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Hewlett-Packard, after being flogged in public, contacted me and replaced my broken laptop that they had earlier claimed was accidentally damaged and not covered by their warranty. I appreciate HP’s willingness to rectify the issue, but there clearly needs to be some improvement on their part — as well as other vendors — in communicating what sort of items are covered under warranty and what is not.

It has been a few weeks since I told my tale of woe and broken laptop screens.

In summary, for those of you who missed it, my wife contacted me on my mobile while I was out shopping and told me the screen on my 13" HP Elitebook was broken — she had adjusted the screen while using it in bed, and through some combination of pressure or torsion due to a slipped thumb, the substrate underneath the glass ruptured and the LCD was damaged. We contacted HP technical support, sent them a digital photograph of the broken screen, and the tech in India made the call to have us send it in as it was deemed to be a warranty repair and it would be no problem.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

A week or so later, I got a voicemail from HP’s national Service Center that the broken screen was considered to be “Accidental Damage” and thus, not covered under warranty. I had the option of having the PC returned to me at my cost, $89.00, unrepaired, or I would have to pay $440.00 to have the screen replaced.

Suffice to say, this made me angry. VERY angry. I really don’t like surprises like that, especially when a vendor backs off on its word to commit to repairing it at their cost and then decides to hold my laptop hostage. So I tore them a new one.

Predictably, I got quite a few emails from HP over the next 24 hours asking me what they could do to rectify the situation. I asked them to honor their initial commitment to repairing the laptop under warranty, which they were happy to do. In fact, they replaced the entire computer with a slightly different and better model of the same series, since they didn’t have the replacement part in stock.

First, I would like to commend HP for owning up to their mistake, and correcting my own personal customer satisfaction issue. But there are a bunch of larger issues that I think need to be addressed. One is that people need to be aware of what they are getting into when they purchase an expensive laptop computer, and the other is clearly an issue of followup and communication that the vendors themselves need to improve, and I’m not just picking on HP here.

Over the course of this experience I got to talking with a bunch of people familiar with HP and the support policies of competing vendors — and the answer was pretty much the same, no matter who I talked to on the subject — they all like to classify broken screens as accidental damage and outside the realm of warranty repair, whether it was due to routine use and wear and tear, excessive/careless treatment or simply, well, an accident.

A reader who shall remain nameless was a former HP service contractor contacted me and let me know that denying regular warranty coverage is a routine practice now: