Sprint has responded to our report that the LG LX160 was under a silent recall for several issues. We noted that approximately two percent of devices were known to have failures with the external display, vibrate, and speakerphone functions. Sprint has informed stores to swap these phones out on-the-spot when exhibiting symptoms, and waive standard phone/warranty replacement fees.
The difference between a formal recall and a silent recall is an item that is still heavily being debated in the wireless industry. Consumers often encounter frustration, being unable to confirm that their symptoms are indeed a known issue. And, customers often face further frustration when a store didn’t get the memo on a particular known issue that they are experiencing. The industry still has not embraced the concept of informing customers of known handset issues.
While the term silent recall is new in the industry, many confuse it with a general recall. A silent recall does not mean that all units are being replaced, only ones affected by a chronic issue. The other qualification to a silent recall, of course, being that the companies involved do not make the issue known to product owners and end-users.
More mature industries, like the PC industry, now generally proactively inform customers when product-wide issues are being experience. Apple Inc., for example, has seven repair extension programs which inform and ease the exchange of issues, even when they are only affecting a small (yet significant) minority of units.
Sprint currently does not post known handset issues on their support web site, it is Sprint’s position that stores should be informed about these issues and will handle them quickly for a customer. Of course, when that does not happen (usually due to a communications failure with stores), a customer is faced with two choices: Pay the $35 warranty swap fee, or, mail their phone off for a two week turnaround on replacement. Competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon wireless do not charge a fee for honoring the manufacturer warranty in-store, regardless of warranty issue.
However, Sprint has also stated that they are “fully confident in the quality of the LG LX160”, and cites the low failure rate which we reported as evidence that the device is indeed reliable and not warranting further recall or known-issue notices.
We’re looking for your feedback on how to improve things. Let us know what you think of silent recalls, and how they could be better defined on the editor-in-chief’s blog…