Sony Vaio notebook users should check the small print in their warranties if planning any long-distance trips this summer.
While many major laptop vendors promise to repair laptops as near to the traveller as possible no matter where they are in the world, Sony said laptops bought in Europe can only be mended in Europe.
vnunet.com reader Ian Watson got a shock when he took his Sony Vaio notebook to New Zealand. The laptop stopped working, and when he contacted Sony New Zealand he found that the warranty only covered him in Europe.
Sony confirmed this in an email. "The only way of repairing your Vaio is to do so in Europe. It is a European model and support is limited to that region," said the company.
Watson said he was unimpressed. "If someone goes from the UK to the US or Japan the warranty doesn't cover them. Other notebook manufacturers such as Compaq, Toshiba, Dell and Apple have global warranties - because they recognise that notebooks are mobile," he said.
A spokeswoman for Sony UK said that possible warranty problems boil down to regional differences between model specifications and the newness of the machine. "We don't actually sell the Vaio in New Zealand yet," she said.
"In addition to this, the Vaio is specified slightly differently from country to country. There can also be differences in the software suites provided with each regional variation."
There is good news for some Vaio buyers. "In the UK we would actually look at cases like these on an individual basis to see if we might be able to help," said the spokeswoman. "For example, we may be able to arrange a repair nearby. If someone bought a Vaio in the UK then went to the US, this might be possible."
Calls to other manufacturers confirmed that all notebook buyers should read their warranties carefully when buying these devices. "We give various different warranties with our notebooks, but consumers should check carefully when buying," said a Compaq spokesman.
A Dell representative was more forthcoming. "We offer a number of different Latitude notebook products, aimed at the more high-end business user. These all have three-year international warranties, covering 41 countries around the world where we have a direct presence," he said.
"Anywhere where we don't have a presence the machine could be packed up and sent to the nearest service centre. We find it's important for business users to be able to get warranty cover everywhere."
A spokeswoman for Toshiba UK said the company's laptops have an international warranty, covering 114 territories around the world "from Kampuchea to Burkina Faso and almost everywhere in between!"
"Tajikistan and Tojo are covered too. All you need to do, and it's surprising how many people forget, is to fill in the warranty form when you buy the machine. The broken machine is sent by secure DHL package to the nearest service outlet, and you will get it back within three days," she added.
It's a similar story at Apple. Buyers of the company's new Powerbook are covered by a worldwide warranty, an Apple dealer confirmed. The laptops can be sent to any approved service centre, details of which are available online.
So where does this leave Watson? "My Vaio refuses to boot. I think the hard drive is broken; it just makes this repeated clicking, ticking noise, which I've heard on other PCs with broken hard drives," he said.
"I thought Sony was a worldwide brand - that's one of the reasons why I bought it! I'll not be buying Sony again."
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