How old is too old to try to repair an electronic device?

When Ranjit Sinha’s Sony Xperia TX LT29i mobile phone stopped working, he asked Sony to help him repair it. But Sony declined, telling him that his phone was too old — and he’s unhappy with the company’s response.

Sony is no longer supporting repairs and updates to this phone model, which was introduced in 2012, and is even considering leaving the smartphone market. The model does not appear on Sony’s website.

What, Sinha wonders, can an electronic device owner do when the manufacturer refuses to repair it?

The answer is, unfortunately, not much. The owner is encouraged to replace the obsolete device with a state-of-the-art model. He or she can also look for a replacement on the secondary market. But our advocates can’t ask the manufacturer to fix malfunctioning devices that it no longer supports.

Sinha called Sony’s phone support line to request assistance from a customer care executive, but was told that the software in the TX LT29i model is obsolete and cannot be updated. He also took his phone to a service center in Lucknow, India, to ask that the phone be repaired, but the service center agents reiterated that Sony could not help him.

“Both of them told me that the software of [my] phone will not be updated,” says Sinha. “In other words, the phone is useless; [I need to] go to the local market to make [the phone] workable. Sony has [no] responsibility and will not give [me] any support.”

Sinha wrote to Sony: “I think this is not good for users of Sony mobile [phones], which is a global brand. So it’s [the] sole responsibility of Sony to take the product back and solve the problem.”

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Sony’s personnel firmly disagreed. They responded to his requests for assistance on multiple occasions with: “Unfortunately, as your query relates to a product and/or market not supported by the UK/Ireland support team, we have assigned your query to your regional support team.”

In frustration, Sinha turned to our forum members and our advocates. (Executive contact information for Sony is available on our website.)

But we didn’t have good news for Sinha either.

Our forum members pointed out that electronics manufacturers such as Sony stop providing support for their older products: “Unfortunately, being close to five years old is considered a technological dinosaur and [Sinha] may have to buy a new phone.” They also suggested that the factory warranty on the phone probably expired by the second year of the phone’s life.

One member suggested that Sinha could try wiping the phone’s operating system and data and having a new operating system installed. Other members proposed that Sinha could buy a replacement phone of the same model on eBay or Swappa.

And our advocates reiterated that without a warranty, Sinha’s only options were to find a repair shop that could fix the phone or to replace it.

Unfortunately, that’s the best we can do for Sinha. When a product, especially an electronic device such as a smartphone, comes to the end of its life cycle (generally within a few years of manufacture), it’s just too old to expect the manufacturer to repair it — especially if the warranty has expired. If it can’t be repaired, it’s time to buy a new one.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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