His phone has a paperwork problem, but who is responsible?

David Wilkinson’s phone has a paperwork problem. But is that his problem — or Samsung’s?

To find out, let’s rewind to the beginning of this handset debacle. Wilkinson bought a Samsung Galaxy S5 from a Certified Refurbished Website.

“Within four days, the phone screen went blank,” he says. “The phone powers up, but the screen is blank.”

Wilkinson asked Samsung to either fix this phone or send him another one. But it won’t. The reason: Samsung’s “customer service” department can’t find my purchase information for the phone.

“They state they need a proof-of-purchase with the IMEI number on it,” he says. “The paperwork that came with the phone does not have that information on it. Nor does the e-mail confirmation data I have. The phone box does, though.”

(The IMEI, or International Mobile Equipment Identity, is a unique 15-digit number assigned to all cellular devices.)

“All I am asking for is for Samsung to fix my phone or provide me with a refurbished phone,” he says.

That seems reasonable. But when we reviewed his paper trail — in this case, the chat log between Wilkinson and a Samsung representative — it suggested the company is trying to help.

“I will file a ticket for you, and you have to send the device to a repair center to get it fixed, and you also have to send the Proof of Purchase along with the phone in order to claim the warranty,” a representative promises.

That gives me hope, and it should give Wilkinson hope, too.

But hang on. Samsung allowed a refurbished phone to be sold through an authorized reseller that stopped working after a few days. Then it put the paperwork burden on the customer who was unfortunate enough to buy a broken phone. Finally, a Samsung rep promises to fix the phone, but how long will it take? Days? Weeks? What does he use for a phone in the meantime?

Related story:   What happened to my tickets? And where's my refund?

Am I the only person who thinks something is very wrong with this picture?

Here’s how it should have happened: Wilkinson should have purchased a phone, and it should have worked for more than a few hours. End of story. Everything else was on Samsung — not him.

Samsung should have quickly honored its 90-day warranty on its pre-owned products instead of asked him for a number its reseller never gave him.

Our advocacy team can’t accelerate the repair process, but we would if we could. We can see this problem for what it is, though. It’s a bureaucratic, anti-consumer mess of Samsung’s own making.

I guess when it comes to bad service, it’s a Galaxy.

Who should be responsible for keeping the necessary records on a consumer electronics product? =

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • AJPeabody

    You can’t keep records never received. Samsung wants a purchase receipt with the IMEI number of the phone, but that isn’t what’s on the receipt, and the customer had no way to know in advance that such a particular receipt content would be required for warranty repair. It’s not the customer’s fault.

  • Jeff W.

    I am confused. Is the purchase from the certified refurbished website actually Samsung or is a third party that is certified by Samsung?

    From reading the article, it seems like it is a third-party. Although I believe the customer is ultimately responsible for the paperwork, it seems like there was no attempt at resolution through the third party. If Samsung is requiring certain information and they do not have it, then the third party does.

  • fs2013

    I realize the photo above is probably just the result of stock photo search for cellular phone, but why would you place a photo of an Apple product on a story about lousy Samsung service?

  • Nathan Witt

    Almost all US carriers sell devices that are refurbished through a large third-party source not affiliated with either the carrier or the manufacturer. And all post-paid carriers deal with this kind of thing for the customer. This is one way the (very significant) savings of going with a pre-paid service can come back to bite you. If this customer got the phone through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile, a call to customer service should get another one shipped out, along with packaging to return the defective phone.

  • Mel65

    The screen going dark is a known issue on Samsung galaxy phones. It happened to my brand new galaxy after a couple of weeks. I resolved it in minutes through the retailer,.not Samsung. Did the OP ask the reseller for help prior to going to Samsung? Did he ask if providing the code from the box along with the receipt would suffice? Not blaming the customer here, but sounds like he went straight to Samsung first.

  • David Wilkinson

    I am the op. I didn’t buy the phone through Verizon or any third party refurbisher. Samsung sells refurbished phones, tablets and other products directly from their website. Just Google “Samsung certified refurbished” and it is the first site to pop up.

