
“When developing the LG G4 and Nexus 5X, LG introduced new upstart technology to the CPU in order to increase the performance of our devices. “
The boot loop issue was identified in early versions of the LG G4 and Nexus 5X phones manufactured in mid-2015. The phone has been modified to correct the problem, he said, and the problem isn’t expected to recur after repair.
After settling the U.S. class action suit, LG informally extended the warranty to 24 months for phones with the boot loop defect, which often kicks in after the one-year warranty expires.
But in the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing from people who don’t qualify for LG’s warranty extension. They feel stuck in an endless loop of being shuffled from retailer to manufacturer and back again.
Victor Liang bought his Nexus 5X phone from Google Store Canada. He asked Google for help when he found the boot loop problem and was directed to LG Canada.
LG refused to do a warranty repair because the Nexus 5X phone he had, sold by Google in Canada, was a U.S. model.
“If we contact LG in the U.S., we need a U.S. address to get a free repair. Not all of us have U.S. friends who will let us use their U.S. address. There are also costs to send a phone to the U.S. and then back to a Canadian address,” Liang said.
“It’s like you drive a Japanese car and the dealer tells you to get a warranty repair in Japan.”
Another Nexus 5X owner, who preferred not to be named, chose the phone because of good reviews and a reasonable price ($ 500). Google’s new line of Pixel phones, the successor to the Nexus brand, is in the $ 800 to $ 1,000 range.
His boot loop problem showed up 22 months after purchase. Again, LG Canada refused service because the serial number of his phone indicated it was from a batch meant for the U.S. market.
“LG referred me to Google, which said I was past the one-year warranty and I had to speak to LG to get the extended warranty. Both sides refused to take responsibility and blamed the other.
“Just to clarify, these phones were bought through Google Canada (not Google U.S.), paid for in Canadian dollars and shipped from their Toronto warehouse, as clearly stated on the invoice.”
I wrote to both LG and Google, asking why they were refusing to fix a known defect in these cases. They blamed communication errors and apologized for turning Nexus 5X owners away.
“We experienced a misunderstanding in our call centre regarding LG’s service support of Nexus 5X devices purchased directly from Google,” said Jain of LG Electronics Canada.
“This misunderstanding has been addressed and all LG service representatives are now fully aware of the policy and are able to support it accordingly.
“We ask anyone experiencing issues with their Nexus 5X to contact LG’s service centre at 1-888-542-2623.”
Google Canada said Nexus 5X customers with problems should get in touch with its customer support team, which has out-of-warranty solutions available.
In another case, Carlos Martins bought his Nexus 5X phone in September 2016. Within 17 months, the boot loop problem made his phone unusable while he was spending time in Florida.
He called his carrier (Freedom Mobile) in Toronto for help and was told the phone was no longer under warranty after one year.
“Since I was not leaving Florida for another month, I went to a phone repair shop I know well in Daytona Beach. They lent me a phone while mine was in repair.”
He later bought the used phone because the attempted repair was not successful. On his return to Toronto in late March, he asked LG to fix it under the extended 24-month warranty.
LG turned down his request, saying he had voided his warranty by using an unauthorized repair service to check his phone.
The repair cost would be $ 478.70 for a phone that originally cost $ 500. And if he didn’t accept, LG would charge him $ 35 to analyze his phone and ship it back.
I argued that Martins went to a Florida repair shop only after being told his phone was out of warranty. If he’d known of the 24-month coverage of the boot loop problem, he’d have waited to return to Toronto.
LG reconsidered and decided to cover him after all.
“We understand he was in another country and might not have understood the difference between an authorized service centre using original parts vs. a non-authorized repair centre using third-party parts that would void his warranty,” said spokesperson Corina Fisher.
“As such, we sympathize with Carlos and would be pleased to make an exception to our policy and offer him repair at no cost.”
In my view, LG had a duty to fix these defective phones, no matter where they were made, which retailers sold them and when customers bought them. Let’s hope it will finally do so.
Ellen Roseman appears in Smart Money. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.