Laptop Warranties and Accidental Damage Coverage: What You Need to Know

Laptop Warranties and Accidental Damage Coverage: What You Need to Know

Summary: Hewlett-Packard, after being flogged in public, contacted me and replaced my broken laptop that they had earlier claimed was accidentally damaged and not covered by their warranty. I appreciate HP's willingness to rectify the issue, but there clearly needs to be some improvement on their part -- as well as other vendors -- in communicating what sort of items are covered under warranty and what is not.


Hewlett-Packard, after being flogged in public, contacted me and replaced my broken laptop that they had earlier claimed was accidentally damaged and not covered by their warranty. I appreciate HP's willingness to rectify the issue, but there clearly needs to be some improvement on their part -- as well as other vendors -- in communicating what sort of items are covered under warranty and what is not.

It has been a few weeks since I told my tale of woe and broken laptop screens.

In summary, for those of you who missed it, my wife contacted me on my mobile while I was out shopping and told me the screen on my 13" HP Elitebook was broken -- she had adjusted the screen while using it in bed, and through some combination of pressure or torsion due to a slipped thumb, the substrate underneath the glass ruptured and the LCD was damaged. We contacted HP technical support, sent them a digital photograph of the broken screen, and the tech in India made the call to have us send it in as it was deemed to be a warranty repair and it would be no problem.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

A week or so later, I got a voicemail from HP's national Service Center  that the broken screen was considered to be "Accidental Damage" and thus, not covered under warranty. I had the option of having the PC returned to me at my cost, $89.00, unrepaired, or I would have to pay $440.00 to have the screen replaced.

Suffice to say, this made me angry. VERY angry. I really don't like surprises like that, especially when a vendor backs off on its word to commit to repairing it at their cost and then decides to hold my laptop hostage. So I tore them a new one.

Predictably, I got quite a few emails from HP over the next 24 hours asking me what they could do to rectify the situation. I asked them to honor their initial commitment to repairing the laptop under warranty, which they were happy to do. In fact, they replaced the entire computer with a slightly different and better model of the same series, since they didn't have the replacement part in stock.

First, I would like to commend HP for owning up to their mistake, and correcting my own personal customer satisfaction issue. But there are a bunch of larger issues that I think need to be addressed. One is that people need to be aware of what they are getting into when they purchase an expensive laptop computer, and the other is clearly an issue of followup and communication that the vendors themselves need to improve, and I'm not just picking on HP here.

Over the course of this experience I got to talking with a bunch of people familiar with HP and the support policies of competing vendors -- and the answer was pretty much the same, no matter who I talked to on the subject -- they all like to classify broken screens as accidental damage and outside the realm of warranty repair, whether it was due to routine use and wear and tear, excessive/careless treatment or simply, well, an accident.

A reader who shall remain nameless was a former HP service contractor contacted me and let me know that denying regular warranty coverage is a routine practice now:


I understand you pain and anger!!

I worked for a service provider that was HP certified for servicing HP equipment and what I read in your article, "Sitting Shiva for my Dead laptop" is typical for HP service centers.

I can honestly say that from my years experience servicing HP PC's, HP will label anything that looks like your bad display, "user damage" and not cover it under warranty. I think it's their way of "cutting costs" by looking at the display and assuming you dropped the laptop or broke it. Even working with HP, it was very frustrating to get their service depots to acknowledge a simple customer service axiom, "give the customer the benefit of the doubt "and warranty the repair (first time). They don't get the concept of customer loyalty.

For those of you at the ready who will say "But Applecare is the best!" I direct you to our own Tom Foremski's recent experience with a broken screen on his Macbook Pro.

With the slowing economy PC vendors are trying to cut their costs wherever they can. Much like health insurance companies which deal with large volumes of claims that they will routinely deny as elective procedures and such, they will deny warranty claims if they can get out of it, because equipment is no longer made like it used to be made, parts are failing much more frequently and people are subjecting their systems, particularly their notebooks and laptops, to more and more routine stresses that a desktop would normally never see or even laptops 10 years ago ever saw.

To be fair to the OEMs like HP, their customers go into Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts and spill coffee on their systems, they bang them around when they travel, they get moved around and smacked about constantly, et cetera. So it's not uncommon for expensive component items like these super-thin LCD screens to break even from routine use.

One of the folks I had a very productive conversation about this subject with at HP was their designated "Customer Advocate" at the national support center in Denver. He's the person of last resort when customers go off the deep end -- the man has to deal with a lot of extremely angry and irate people. He must be a saint or at the very least, enjoy the punishment. He'd prefer not to be named, but you can probably figure out who he his.

