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TV Extended Warranty Information (part 2)

WHO GUARANTEES THE CONTRACT?
No matter how much coverage a service contract offers or how inexpensive it seems, it is worthless if you can't find anyone to honor it when you need service. A number of service contract vendors -- including retailers, service centers, and service contract companies -- have gone out of business, leaving consumers without the coverage they paid for.

Who will pay for any required repairs? Is the store responsible? If so, verify that it's in the contract or get it in writing. What will happen if the store goes out of business? If the manufacturer is responsible, is it one with a good reputation that can be expected to be around for a long time? Is it a third-party service contract company? If so, is it a reliable one with sufficient financial backing or insurance to guarantee performance? Who is the insurance company?

IMPROVING YOUR ODDS
Ask the selling dealer if they will honor the service contract if the third-party contractor goes out of business. If so, get it in writing. Ask your local or the national Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection agency about all parties listed on the contract. Also, get the opinion of your regular service company. If the third-party contractor is a member of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC), they are required to provide certain disclosures. Disclosure statements, alone, however, do not guarantee the financial solvency of a program or company. SCIC does not guarantee the ethics or solvency of a member company but they do provide an extra avenue of recourse if a dispute involves a member service contractors. (The address is listed at the end of this document.)

IS IT REALLY BROKEN?
First, be sure that the unit is at fault, so you don't have to pay for the service. Be sure the power and any antenna, video, audio, or cable plugs are connected. Consult your operations manual for hints on consumer-adjustments and operations. If possible, connect another unit or a lamp to the receptacle to test the power source. Do whatever you can to be sure that the unit, itself, is at fault.

YOU MAY HAVE TO PAY
Most warranties or service contracts do not cover services that are not product fault-related; that is, they do not pay for services to connect or adjust equipment or if the trouble is elsewhere (as in a cable company failure, trouble at the transmitter, faulty computer program, lint in the dryer filter, etc.). Remember that, if someone checks your unit, especially if they come to your residence or office to do it, and the fault is not with the unit, you will probably have to pay for the time and labor to check it.

DON'T TAMPER WITH DANGER
Whatever you do, don't be tempted to go into the unit to make repairs or internal adjustments. If you break something or create additional problems, you may void all or part of your warranty and/or service contract coverage. Besides, the sharp edges and voltage that are present in most appliances and electronic equipment are very dangerous and the current can even be fatal.

WHO WILL SERVICE IT?
Is the name of a service center indicated on the contract or a list of names included with the papers? Is there a telephone number of the manufacturer (if in warranty) or the service contract administrator? If not, and if you have a regular repair company that you trust, call to see if they are authorized to repair your unit for the manufacturer or the contract administrator. If not, call the store where you purchased the unit or the extended service contract. If that doesn't work, and if it's in warranty, look in the Yellow Pages telephone directory; first under that product category (television, audio, freezers, etc.). Then, look for the list of those performing "authorized service" under the manufacturer's brand.

DO YOU NEED A RECEIPT?
Yes. Even if you are dealing with the store where you bought the product or with a company that you normally trust for service, it's a good practice. The company could suffer a disaster (fire, flood, theft) or go out of business.

WHAT SHOULD BE ON THE RECEIPT?
Make sure the receipt lists:
Your product's make, model and serial number.
The name, address and telephone number of the store.
The name and signature of the person accepting the unit.
The kind of trouble you are having.
What will be covered under warranty or the service contract and to what extent.
Also, if there will be any charges, ask for an estimate, or a "guesstimate," of the repair costs.

WHAT IS AN ESTIMATE?
An "estimate" is defined as "an opinion or judgment of an approximate value." However, many people think of an "estimate" as a quoted fixed price. A "guesstimate" is what many servicers refer to as a reasonable, non-binding estimate of the cost of repairs, or a general range of anticipated repair costs. It is an educated guess, based upon the symptoms compared to the company's basic repair rates of the probable minimum and maximum cost of repair.

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