Lessons from Brazil – Returning & Exchanging Electronics

I’d love to just write “good luck” but I’m feeling like saying a little more. I bought some headphones the other day from a major department store that has an electronics section. Every time I used them, the part that goes in one’s ears, ended up hurting them. It’s just too big and I’d figure that they probably hurt most people’s ears. Well, I go into the store 4 days later and I’m told there’s a 3-day return policy.

Um, sorry?

If your store’s policy on returning items that can be defective is only a few days or less, you have to know you are selling crappy products. I get it, I do. The less time you give the customer to return a defective product, the more likely you will keep the money spent when they trusted in your brand by spending money in your store. That’s R$25 out the window…

A few months ago, I bought a TIM-branded 3G modem for my computer. The contract was to be 60R per month. I spent over an hour in the store plus time doing some online comparisons and time getting to the store and back. Over 5 days, I tested it in different areas. The service was always very crappy at home (and I even tried using it in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Rio), literally going in and out every minute, plus the program for connecting online was faulty. I called their customer service number and after going through the loops and waiting, I finally got told that to resolve any issues, I have to go into their store in person.

What?

I make my way all the way down there again and wait to be attended, one guy talks to the other while handling my receipt, then they go in the back room for a minute, and when they come out, I’m shown a “magical” inked stamp on the back of the receipt that effectively says “return policy: 24 hours”. That’s R$100 (for the device) out the window…

Lesson? Make sure you fully understand the return and exchange policy of any item you buy in Brazil, especially electronics. If you’re expecting 14 to 30 day return policies like they have back home, you might as well just throw your money in the oven (it’ll save you time).

8 thoughts on “Lessons from Brazil – Returning & Exchanging Electronics

  1. The magical appearance of the inked stamp on the back of the receipt sounds like a small-scale version of the corruption that Brazilians complain about in their politicians.

  2. Even though nothing much surprises me anymore about life in Brazil, this is pretty unbelievable! I’ve not had to deal with returning any purchased items yet (no doubt a treat for me in the future) but is there really no consumer laws in Brazil covering this? Minimum periods for return of purchases? For FAULTY goods I think it’s one YEAR back home in the UK as standard and i’ve had faulty items replaced by some companies (e.g. Apple) after this period. 24 hours or even 3 days is laughable. And as with many aspects of life here, Brazilians don’t complain – they accept this sort of crappy service as second-nature.

    • Hi Tom,

      I’d guess that deep down in some book of law somewhere there’s some rule that states I could get a refund for a faulty product but that I’d have to jump through 15 hoops and hire a lawyer. In several months, and with lots of dedication, I could probably get a final answer (not a positive result, but just an answer).

      As for the headphones, if I send them to New Jersey, Maxwell electronics will check to see if they are faulty and if they so deem, I can get a refund. They aren’t faulty per se, the sound is great, but the product is just badly made.

  3. A few years ago, the C&A Department store gave me a store credit card, run by their bank. When I moved to a city that did not have a C&A within four hundred miles, C&A nonetheless insisted that the only and exclusive way to pay the credit card bill was to pay at the customer service desk inside a C&A store.

    When I did not do so, they reported the past due account to the national credit reporting agency, SERASA/EXPERIAN, thereby forcing me to file a complaint against them with the Brazilian consumer protection agency, named PROCON, in order to restore my good credit.

    My complaint successfully compelled the store to hire a lawyer to attend a hearing in my out-of-the-way city to resolve the dispute, but the company still refused to alter its in-store payment policy, even in the context of the PROCON hearing. They refused to accept payment of the bill, even through their attorney.

    They did agree to halve the amount they said was owed, but clearly their in-store payment policy was part of their overall retail strategy for retaining customer business and they didn’t want to change it. So, I arranged for a friend to make the 50% payment to a C&A store and thereby got my name off of the credit agency’s bad debt list. Going to PROCON served to reduce the debt I had to pay in order to restore my credit, but did not immediately compel the store to change its policy. And I canceled my account to avoid such problems in the future.

    Later, I heard (though I don’t know with certainty) that the store changed its obligatory in-store payment policy and I was glad to have served to inform them that the policy alienated customers.

    Brazilian retailers and others often illegally announce and enforce policies that violate national consumer protection laws, including as concerns returning defective goods. However, there is the official organ designed to intervene in such cases and enforce the provisions of the consumer protection law.

    An online Brazilian consumer protection pamphlet produced by the national governmental consumer protection organ, PROCON, says you have ninety days to complain about a defective product and request that the retailer replace it or refund all or part of the sales price:

