It was said that it was a free installation, and the result cost 810 yuan

The reporter investigated the chaos in the after-sales installation and maintenance market of home appliances

Reporter Zhang Shoukun

"When I bought it, I didn't say that I would charge for the TV bracket, but I was charged 900 yuan when I installed it. If it's a must-have for installation, why not sell it directly with the TV, or make it clear before you come to install it? Recently, Mr. Jiang from Baoding, Hebei Province, was angry because of the installation of a television.

It is understood that Mr. Jiang placed an order for an LCD TV in the official flagship store of an electrical appliance brand online, and the customer service told him that it could be installed for free, and did not tell him that he would charge additional fees for accessories when installing. As a result, after the installer came to the door, he said that if he wanted to hang the TV on the wall, he must install the original retractable TV bracket, and he needed to pay another 900 yuan. After installation, Mr. Jiang found that the same TV bracket could be bought online for 300 yuan.

In fact, not only is the installation of home appliances hidden in the tricks, but the maintenance of home appliances is also the hardest hit area of random charges. Selling unnecessary accessories at a high price during installation; "minor illness overhaul" during maintenance, false repairs; Door-to-door fees, start-up fees, testing fees and other layers of charges are common, and the various fancy routines of after-sales maintenance of home appliances have caused many consumers a headache: either they can only spend money in vain, or simply do it themselves. The "Analysis of the Acceptance of Complaints by the National Consumer Association in 2022" released by the China Consumer Association mentioned that the installation and maintenance charges for home appliances were chaotic.

Why add money to install for free? Why are paid repair materials more expensive than some appliances? The home appliance installation and maintenance market is in turmoil, how should consumers avoid pits? In this regard, the reporter of "Rule of Law Daily" launched an investigation.

Pre-sale claims free installation

After the door, there are layers of charges

On the evening of August 8, Mr. Wen in Xicheng District, Beijing, purchased a Skyworth range hood priced at 18 yuan from a brand kitchen appliance flagship store on the e-commerce platform, and agreed to install it at the door after receiving the goods.

After the installation master came to the door to measure, he found that the specifications of the range hood purchased by Mr. Wen were not the same as the size reserved, and it could not be installed, because the other party said that the installation was free when consulting customer service earlier, Mr. Wen did not think much, and said sorry to the master and was ready to wait for the replacement range hood to arrive and then let it be installed at the door, but the master did not want to leave: "You have to give me 40 yuan empty running fee." ”

In this regard, Mr. Wen was quite puzzled: "Didn't you say that it was free to install, I didn't install this, why should I charge?" The installation master said impatiently, "Who told you to buy the wrong one, this is your responsibility, you must give me the empty running fee", and asked Mr. Wen to contact customer service himself.

Mr. Wen then asked customer service, but the other party was always vague or even answered; Mr. Wen checked the product page online again, and did not show that if the installation is unsuccessful, the buyer will need to pay the empty running fee. The product details clearly write: the first installation of the range hood is free, if the buyer's installation environmental problems lead to a second visit, the buyer bears the installation cost. Therefore, Mr. Wen refused to pay the "empty running fee", and finally the master sent a voice to his leader in front of him, and the leader said that he should ask the seller for money, and the master left.

That evening, a person claiming to be the manager of a flagship store of a brand of kitchen appliances called Mr. Wen and said that he was willing to bear the empty running fee and bear part of the courier fee caused by the refund. After negotiation, the person in charge finally said that he could bear the courier fee of 150 yuan, and the excess part would be borne by the buyer. But when Mr. Wen sent the courier back, the other party did not answer the phone. The online customer service said that the above-mentioned person in charge did not find this person, and the courier fee needed to be paid by the buyer.

Mr. Yue from Hefei, Anhui Province, has experienced a similar situation.

"The washing machine I bought four years ago suddenly tripped, and then it couldn't be turned on. The after-sales master came to the door to test and said that the motherboard was burned and it would cost 800 yuan to replace the motherboard. Mr. Yue said that considering that he had just bought a new washing machine two days ago, this washing machine was only used to wash some dirty clothes, and the maintenance fee was so expensive that it was better to eliminate it, so he told the master not to repair it. As a result, the master said that he needed to pay a door-to-door fee of 50 yuan, and if he was not willing, he could take the washing machine away to cover the door-to-door fee.

"I don't understand what kind of logic this is, come to the house and take a look at the washing machine and become someone else's? Later, the master called me and said that he could give me a discount of 200 yuan to repair it, but I did not agree. Finally, I spent 60 yuan on the Internet to buy a motherboard and install it myself, and it can be used as soon as it is plugged in, without any technical content at all, and almost spent money in vain. Mr. Yue said.

