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Does importing a phone from China lead to customer service hell?

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#1
James Norton

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I recently became the MoDaCo guinea pig when the iOcean X7 phone I ordered from Chinese retailer BuySKU proved to be faulty. This was the first time I had ordered a phone through BuySKU and I was very pleased with the price (approx £130 delivered) and then even more pleased when the phone arrived 5 days earlier than BuySKU had estimated. Using their free delivery service, I had the phone just 12 days after ordering. This may seem like a long time to wait, but you can pay for faster delivery options.

When a strange looking package arrived I knew immediately what it was and quickly opened it up to see just what the X7 was like. How good could a £130 phone with a 5 inch full HD IPS screen, quad core CPU and 8 megapixel camera really be? As I opened the fairly standard phone box, my only disappointment was that the 2000mAh battery seemed quite physically large for its capacity. The plastics used to construct the phone seemed to be ok, the screen was very pleasant and once I had installed the latest firmware, the whole device was reasonably responsive too.

After about an hour of setting up the phone how I like it, I received my first phone call and this is when everything went downhill. The person on the other end couldn't hear me. I quickly plugged in a headset and made the call fine. After some experimentation, it became clear that the microphone on my X7 was broken. I couldn't be heard on calls and recording some eerily silent videos confirmed the worst. The phone was faulty.

With a sinking heart and the assumption that my £130 spent on this rather nice device would be wasted I emailed BuySKU to see what they would say. BuySKU use their own email system which is accessed from their website and works fine. It allows you to upload images and write quite long emails.

Not knowing what to expect, I went to bed that night feeling somewhat numb. I got a surprisingly good nights sleep and woke up full of hope. I grabbed my Nexus 7 - a constant companion at my bedside to the chagrin of my wife - and saw an email from BuySKU! They had apparently assigned my case to Betty who asked me in slightly broken English to make a video demonstrating the issue. It took me two attempts to make it clear enough for Betty to accept that the X7 was broken, but given how poorly I demonstrated the problem first time around, I will let her off. Here is the final video I made:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oBB7RnMweU


The morning after making this video, I awoke to find my now daily email from Betty, this time asking me to return the X7 by the cheapest method possible. So I packed it up and off I went to the post office. £15 later the package was on its way back to China. And the waiting game begun again.

It took an agonising 17 days for the X7 to arrive back with BuySKU, but eventually Betty confirmed with me that they had the phone, had verified the issue and were now going to take action. Betty said that BuySKU do not refund the postage costs when returning items, but they do give store credit instead which I felt was reasonable. This left me with four options:

1. Accept a replacement X7 and use the £15 credit in any way I liked
2. Choose any other product to the value of the X7 plus the credit
3. Take a refund of the cost of the X7 and use the £15 credit in any way I liked
4. Top up the credit for the X7 and the postage to buy a more expensive product

Being obsessed with the latest and greatest in mobile tech, I spotted that BuySKU were now listing the iOcean X7 Elite. This is an upgraded version of the X7 with 2Gb of RAM and a faster processor as well as a camera with a higher megapixel count. I asked Betty to create me an order for that plus a larger spare battery which she did and once I paid the difference I got a new order confirmation from BuySKU. Unfortunately the X7 Elite hadn't been released, so I waited about a week for it to become available at which time I got a shipping confirmation. At the time of writing, my X7 Elite is still in China but is being processed.

Ultimately, BuySKU have provided good service. Every time I have emailed them, they have responded same business day but obviously Chinese time. This is excellent. Despite not having English as a first language, the staff at BuySKU seemed to always understand my messages and they always responded with language that was clear enough to be understood and unambiguous.

But it has not all been entirely positive. When my return of the original X7 reached BuySKU, a delivery was attempted and supposedly no-one was available to sign for the package. This seems odd for a business and I had to email BuySKU to prompt them to collect the package. They did this the next day, but I don't know what would have happened had I not prompted them. It may have all been fine and the package may have been re-delivered the next day anyway, I will never know. While waiting for my X7 Elite to come into stock I had to keep prompting BuySKU for updates. They always responded to my queries in a timely manner, but again I will never know how much longer I may have had to wait had I not been chasing them.

The lesson I have learnt from this is that BuySKU do offer good customer service for product returns, but I would stay on top of the process and chase them just to be sure. It is very hard dealing with these issues over such a large distance and without the support of EU sales legislations to protect you, but I think the risk is probably worth taking in this case.

Keep an eye out for our full review of the X7 Elite, coming soon.

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#2
Dan Mullen

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Good article, thanks for the info. I'm happy with my Vowney V5 and Cube U30GT2 purchases from Merimobiles, although I haven't had to call on their customer services yet. That said, I did chat to one of their support reps briefly to ask questions about delivery and I was satisfied with the response I received.

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#3
GraviticVortex

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You guys in UK are lucky that you get phones ordered from China at all.
Here, in our little corner of Europe customs instantly sends back most of them, mostly due lack or fake CE nad Rohs certificates.
That includes popular phones like most Zopo models, JiaYu G3/G4 and Sege XYZ-X1 which is currently advertised right here.
In fact i ordered the Sege after Paul got his, and it was sent back. As far as customer service goes, i contacted seller , they promised to reply in 2 days, but never did, so i sent couple more e-mails and finally placed claim with Paypal. After waiting for 6 weeks, i got my money back today. So i can consider myself lucky.

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#4
RussellS

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I think that is one of the risks you take when buying a phone from China. You are not protected by European laws. Having said that I have bought two Chinese phones this year from Etotalk.com and cannot fault the service they provide. I haven't had to return anything but I have had a need to email their customer services and I have had a very helpful response back the same working day allowing for time difference.

Also, bearing in mind that having received the phone and verifying everything is working correctly, within a couple of hours I have rooted it, installed a custom recovery and possibly loaded an updated or custom rom so I have probably invalidated the warranty anyway so worrying about whether I can return the phone in three months time if it develops a fault is immaterial.

Basically, if you want piece of mind and the security of a warranty then you pay the higher price and purchase a phone locally. However, if you want a high spec phone at a low price then you have to be prepared to take a few risks.

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#5
James Norton

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Good news to all readers of this post. My iOcean X7 Elite has arrived. Really quick service from BuySKU and the postal system this time.

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#6
dino_mk

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Great info, thanks.
I just wonder abouth possibility to open the phone and check the contacts of the microphone or replacing it. Should be less than £15 minus weeks of waiting and nerves.

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#7
glossywhite

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Unless you enjoy the high potential for hassle, give China a miss for expensive items - been there, done that, won't return.

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#8
FlatPackPete

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Bought a THL W100 from BuySKU and they were pretty faultless and sent the phone out in good time. All in it took just over 2 weeks to arrive and most of that was due to it being stuck in customs as they try to figure out how much import tax to charge me. The phone is great and my daughter loves it.
As for customer service, I only e-mailed once and they got back to me in about 8 hours which is a lot quicker then the 3 days it took Parcel Force in the UK to reply!

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#9
The Soup Thief

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Seems things are improving since the bad old days of ordering one thing and receiving another (and that being broken). An sure there's still bad experiences to be had, but plenty of good too. Like anything, you pay your money, you take your chance. Just if ordering from China you pay a lot less for a bit more risk. What a dull world it would be if we all did the same

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#10
DaveSimonH

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Good to see the X7 Elite arrive so quick, will be interesting to see what you think of it in your review.

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