    SAIBA QUE VOCÊ TEM DIREITO QUANDO…
    UM PRODUTO VEM COM “DEFEITO” DE
    FABRICAÇÃO

    Se o produto estiver com defeito, a loja tem 30 dias
    para resolver o problema.
    Procure uma assistência técnica. Se nesse prazo o
    “defeito” não for consertado você poderá escolher entre:
    • trocar o produto, ou
    • receber o dinheiro de volta, ou
    • ter um desconto no preço.
    Essas mesmas escolhas o consumidor poderá fazer sem
    esperar os 30 dias para o conserto, caso se trate de
    produto essencial ou se, mesmo consertado, o produto
    tiver seu valor diminuido.14
    F U N D A Ç Ã O P R O C O N – S P
    UM SERVIÇO É MAL PRESTADO
    Você pode escolher que:
    • o serviço seja feito novamente sem qualquer custo, ou
    • receber de volta o valor pago, em dinheiro, ou
    • ter uma desconto no preço pago.
    NÃO ESQUEÇA!
    A nota fiscal é um direito seu e sua maior garantia. Não deixe
    de exigi-la.
    O Termo de Garantia, o manual de instrução e a relação da
    rede de assistências técnicas, em língua portuguêsa, devem
    vir junto com o produto.
    Guarde-os com cuidado!15
    F U N D A Ç Ã O P R O C O N – S P
    PRAZOS PARA RECLAMAR
    Existem prazos para você poder reclamar sobre os “defeitos”
    dos produtos ou serviços fáceis de se notar. Eles são contados
    a partir da compra, do recebimento ou do término dos
    serviços.
    30 (trinta) dias para produtos ou serviços não duráveis.
    Exemplo: alimentos, cabelereiro, etc.
    90 (noventa) dias para produtos ou serviços duráveis.
    Exemplo: sapatos, roupas, eletrodomésticos, móveis, serviços
    de pintura, desentupimentos, etc.
    Se o “defeito” for difícil de se notar (vício oculto), os
    prazos para reclamar começam a ser contados da data em
    que o problema apareceu. Exemplo: ferrugem no forno do
    fogão, etc.
    IMPORTANTE!
    Se você comprar um artigo ou contratar um serviço fora da
    loja, ou seja, na porta de sua casa, pelo telefone, por catálogo
    ou pela internet, você tem o direito de se
    “arrepender” da compra ou da contratação
    do serviço em um prazo de 07 (sete)
    dias, contado a partir da assinatura do
    contrato ou do recebimento do produto
    ou serviço.
    Mas, faça o pedido de cancelamento por
    escrito, guarde uma cópia e devolva o
    produto. Você tem o direito de receber
    de volta tudo o que pagou.

    According to one article on the subject by a PROCON coordinator,

    “Procon significa proteção do Consumidor. É proveniente do DPDC, Departamento de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor, que pertence ao Ministério da Justiça, sediado em Brasília – DF. O Procon é destinado a efetuar a defesa e proteção dos direitos e interesses dos consumidores. É ele que mantém um contato mais direto com os cidadãos e seus pleitos. Podem ser municipais, estaduais e distritais.

    ( . . . )

    O Procon tem poderes legais para convocar o fornecedor a comparecer em audiência, com data e hora agendadas para a busca de um acordo e para o andamento do processo administrativo (arts. 55, §4°, 113 e 117 do CDC c/c art. 33, §2° do Decreto 2.181/97). Após o atendimento individualizado das demandas no Procon, geralmente o processo não é encerrado, porque a solução do conflito não impede a aplicação de multa ao estabelecimento infrator, somente poderão ser aplicadas as atenuantes previstas na legislação consumerista. “

    It seems to me, after a quick look, that the Brazilian Constitution, in its 1990 “Law for Consumers,” SEÇÃO IV, Artigo 26, provides that consumers have ninety days to make an appropriate complaint to retailers about defects in durable goods like electronics, if there isn’t a longer guarantee period.

    When businesses fail to respond appropriately to complaints filed with the businesses, consumers can file complaints against such businesses in small claims court or Procon (respectively “Juizados Especiais de Pequenas Causas e Varas Especializadas para a solução de litígios de consumo “).

    The advantages of Procon are that:

    * The consumer does not need a lawyer,
    * A Procon secretary may help the consumer to formulate the complain, including the facts and the applicable law,
    * The retailer is summoned to a hearing before an alternative dispute resolution (arbitration) hearing officer who attemps to reach an accord that both parties can agree to and them reduce that accord to writing, so that the parties can comply with their obligations under the agreement.
    * Just the cost to the business of sending a representative to the meeting with PROCON might convince some businesses to resolve the dispute with customers.

    The disadvantage of PROCON seems to be that PROCON’s positive function depends on the willingness of both parties to come to an agreement, hopefully in light of applicable consumer protection laws. However, a corporation may have far more power in a dispute because of its size, ability to hire lawyers, and ability to endure long processes, and corporations can refuse to agree to the measures that the consumer requests and/or the PROCON hearing officer recommends, thereby compelling the consumer to either give up, hire a lawyer, or engage in some other type of consumer defense action/strategy.

    A LEI Nº 8.078, DE 11 DE SETEMBRO DE 1990. diz no capítulo SEÇÃO IV, Artigo 26,
    “Da Decadência e da Prescrição” sobre o direito de reclamar:

    “Art. 26. O direito de reclamar pelos vícios aparentes ou de fácil constatação caduca em:

    I – trinta dias, tratando-se de fornecimento de serviço e de produtos não duráveis;

    II – noventa dias, tratando-se de fornecimento de serviço e de produtos duráveis.

    § 1° Inicia-se a contagem do prazo decadencial a partir da entrega efetiva do produto ou do término da execução dos serviços.

    § 2° Obstam a decadência:

    I – a reclamação comprovadamente formulada pelo consumidor perante o fornecedor de produtos e serviços até a resposta negativa correspondente, que deve ser transmitida de forma inequívoca;

    II – (Vetado).

    III – a instauração de inquérito civil, até seu encerramento.”

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