In August this year, Mr. Zhang in Hedong District, Tianjin, bought a washing machine for infants and toddlers for his child. When consulting customer service, the other party said that it can be installed for free, but some parts need to be charged. "I looked at the price list and it costs 8 yuan for a faucet, and 99 yuan for a two-meter water pipe. On the Internet, these two items only add up to fifty or sixty yuan, so I bought the materials first. Mr. Zhang said.

But what he didn't expect was that when the master came to install it, he told him that if he bought the material himself, he would not be installed for free, and he would need to pay another installation fee. If you buy their materials, you don't have to install them for free without installation fees.

In the investigation, the reporter found that most of the home appliances that need to be installed in life will encounter the phenomenon of "free installation" but charging.

Ms. Wang, a resident of Dongcheng District of Beijing, who just finished the renovation in June, counted the money spent after the "free installation" of her various home appliances: "The electric drying rack is installed for free, because it is installed on an aluminum gusset, so it costs 6 yuan; Gas stove and range hood, free installation, gas pipe short root pipe costs 80 yuan, range hood to open aluminum gusset smoke pipe charge 110 yuan; Water heater installation, everything is at the master's disposal, he said that it was 80 yuan to first install all the pipes except the gas pipe, and the second time to debug the interface gas pipe, he paid another 420 yuan ... Apart from refrigerators, it is almost impossible to find appliances that are truly installed for free. The key is that when shopping online, the customer service says that it is free to install, but the installation master comes to the scene to take a look, and can always find your special situation and various places that are not free. ”

Is it reasonable to charge for a fee that is free to install?

According to Li Jie, a lawyer at Beijing Guantao Zhongmao (Qingdao) Law Firm, according to the Civil Code and the Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, consumers have the right to know the true situation of the goods they purchase or use or the services they receive, and the prices of the goods or services provided by merchants should be clearly marked. Therefore, if the door-to-door free installation service provided by the merchant wants to charge other installation material fees or other service fees beyond the agreement, it should be clearly prompted and informed to the consumer during the sales process or before providing the service, otherwise the consumer can refuse to accept the goods or services.

Ren Chao, a professor at the School of Economic Law of East China University of Political Science and Law, believes that if the "empty running fee" can be notified in advance, then the consumer's consent belongs to the autonomy of both parties, and the contract is valid at the legal level. The collection of door-to-door fees is a market-regulated price, not a government intervention to guide pricing. If the empty running fee is not notified in advance, but the consumer accepts and pays the fee, the "empty running fee" is also a content of the autonomy of both parties in the validity of the contract clause.

Indiscriminate charges are made under clever pretenses

Repairs are more expensive than buying

At the end of July this year, Mr. Wu from Hefei, Anhui Province, bought an air conditioner online with a price of 7,2899 yuan, and after contacting the worker after installation, he said that it was free to install, and the material fee was calculated separately.

"The master didn't say what exactly I needed, and I didn't ask, thinking that the air conditioner was bought, how much money the materials could cost, but I didn't expect that 'free' things were so expensive." Mr. Wu said that the master charged 120 yuan for setting up the shelf, 130 yuan for installing the air conditioner water tray, 120 yuan for installing the anti-power outage socket, 3 meters and 300 yuan for the length of the copper pipe of the air conditioner, 4 meters and 40 yuan for the drainage pipe, and 100 yuan for working at height.

"In the master's mouth, each is a necessity, I don't understand very well, thinking about spending so much money to buy an air conditioner, in the end don't use it because of a little decoration fee, the result is a total of 810 yuan, worth one-third of the price of the air conditioner." Mr. Wu said.

The reporter's investigation found that many netizens reported on social platforms that the business level of some home appliance installation and maintenance platforms is uneven, and there are even situations where there are no relevant qualifications.

Mr. Li, a consumer in Beijing, complained that his home was being renovated and made many appointments with an installation master on an installation service platform. Once made an appointment with an electrician to install the socket, but found that the other party did not have an electrician qualification certificate, and if it was not safe, it would also cost 30 yuan for an empty running fee. "If the master can't install it and only pay the empty running fee, consumers can't evaluate the service; After the installation is completed, the masters will almost always ask for praise in person, because the other party knows their home address and other information, they can only give praise. Mr. Li said.

According to industry insiders, the level of platform maintenance personnel is uneven, including many part-time personnel, using their free time to take orders, regardless of whether they can be repaired well, they can get certain benefits.

The reporter also noticed that when encountering installation and maintenance contradictions and disputes, customer service often plays the role of "peace and sludge", but it is delayed, and the problem can never be solved.

