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January 2, 2017

Can You Drench Your iPhone in Water?

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

A new TV commercial by Apple depicts a senior citizen leaving his iPhone on loud in a puddle of water next to the swimming pool so he can hear dramatic music as he dives off a high tower.

iPhone sitting in water

Here is the commercial:



At the end of the commercial, the man finally dives into the pool causing a splash of water to hit the iPhone. And miraculously, it still keeps playing music.

water splash

What you probably missed in the commercial is the very faint disclaimer at the very end.

*MOUSE PRINT:

iPhone disclaimer

In case you still can’t read that, it says “Liquid damage not covered under warranty.”

So why does the ad seemingly tout the waterproof or water-resistant properties of the device if they are not willing to stand behind it? We asked Apple, but all a spokesperson would say is:

“iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are splash, water and dust resistance. The entire enclosure was reengineered to make the very first water resistant iPhone, enabling it to handle mishaps such as spills and splashes.”




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October 17, 2016

When is “Sold by Amazon” Not the Same as “Bought from Amazon”?

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:45 am

Mouse Print* reader Chris L. recently purchased a $1,900 piano from Amazon and was offered three months of online piano lessons for free as part of the deal.

Amazon piano

When he didn’t receive an email with his promotional code from Amazon for the free piano lessons, he contacted customer service via chat. An hour and 20 minutes later, nine representatives later, and a bazillion bogus excuses later, he finally extracted a promise that he would be sent the appropriate promotional code for the piano lessons. But, he never received it.

Finally he received an email explaining the real reason he never got the free piano lessons — he got tripped up by the fine print.

The original offer and the terms and conditions used magic words that most people wouldn’t understand had a very specific meaning.

MOUSE PRINT*:

amazon piano

********
Piano terms

Although our consumer purchased the piano at Amazon.com, he did not buy it from Amazon.com. He bought it from a third party marketplace seller found on the Amazon website and the order was “fulfilled by Amazon” meaning that Amazon shipped it out for the seller. The promotion, however, required that the piano be “sold and shipped” by Amazon alone.

Would anyone ever catch that nuance? And why was it promoted on a page where the offer didn’t apply?

Fortunately for Chris, the actual company providing the free lessons, Skoove.com, provided him with three months of free lessons after he sent them proof of purchase.




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October 3, 2016

Sued Over Disabling Competing Ink Cartridges, HP Apologizes to Users

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:54 am

Last week, we told you about a nasty ploy by Hewlett Packard to disable non-HP ink cartridges in certain inkjet printers. They did this by placing a time bomb of sorts in a routine firmware update last March, set to do its dirty work six months later.

Reaction to HP’s clever scheme was quick. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sent an open letter to HP’s CEO calling on the company to:

  • Apologize to your customers, and restore the original functionality of their printers with a firmware update that rolls back the self-destruct sequence;

  • Publicly commit that you will never again use your software update process to distribute anti-features that work against your customers’ interests;

  • Publicly commit that the effects of any software updates will be fully disclosed;

  • Prominently disclose any capability or plan to remove features from devices in your sales literature, so customers know what they’re getting before they buy;

  • Promise to never invoke Section 1201 of the DMCA against security researchers or competitors who make legitimate aftermarket products.

  • A day later, an Alabama consumer with one of the affected OfficeJet printers that suddenly stopped printing filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against HP claiming this was an anti-competitive move by the printing giant.

    Then, a day after that, HP’s CEO apologized (sort of) to affected users:

    We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologize.

    You’ll note he didn’t apologize for disabling competing ink cartridges, but rather just for doing it secretly.

    In any event, HP promises a new firmware update in a couple of weeks to reverse the problem they created and allow third party cartridges to once again work in the affected printers.