HP's Customer Advocate agrees that surprises are definitely a bad thing, and HP is going to try not to repeat what happened to me in the future and there will be more up-front communication to a customer about coverage and they will strive for better coordination between their US-based service and Indian call centers. I certainly hope they follow through with this because I really would not like to see what happened to me continue to happen to other HP customers.

The biggest takeaway I got with my conversation with HP's customer guy on the inside -- who honestly is one of the nicest guys in the world and has the most calming voice I have ever heard -- is that if you are going to spend serious cash on a laptop computer, you probably want to think about buying Accidental Damage Protection for it. In the case of a $1400.00 Elitebook, I was looking at around $289 for an all-inclusive policy. When a screen repair goes for $440.00, or an entire mainboard needs to be replaced due to an unexpected green tea chai latte tsunami in your cube, or the when the hulking TSA security guy-cum-gorilla at the airport mishandles your prized toy at the Rapiscan, this gives you peace of mind.

For consumer HP laptops, a 3-year Accidental Damage Protection Plan which includes spill and drop coverage is $350. You can also buy 1-year and 2-year plans. Similarly priced plans for Business/Enterprise laptops are also available.

Likewise, both Dell (see site) and Lenovo (see site) have similar coverage plans.

[EDIT: thanks readers for clarification] Apple (see site) has Applecare plans which extend coverage beyond regular warranty terms into additional years, but apparently they do not offer Accidental Damage coverage to the extent of the other two Tier 1 PC vendors.

Does your laptop have Accidental Damage Protection? Have you ever made use of it? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Yes it does have that

    As I view a Laptop as a product that is susceptable to outside influences as a vehicle is.

    It does not matter how careful and protective you are, The unit is out of your control at places like the airport.

    At a Starbucks, all it takes for a 1,500 dollar laptop to become a bookend is some hyperactive kid to knock it off the table, or a clumsy patron spilling their drink over it a he tries to squeeze past other patrons or displays at the location.

    And yes, I have had to use it. An impropperly setup table at a function I was attending colapsed, an of course the lovely centerpiece had to have it's fall cushioned by my laptop :)
    • Computer Warranty Links

      If your computer device breaks down after buying it this holiday season, find the brand's warranty status page at:
  • My Dell laptop does

    I bought my (personal) Dell XPS M1710 with accidental damage, and I also purchase all my company's laptops with AD. I've seen too many water incidents to know it's worth the little extra. Thankfully, my home laptop hasn't had a need for it, but I know the work ones have.

    I'm even ready to get AD on my iPod Touch from Best Buy (though, I'm not sure if it's worth it, for $70...anyone know if BB's AD coverage is worth it?)
    WoW > Work
    • about best buy AD

      All I can do is give you my run-down on Best Buy's AD coverage, and that is, if I ever do buy anything again at BB, I certainly will NOT pay for AD coverage with them. We bought an x-box 360 several years ago for the kids for x-mas. It quit reading discs this past summer. I took to BB, they were going to exchange it for a new one (which comes w/ a bigger HDD which hey, coool!). But then they started giving me some spiel about how the serial on the receipt did not match the serial on the box and so we had obviously were trying to pull a fast one on them. We had to call the national CS number to get it worked out, took about 3 weeks for them to send us a BB card for the original purchase price + tax (which, BTW, was also more than what a new 360 costs today - so we came out ahead both ways). I just didn't like being made to feel I was the bad guy cause they screwed up their numbers somehow.

      • Not BBYs fault they could have been nicer

        I understand your problem but you have to see that this type of thing happens all the time they are just trying to protect themselves and their bottom line. Is this right? Yes and no, they could have been a lot nicer and explained this which it sounds like they did but at the same time not treat you like a criminal when they saw the unit was broke. The CSRs are only so bright so you have to give them very little leeway with customers (I had a CSR return a Hard drive one time that was just a box of rocks, or the Entertainment system we didn't even sell) so that is why you were told what you were told. I don't work for BBY anymore but I just wanted you to see the other side of the story so you understand why the CSR and BBY acted the way they did.

        I also had a similar experience with Walmart, I bought a portable DVD player that was supposed to be a Philips opened it up and it was some off brand, I tried to return it and was told that there was no way it could have been the other unit because they come in plastic anti-theft cases and I removed it (which I didn't do there never was one) so they would not return it. The manager even went as far as threatening to call the police on me and having me arrested for trying to return the merch.

        So it happens both ways it is unfortunate that people will rip off retailers that they have to do this.
  • Apple does not offer accidental damage coverage..

    None of the AppleCare service plans offered will cover you for damage "due to an unexpected green tea chai latte tsunami in your cube, or the when the hulking security guy-cum-gorilla at the airport mishandles your prized toy at the Rapiscan". What's worse is that you will be forced to pay a lot more than that $400 if the screen breaks (as Tom Foremski learned in his post that you linked to in your article).

