Microsoft Surface Warranty Criticized in China After Apple Woes

Microsoft Corp.’s after-sales service of its Surface tablet has attracted criticism from China’s state-owned radio, following similar reports in the past month targeting Apple Inc.

The Surface Pro should follow the nation’s law requiring notebook computers to have a one-year repair warranty for the whole device and a two-year warranty for main parts, as compared with the company’s one-year pledge for both, China National Radio reported yesterday. Joanna Li, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Microsoft, said she couldn’t immediately comment on the report today.

The criticism by China National Radio may be the opening shot against the world’s largest software maker, similar to what Apple faced in the past month, said Doug Young, author of the book “The Party Line: How the Media Dictates Public Opinion in Modern China.” After a March 15 report by China Central Television criticized Apple’s customer service, the People’s Daily published more than a dozen articles on the subject.

“It sounds potentially worrisome; it looks a copycat of the whole Apple thing,” Young said. China National Radio “is trying to jump on the same bandwagon,” he said.

Most western companies already provide much better after-sales service than Chinese companies, Young said.

Apple Apology

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook apologized to Chinese consumers on April 2 after two weeks of being lambasted by state-run media for arrogance and poor customer service. China shouldn’t loosen regulations on Apple because of that apology, the People’s Daily said yesterday.

Pan Yi, a reporter at China National Radio, said the station looked into the story after listeners complained about Microsoft’s after-sales policies.

“Our story is not really related to CCTV’s Apple story,” Pan said in a phone interview. “A lot of foreign companies are not very familiar with China’s after-sales policies.”

Microsoft began selling Surface tablets in China in October and made its first global sale in Beijing as the Redmond, Washington-based company tried to win favor with local consumers tired of waiting months for access to the latest Apple products, which are sold in the U.S. first.

In the March 15 report, the state broadcaster said the owners of Volkswagen AG’s cars in China have reported instances of abnormal vibrations, loss of power and sudden acceleration. The problems are related to the direct-shift gearbox system, it said in its program marking World Consumer Rights Day. Volkswagen said at the time it will contact the involved customers and make any necessary repairs.

China’s quality watchdog introduced laws this year allowing the government to order investigations and impose fines should manufacturers and importers fail to recall faulty vehicles in a timely manner.

— With assistance by Edmond Lococo, and Lulu Chen

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