Nokia Australia to answer defect mobile claims

The NSW department of Fair Trading has begun preliminary investigations into allegations that Nokia Australia has been selling mobile handsets with faulty LCD displays.

SYDNEY--The NSW department of Fair Trading has begun preliminary investigations into allegations that Nokia Australia has been selling mobile handsets with faulty LCD displays.

"The Department of Fair Trading is aware of some disquiet among consumers as a result of suggestions that Nokia LCD display panels may be faulty," said Wayne Watson, who spoke on behalf of the Department's director of compliance and standards, Chris Hanlon.

"We have been looking into it to identify what the problems are and we'll be meeting with representatives of Nokia early next week," he added.

As reported earlier, Nokia has long battled allegations that the LCD display panel incorporated into its phones carries inherent design faults, causing the screen to fail prematurely.

In one report, a former employee of Nokia Australia seemed to back the allegations that were first put forward by disgruntled Nokia 8210 owners; these allegations were supported by employees of independent handset service centres and carriage service providers.

Comments from Melbourne-based IT Manager, Martin Curlis, are typical of those received since the first report.

"I bought 18 Nokia 8210s in December last year and I had to return five of them not long after because the wires connecting the hands-free socket to the base of the phone were never connected properly. Subsequently I have sent seven phones back to have their LCD screens fixed," he said. "If this is 'no more than usual' I will be certain never to buy a Nokia again."

In the most recent report, a former employee of a large carriage service provider said that the LCD display's problems had become a source of humor among members of the mobile industry, the joke heard regularly at events held by Nokia.

Nokia has consistently claimed that it is unaware of the alleged problem, and explains the seemingly high incidence of failure among the phones as a natural consequence of having a large market share.

"Based on our volumes the problem is not widespread," said Nokia corporate affairs manager, Anthony Wilson in an earlier interview. The company's claim contradicts a statement made by the former Nokia employee who said that the company has been aware of the alleged defect, which affects a wide range of the handsets manufactured since it retired the Nokia 2110 about six years ago.

When contacted, Nokia described the upcoming meeting with the NSW consumer watchdog as nothing unusual. "Obviously a company of Nokia¡¦s size has many meetings with government departments," said Wilson.

The company declined to provide details on how regularly the company conducts meetings with government departments that perform functions comparable to that of Fair Trading.

The mobile phone manufacturer has also consistently refused to reveal the number of its handsets that have been returned to service centres due to LCD or other apparent engineering problems.

The Department of Fair Trading could not provide further details regarding the meeting but said it would make further public disclosures after it had taken place.

Staff writer Andrew Colley reported from Sydney.

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