    There are some Apple dealers that will offer this coverage themselves, but this is completely separate from Apple and will require claims to be processed through them directly.
    • Really?

      I thought that was the entire POINT of Applecare. Why else would you need it when the regular warranty covers normal component breakdown?
      • Yep...

        AppleCare provides the following:
        1) Extends the warranty period from 1 year to 3 years
        2) Extends Phone support from 90 days to 3 years
        3) Provides international coverage for portables
        4) Provides on-site service for desktops
        5) Includes some (dubiously-useful) testing software.

        For all intents and purposes, the only reason people usually buy Applecare is to get #1. the rest are really bonuses that are somewhat useful. The terms for point #1 are the same under AppleCare as they are under the regular one-year warranty.

        (sorry for all the edits - having some.. issues.. :))
    • AppleCare is a scam, if you were to ask me for my opinion.

      For the reasons you state. Many consumers will [i]assume[/i] it includes accidental damage. In a word, "oops". It's in their fine print, but nobody bothers to read that anymore...

  • RE: Laptop Warranties and Accidental Damage Coverage: What You Need to Know

    Well at least HP got back to you. Apple doesn't seem to care about AppleCare...
    • Let me see if I understand this correctly

      You have an Applecare Accidental Damage coverage plan that you paid extra for and they are not repairing the machine?
      • You clearly don't.

        His phrase rather suggests HP returned his calls/e-mails/whatever and Apple did not. It's pretty clear...

        His pithy post was one you looked into way too much -- I could look into this too far as well and suggest you are trying to promise a false image by embellishing what he said and stuffing in a couple of choice words to add bias. After all, AppleCare says it does not repair accidental damage. The last I checked, Apple openly states that too, hence this:

        Being a rabid Apple fan myself, I don't care for AppleCare and know it's a farce. That's why I bought the store warranty instead. One where they go out of their way to clearly state what is and is not covered before one gets to the fine print.

        If Apple screwed up with manufacturing, they are liable and it's up to customers to convince the shareholders to wake Apple up to do their part, ethically (a dying concept, it seems). If the end user blows it up, then the end user needs to be more awake when it comes to deciding which warranty to buy. (I wouldn't ever go with a manufacturer warranty direct, regardless of manufacturer... As I do know people who have and lost a lot of money due to incidents the company claimed in the sales pitch but did not follow through with.)
      • I have a question about your problem with HP warranty problem

        I had the same thing happen to my HP laptop, the LCD inside broke. I too was told it wasn't covered under warranty. I purchased my HP 21 Apr 12, so it is still under the 1 year warranty. Who did you contact to get your fixed? Please let me know. Thanks!
        Laura Mayka-Meglio
  • $400 ?!?!

    With $40 for a (supposedly--you know how that goes) OEM panel and some free internet instructions, I replaced the cracked screen on my son's 14" iBook G4 with 10.4 and got a cheap lap top that is way faster and more powerful than my old Dell CSx! The Dell is tucked away in the event Win 98 comes back.

    It looks like service is still the racket to be in.
    • Even worse.. $400 is for HP.. Apple is more..

      Check out Tom Foremski's column that Jason linked to and have a look at how much Apple wanted to charge him for the same repair. $400 would seem like a deal.
    • Tell me about it

      Dell qouted me 234 quid to replace the graphics card on my laptop (Which is actualy quite good because its going for 500 quid on ebay.), instead I just cleaned out the fans and removed the heat sink, and replaced the goo they were using to make contact with the heat sink with copper and arctic silver and hey presto.
    • 100% correct

      When I worked for Geek Squad we were told that LCD repairs are too expensive and have the customer buy a new laptop. Now that I run my own business I know that is not true. On average most LCD repairs cost less than $200, and are easy as replacing a watch battery (seriously, pop off a few panels, unscrew some stuff, unplug a couple things, take out broken LCD, put in new LCD, plug back in, screw in some stuff, pop on a few panels).

      Most retailers on Ebay even warranty their stuff for a year or so.
  • $1295? Sorry, but...

    Friday is trash day. I'll just limit myself to the desktop PC.
    • It's that glossy screen everybody always wanted on their laptop..

      ..It's made of some really special quality material that no other computer manufacturer has access to.. That's why it's so expensive..

      Of course, for a computer that only costs $1700 brand new, you can well imagine how the rest of the parts compare to what's available in PC-land. <sigh>.. I guess they gotta make the computer competitive somehow.. :)
  • What REALLY you need to know...

    Break your laptop, set up a blog and complain if they don't fix it for free. That's what you need to know.

    Though Apple seems to have a bit more backbone in this regard.