Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Call the police!

Making someone pay for a new logic board, and installing a patched up oldie instead fits the legal definition of a scam, so I decided to report my problem with Apple to the police.

The front desk officer glanced through my case and decided he did not have time for me, and asked me to make an appointment for a date later that week.

When I returned a few days later, a female officer apologized for the miscommunication, and told me she was not going to file my complaint, as this was a matter of civil law. I explained to her, once more, that taking someone's money for a product which is never installed is a clear case of a scam, so I asked her for the second time to file my complaint. She refused again, this time with the argument I could not prove anything, after which I explained that this is not required for reporting a crime. I asked her a third time to file my complaint, after which she refused, because the prosecutor would dismiss my case anyways. I repeated my arguments but the lady would not budge, so I gave up and went home to prepare further steps.

I learnt that the Dutch police is legally obliged to file a complaint (Code of Criminal Procedure, article 163) and the proper way to handle this is to file a complaint with the police, and to report the issue with the prosecutor's office, so that is what I did. My complaint was responded to by a standard letter and a phone call, and a few weeks later I was invited to report my case.

During my third visit a complaint against MacCity, MicroFix and Apple Inc. was filed, after which I went home with a fancy folder with the report. A few weeks later I received a letter which told me that my case was dismissed, as it was a matter of civil law. When I reread the report, I realized the crux of my case was not worded properly, as it merely suggested the new logic board was non-conform, so I reported once more to the police station to file an addendum.

As usual, the front desk officers did not have time, and this time they were not even willing to make an appointment: I had to contact them through a paid phone number. When I finally got in front of the queue, I got my appointment, and reported to the police for the fifth time.

This time, I was met at the front desk by the lady who had initially refused to file my case. She did not wear her police uniform, and immediately opened fire: she thought I had understood her and found it low that I had filed a complaint against her anyways. I tried to explain I had understood her, but did not agree with her, had asked her three time to file a complaint, that she had refused three times, which was for me a reason to try other channels, but the lady was not really interested in my defense. She barked "THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE SCREAMED: 'DON'T DO THIS TO ME! I DEMAND YOU TO FILE MY COMPLAINT NOW'." I fruitlessly tried to explain this is not my style of arguing, but the woman had already reverted to scream-only mode. I filed my addendum with a colleague of hers, and have not heard of it ever since.

This week, I read that Dutch crime rate is grossly underestimated, because the Dutch are no longer taking the effort to report crime: the bulk of all crimes reported is ignored by the police. It looks like the Dutch police has disintegrated into an introverted organization which is interested in itself only. The future of this country is that of a Mad Max desert where every man solves his own problems. Well, at least this means problems are solved.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Klachtenkompas complaint

I spent a couple of postings about the worrisome state of consumer rights in The Netherlands, and the way Apple cs. makes clever use of this to takes people's money. One of the steps I have not mentioned yet, is registering a complaint with Klachtenkompas, a site of the Consumentenbond.

Klachtenkompas promotes itself as a facility where you can issue a complaint, after which the relevant company takes action to solve your problem. As is often the case, reality is less idyllic: Klachtenkompas simply forwards your complaint, and relays the company's response, if any, back to you. Companies like Apple, which is expert in ignoring customer complaints, typically ignore emails from Klachtenkompas, so you might as well trash the complaint yourself: Klachtenkompas takes no action at all.

I did complain about Klachtenkompas itself, as its website is misleading, but the Consumentenbond, who is all too eager to publicly scold companies for ignoring complaints, remained silent. One employee mentioned that she seemed to remember about revamping the site, and her colleagues might choose to reword the relevant phrases, but she was not clear about a time frame in which things were going to be fixed. Six months after, nothing had changed.

I took it one step further, and registered a complaint with the Stichting Reclame Code (SRC), a Dutch institute which sees to it that commercials and advertisements conform to the rules as recorded in the Nederlandse Reclame Code. The SRC protocol allows the defendant to respond to the complaint, as well as the plaintiff to respond to that response, so the procedure took a while.

The Consumentenbond defended itself by referring to its terms of use, where they state that a successful solution cannot be guaranteed. In my response, I stressed this is a little weak for an organization that has more than once reprimanded companies for hiding aggravating conditions in their small print.

The SRC declared my complaint founded, and advised the Consumentenbond to stop promoting their Klachtenkompas in the contested wording (File 2016/00841 ). Although, the SRC is not authorised to issue a verdict with binding force, or to impose a penalty, its verdicts are usually seen as authoritative.

The Consumentenbond changed the Klachtenkompas site the same day, which lead to user complaints about inaccessible accounts and complaints disappearing. It shows all the signs of a haphazard redesign, with the cheap slogan "Met klachtenkompas sta je sterker" ("You are stronger with klachtenkompas"). It looks tongue-in-cheek but, as far as I can tell, does not break any rules of conduct.