Ren Chao said that in general, customer service is the employee responsible for connecting the company and the consumer within the maintenance company, and is obliged to resolve disputes between the consumer and the installation master and maintenance master. The delay in customer service to solve the problem may be due to the passive work of the customer service staff, or lack of experience or ability to solve related matters, or it may be due to the guidance of the customer service department or maintenance company. In the long run, maintenance companies that do not provide good service will eventually be eliminated by market competition, so customer service actively assumes responsibility not only for its own work, but also for the company, and it is an important part of the long-term development of its company.

Why is the installation and maintenance of home appliances always chaotic?

Chen Yinjiang, deputy secretary-general of the Consumer Rights Protection Law Research Association of the China Law Society, believes that first of all, it is because the industry management is not standardized, the quality of personnel is uneven, and the sense of service is not strong; Secondly, the nature of home appliance maintenance problems is not easy to define, and it is difficult for ordinary consumers to determine whether the product is really a problem, or it is difficult to determine the severity of the problem, and it is often the maintenance personnel who have the final say. In addition, the maintenance of home appliances generally involves not much money, it is too difficult to provide evidence for rights protection, and the cost of rights protection is too high, so many consumers often consider themselves unlucky when they encounter problems, thus conniving at the violations of some maintenance institutions and maintenance personnel.

In Ren Chao's view, this is because there is an information barrier between consumers and maintenance workers. "Consumers usually call to put forward maintenance needs, intermediaries register and contact the repair company, and the maintenance company sends personnel to provide door-to-door service, and consumers have a passive position in receiving information for most of the content during the whole process." Ren Chao said.

Improve service complaint mechanisms

Guide the development of industry norms

How to solve the problem of confusing after-sales installation charges for home appliances?

The reporter noted that in response to the chaos of home appliance maintenance, consumer associations in many places have taken action, and the Hubei Provincial Consumer Commission recently jointly announced the list of 2023 home appliance repair and after-sales service outlets in the province in 180; Last year, the Jiangsu Provincial Consumer Rights Protection Commission announced the launch of the "Home Appliance Maintenance Less Worry" home appliance after-sales guarantee plan.

Recently, the Consumer Protection Commission of Zhejiang Province focused on interviewing 58 enterprises including, Woodpecker, Swan Home, in place, Baidu, and UC on the problems found in the investigation. At the meeting, the Consumer Protection Commission of Zhejiang Province reported the chaos of online housekeeping services found by the inspection and put forward suggestions for rectification. By the time limit, all 9 enterprises involved in the inspection had submitted rectification reports. According to the relevant person in charge of the Zhejiang Provincial Consumer Protection Commission, the rectification plans submitted by various enterprises have rectified the problems in accordance with the requirements, and there has been obvious progress in "minor illness overhaul", "opaque charging rules", "false publicity" and "non-standard services".

In Chen Yinjiang's view, in order to standardize the home appliance installation and maintenance market, the brand owner should attach importance to its own brand image, establish and improve the after-sales service mechanism and service channels, continuously improve service capabilities and service standards, ensure the funds of maintenance personnel or after-sales entrusted agencies, and ensure that consumers are provided with reliable after-sales service; Second, relevant industry organizations should establish and improve industry service standard systems, guide industry creditworthiness and self-discipline, and standardize development.

"Regulatory authorities should intensify the investigation and crackdown on home appliance maintenance behaviors that violate laws and regulations or harm the legitimate rights and interests of consumers, and include some enterprises that have long provided search advertising platforms or business support for illegal maintenance institutions into the scope of supervision according to law, and truly strengthen supervision from the source." Chen Yinjiang said.

"If consumers do encounter unreasonable charges, they should collect evidence in a timely manner, such as charging vouchers and officially announced charging standards, and negotiate with the maintenance agency or brand." If the negotiation fails, you can complain to the consumer association or the administrative department and request mediation; If mediation cannot be resolved, rights can also be protected according to law by applying for arbitration or filing a lawsuit in court. Chen Yinjiang said that at the same time, it is hoped that home appliance brands can cherish their own brands, inform the charges of accessories when selling home appliances, and publicly mark the price of accessories on the official website or service manual, and the official after-sales or designated after-sales must be charged in strict accordance with the published price, otherwise it should be dealt with according to random charges.

Ren Chao believes that the most important means to solve the chaos of maintenance charges is to enhance transparency, specifically the work process and charging price are all open and transparent. The workflow and charging price shall be notified in advance and the consent of consumers shall be sought before repair.

"With the development of digital industrialization, relevant departments guide and the public to spontaneously establish a home appliance maintenance related platform, and home appliance maintenance workers carry out real-name registration. The platform can use the scoring system, anonymous consumer reviews and other methods to promote maintenance companies and their employees to provide consumers with relatively high-quality and low-cost maintenance services. Ren Chao said. (Rule of Law Daily)