  • Barthel

    Samsung products are junk. We had a Samsung television that went bad two weeks after the warranty expired. The tech we called to fix it said that he had seen this type of failure with Samsung before and the particular module should never fail that soon. We contacted Samsung, and the best they would do was offer $100 off another purchase. We refused that and filed a complaint with the BBB, which, of course means nothing.

  • Kerr

    Do you have the box with the IMEI number? Is that all that was missing?

  • AAGK

    The imei number can be found in the phone itself.

  • KarlaKatz

    Sure can. Only problem: The screen is black, and OP can’t access the information data.

  • cscasi

    I have had Samsung products for years and never had an issue. I currently have a Samsung TV ( and two prior to the current one) and my family plan has 5 Samsung phones that I purchased for my family members a year and a half ago – NO problems with any of them. Thus far, I am satisfied that Samsung products are not junk; unless I was lucky enough to have gotten the only good ones over the past ten years.

  • Kairho

    It’s usually printed on a sticker, often under the battery.

  • KarlaKatz

    :) I’m so, so, so iPhone, I’d forgot that other phones allow the user access to the battery. Apple’s iPhones’ batteries/interiors are sealed from the owner.

  • Kairho

    Barthel, yours and mine must have been made on the same day. Two weeks after the warranty died, so did mine. The video driver board failed. A $50 part. But did they make it easily replaceable? Of course not! It was physically and permanently attached to the LED display … so the whole thing had to be replaced … for something approaching two grand. I am so not a Samsung customer any more.

  • Kairho

    Upvoting your very observant final clause.

  • AAGK

    Why doesn’t he just return it. 4 days is certainly returnable.

  • RBXChas

    It looks like they want the proof of purchase with the IMEI number on it to make sure he’s not trying to get an old, broken phone fixed/replaced under the “new” phone’s warranty.

    I’ve had to do the same with rebates (send the cutout of the IMEI from the box). However, I happen to have a copy of my sales receipt right next to me from my purchase of my current phone with Verizon (December of 2014), and the IMEI number is right there on the receipt.

  • RBXChas

    I can’t say if the OP has the box with the IMEI number on it or not. However, it sounds like they want the proof of purchase with the IMEI number on it to make sure he’s not trying to get an old, broken phone fixed/replaced under the “new” phone’s warranty.

  • RBXChas

    Our Whirlpool fridge had its first issue late last year after 9+ years of use (and one move). We weren’t sure if we were going to have to replace the fridge or if this fix would work, so I started chatting with the repairman about various appliance brands, especially seeing as we’ll likely need to replace our dishwasher in the next year or so. His opinion of Samsung was that they usually start to have problems right after the warranty expires. His opinion was to stick with Whirlpool.


    I have used Samsung phones for years with no problems. I switched from Apple to Samsung when my first iPhone had problems within the first month I had it, It was a software problem but Apple was worse than useless as was my carrier at that time. I finally got my contract cancelled and money back for the phone. Went to Samsung and a new carrier. Never been happier.

  • rwm

    You were not just lucky. Samsung products are not junk. My family also has multiple Samsung devices, and no problems.

  • AAGK

    Still, why can’t he just return it with the receipt like any other purchase.

  • AAGK

    Again, even more reason to simply return the thing.

  • RBXChas

    That probably would have been the first attempt I’d make at resolving the issue. It looks like he should be able to return it: http://shop.us.samsung.com/store/samsung/html/pbPage.Refurb_FAQ/ThemeID.38225500

    As for ideas why a return wouldn’t be a good solution, perhaps there are no more refurbished phones of the model he wants available to purchase if he makes a return instead of a warranty claim. Perhaps he purchased it during a promotion period that has ended or with a coupon that has expired, and if he returns the phone and buys another, he won’t get the same deal he got the first time. (Though you’d think in an attempt to make the customer happy, they’d honor the same promotion/coupon on a new purchase, avoiding the warranty situation entirely.)

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