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    September 26, 2016

    Non-HP Ink Cartridges Suddenly Stop Working in Some HP Printers

    Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:10 am

    Hewlett Packard inkjet printer users often buy generic printer cartridges to save money compared to the HP branded ones. Earlier this month however, those no-name cartridges mysteriously stopped working in some HP printers giving users error messages like this:

    HP error

    What’s going on? Users have said that they had made no changes to their computer or to the printer at the time the problem started.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    HP update

    According to published reports, a firmware update from March 2016 had a hidden time bomb set to disable non-HP cartridges being used starting on September 13!

    When asked by a Dutch broadcaster why HP did this, the company said in a statement:

    “This is to protect innovation and intellectual property, but also to improve the safety of products for customers.”

    The changes are made according to HP, “to protect the printers and to protect the communication between the cartridge and the printer.”

    “Affected printers will continue to work with refilled cartridges if they contain the original HP security chip. Other cartridges possibly don’t work”, HP added.

    We all know the real answer is “money.”

    The affected printers seem to be OfficeJet Pro models 8610, 8615, 8620, 8625, 8630, 8640, 8660 and others.

    If you are facing this problem, experts say you can try to rollback the firmware to an earlier version (not easy) or wait for no-name cartridges to update their chips to work again. To prevent the problem from spreading to other HP printers, experts suggest that you turn off firmware updates.

    UPDATE: A few days ago, an Alabama consumer filed a class action lawsuit against HP for planting a “ticking time bomb” and trying to monopolize the printer ink market. And a day later, HP relented. Come back on Monday for a full follow-up story of these late-breaking events.




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    August 8, 2016

    Comcast’s Inside Wiring Plan Excludes Most Inside Wiring!

    Filed under: Electronics,Telephone,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

    One of the ways that telephone and cable companies try to make extra money is to pitch inside wiring plans to their customers. For about $5 a month, these plans typically promise to fix the cable or telephone wire in your home or apartment should it cause a problem with your service. Normally this would be the owner’s responsibility. Most consumer advocates say not to fall for the scare tactics and save your money because inside wiring rarely goes bad on its own.

    Last week, the Washington state attorney general went one step further. He sued Comcast, a large purveyor of these inside wiring plans because of alleged deceptive tactics they used to sell these policies. The lawsuit accuses Comcast of misleading 500,000 Washington consumers and deceiving them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for a near-worthless “protection plan” without clearly disclosing its significant limitations.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Here is how Comcast promoted its plan before the Washington AG began investigating. (Here is how the plan it is currently presented.)

    It says in part:

    “Comcast offers a comprehensive Service Protection Plan (SPP), eliminating any concerns about being charged additional fees for service calls related to inside wiring. … Hassle-free replacement and repair of defective customer inside wiring.”

    When one checked the fine print terms and conditions of the Service Protection Plan as originally promoted, the introductory paragraph even reiterates the promise:

    “Inside wiring covered under this plan is owned by the customer or a third party and is defined as wiring that begins at the “Demarcation Point,” which begins 12 inches outside the customer’s residence and extends to the individual phone jacks, cable and Internet outlets and extensions in the home.”

    Digging deeper into the terms however, reveals the truth (emphasis added below).

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Comcast fine print

    Maybe 90% of the wiring inside a home is behind walls, and it is excluded! Thanks for nothing, Comcast.

    Things get worse, according to the WA-AG’s complaint.

    [While] Comcast claimed the SPP covers all service calls related to customer-owned equipment, it does not cover any actual repairs relating to customer equipment. It simply covers the technician visiting the customer’s house and declaring that the customer’s equipment is broken.

    Comcast also marketed the SPP as covering service calls relating to Comcast equipment and wiring outside a customer’s house. However, these issues are already covered for free by Comcast’s Customer Guarantee promises.

    The Washington AG is seeking $100+ million in his lawsuit.

    For its part, Comcast issued the following statement:

    “The Service Protection Plan has given those Washington consumers who chose to purchase it great value by completely covering over 99 percent of their repair calls. We worked with the Attorney General’s office to address every issue they raised, and we made several improvements based on their input.”

    Incidentally, it is believed that Comcast marketed its service protection plan the very same way nationally… so you probably have not heard the end of this yet.




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