Improvements Urged for Product Quality and Maintenance Services of Electronic Locks Product Malfunction and Lack of Customer Support Leave Consumers in Despair

13 January 2021
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电子门锁质素和维修促改善  失灵求助无门堪狼狈

The keyless feature of electronic locks offers convenience to users, they have become more and more popular in modern smart homes. However, among the complaint cases on electronic locks received by the Consumer Council, many involved product malfunctions and poor after-sales services, including defects occurred within the warranty period. A complainant was locked out of her home in the wee hours while another was trapped inside her own home as the door was locked from outside but the traders were unresponsive to follow up the problems. Since the door lock is at the forefront of household security, the Council reminds consumers to pay particular attention not only to the quality of the product, but also the warranty and service terms and conditions before purchasing electronic locks so as to ensure appropriate and prompt maintenance services in case of lock malfunction.

Case 1: Helpless for Malfunction of Newly-Purchased Electronic Code Lock in Wee Hours

The complainant bought an electronic lock from Company A with installation service included at a cost of $4,100. The 2-year warranty included on-site repair service for the first year. A week after installation, the complainant, who lived alone, left home at midnight for discarding rubbish. Upon return, she entered the password but failed to open the door. With nobody inside the apartment, the complainant had no choice but asked her friend to send a text message to Company A to seek help. After failing to receive any response from the company for nearly half an hour, the complainant then had to call a locksmith via her friend and re-entered her home with a locksmith service costing $1,200.     

The complainant contacted Company A the next day but the staff refused to take any follow-up action on the grounds that the problem had already been solved. The complainant found out later that the electronic lock was in fact a parallel import but this was never mentioned by the staff of Company A. The complainant demanded a refund from Company A and the reimbursement of $1,200 for the locksmith fee but received no response. After the Council’s conciliation, Company A agreed to refund $3,280 after deducting the installation labour cost. The complainant accepted the offer and the case was resolved.

Case 2: For a Malfunctioned Electronic Lock Still Charged Over $1,000 Maintenance Fee Within Warranty Period

The complainant purchased an electronic fingerprint lock at a cost of $2,900 with a 2-year warranty. The lock malfunctioned 7 months after installation. The repair technician from the maintenance agent Company B claimed that the motherboard was damaged because of battery leakage and because the damage was caused by environmental factor that was not covered by the warranty, the complainant had to pay $1,150 for the inspection service and replacement of spare parts. However, the complainant later discovered that there was no trace of leakage in the original battery case nor the battery and suspected that Company B evaded its responsibility on the warranty and used it as a pretext to charge him a maintenance fee. The complainant demanded a refund but was rejected.    

Despite follow-up actions taken by the Council, Company B insisted that no refund would be made, quoting the user manual that batteries should be replaced every 6 to 9 months. The complainant made no further request after the Council relayed Company B’s reply to him.

Case 3: Door Locked from Outside Due to False Alarm Leaving Tenant Trapped in the Apartment

 The complainant spent $3,800 to install an electronic lock. 4 months later, the lock emitted a short burst of alarm sounds without reason and the keypad also did not operate smoothly. An appointment was then made with the maintenance agent Company C to conduct an on-site maintenance check. On the eve of inspection, the lock emitted alarm sounds for no reason again when the complainant opened the door. After the complainant entered the house, the door was locked automatically from outside and she could not open it by herself and thus called the maintenance agent for emergency repair. The repair technician turned up and helped to open the door. After inspection with spare parts replaced, it was alleged that the malfunction was attributed to the faulty connection of the parts.

The complainant claimed that she had no idea that the lock had an automatic locking mode and suspected that the product was of inferior quality. Company C refuted that the complainant had improperly operated the lock and thus refused to refund. The complainant sought assistance from the Council to demand Company C to replace the electronic lock with another model. After the Council’s conciliation, Company C replied that the repair technician was dispatched promptly to handle the issue on-site upon emergency notice and did not levy any charge regardless of whether the issue was due to human factor. Company C admitted that the false alarm was a result of faulty connection, but the issue had already been rectified while the auto-locking was due to improper operation. Although the complainant refused to accept the offer of replacing the lock with another model at a discounted price, Company C stated that they would not consider alternative solutions.

When choosing and using electronic locks, consumers should pay heed to the following:

  • Apart from the designs and functions of the product, one should also take note of whether on-site maintenance and basic unlocking service are included in the warranty;
  • Proactively inquire about installation details. Individual brands might require installation by commissioned dealers for any warranty to be granted. Should consumers handle it by themselves or task someone else to install the lock, they must make sure the job is done according to the manual to ensure normal operation;
  • The electronic parts and batteries of electronic locks could be affected by humidity and huge temperature difference. Pay attention to whether the lock is installed in a location that could get damp easily. Avoid cleaning the lock with water or wet cloth;   
  • Regularly inspect and replace the batteries according to the manual. Don’t use new batteries with old ones which might cause electrolyte leakage and damage to the lock subsequently; 
  • Some electronic locks have backup keys available. As a contingency measure, consumers should always keep backup keys with themselves during the initial stage after installation or while they are still familiarizing themselves with the lock;
  • The elderly and children may not be able to memorize passwords, or their fingerprint ridges are too shallow to be detected by the electronic locks. The alarm will sound in case of repeated failed login attempts or unrecognized fingerprints. For families with children and elderly, they ought to choose the appropriate type of lock according to their family’s needs.

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