Study: Consumers Are Happy with CE Return & Repair Policies

In the past two years, more than 8 million households returned recently acquired electronic products. Most of the returned goods were thought to be defective, but a new study released September 11 indicates that three out of every four "defects" are actually "operator error"—the owners didn't understand how the products were supposed to work. More surprising is a finding that most consumers are really pretty happy with the industry's return and repair policies.

Horror stories about abusive customer-service people and items sent in for repair that subsequently disappeared into a black hole represent a small minority of the overall consumer experience. "Repair and Return Issues in the CE Industry," the study by eBrain Market Research, claims that 78% of the consumers surveyed say they were "satisfied" with the return process; 60% claim to be "very satisfied." A press release about the study posted by the Consumer Electronics Association states: "Generally, consumers expressed a great deal of satisfaction with the mechanisms in place to remedy a problem with a product. . . . The one area noted as a problem, however, was a desire to reduce the time necessary to deal with a return."

When electronics products actually fail, 44% of the respondents seek first to have them repaired; 39% choose to replace them. As repair shops have discovered from years of experience, consumers are most likely to have an item repaired only if the repair cost is one-third or less of the cost of replacement. Not mentioned in the press release is the fact that newer electronic products generally offer more features and better performance—at lower prices—than did their predecessors.

"Repair and Return Issues in the CE Industry" was conducted with a sample of 1000 Americans during August 2000.