Earlier this week we reported about how Amazon.co.uk, the UK subsidiary of Amazon.com, let their customers stand in the rain when it comes to providing refunds for HP TouchPads sold at the original price, when other resellers were already providing refunds to customers. Here we will give an update to the situation.
Until last Friday, Amazon.co.uk Customer Service hold out on definitive responses. As we have reported earlier, customers inquiring about the issue got prepared replies stating that the issue is being investigated and that a reply should be provided within the next 1-2 business days. Then two days later an apology would be sent explaining that there is still no result and the investigation continues. Every few days emails like the following were sent out to customers:
Greetings from Amazon.co.uk
We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding.
We would like to advise that your query regarding "HP touchpad" pricing is still being investigated.
Please accept our apologies for this delay. Although we endeavour to complete our research within 1 to 2 business days, sometimes it may take slightly longer. Please be assured that we shall contact you shortly with further information.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding in this matter.
<Name of CS representative censored>
Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company."
On Friday afternoon, Amazon.co.uk sent out a different email, stating the following:
"We’ve been advised that you may be entitled to a partial refund from HP, as detailed at the HP website below, on the HP Touchpad you bought from Amazon.co.uk.
To apply for a partial refund please register at the HP website detailed below. You’ll need to have to hand: the product serial number, your invoice (scanned into pdf, jpg, gif or png format), your address and the details of the bank account to which you’d like the refund sent.
We’re advised that there’s a time limit of 5 minutes to complete the form so please make sure you have these details ready.
1. Go to http://www.customer-satisfaction-715614.com/uk/en and click on "continue".
2. Enter the serial number of your Touchpad and follow the instructions on subsequent pages.
You have until 1 October 2011 to submit your refund request.
If you have any questions or have difficulty with the website, please contact HP directly on 0845 270 4142.
We hope to see you again soon.
Customer Service Department
There is a problem with that message for a few reasons. First of all it omits the fact that the refund program offered by HP has a few restrictions. HP states in the Terms & Conditions of the program, that it only applies to HP webOS products which have been activated prior to August 23rd. Most of the Amazon.co.uk customers affected by the issue ordered their TouchPad on August 22nd, but the units were delivered on 24th or 25th at the earliest. Consequently those people are not eligible for the refund.
In the meantime, Amazon.co.uk has already replied to inquiries about this matter with the following:
"We do also understand that according to the Terms & Conditions set forth by HP, such refunds are only possible when the product was activated online prior to August 23, 2011.
In this situation, I will need to investigate this issue with the appropriate department further. I will contact you again by September 09, 2011 with an update.
Please be aware that this is the maximum amount of time it will take for us to update you.
Thank you for your patience and for bringing this matter to our attention."
There have been some unconfirmed statements that HP is handling the refund nonetheless, but people who have kept their TouchPads unopened in order to comply with Amazons 30 day return policy should the refunds not work out would be ill-advised to unbox their units only to find out their serial numbers are not entitled for a refund.
Some people got promising responses from HP when calling the number stated in the email from Amazon.co.u
k. They got connected to a company in Argentina, which apparently handles these cases for HP. Customers were asked to provide the serial number which can be obtained without unboxing the TouchPad as well as a scanned copy of the invoice. Whether this method proves to be successful can only be said as early as Monday/Tuesday next week.
One possible problem with HPs refund program is that it may take up to 45 days for the refunds to be processed. Even if HP would initially grant the refund, a customer would have to wait until they would receive the money on their bank accounts. Once the 30 day full refund period of Amazon is over, there might be a period of uncertainity. In the worst case HP might bail on the refund if certain of their restrictions are not met. The full Terms & Conditions of the refund program is available in PDF format.
To make matters worse a few hours ago Amazon.co.uk deleted a lengthy discussion thread having reached about 16 pages and roughly 400 posts about the matter. In our original article we linked to that discussion thread. We’d like to inform anyone concerned, that we were able to make backup copies of most of the discussion thread using browser cache and Google Cache. We don’t know why Amazon.co.uk decided to do that, but we believe that this is certainly not a smart way of dealing with customer issues. In the mean time a new thread has been formed and some people in the discussion consider moving it elsewhere to not be on the whim of Amazon.co.uk.
Our colleages from The Register also reported about the issue. At this point, media attention is the least that could harm let down Amazon.co.uk customers. We inquired both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk about the matter and will publish a follow up pending further development.