HOW TO FILE A FORMAL COMPLAINT AGAINST MEADE INSTRUMENTS

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					HOW TO FILE A FORMAL COMPLAINT AGAINST MEADE INSTRUMENTS
     You say Meade is stonewalling you on spare parts?
     You say you sent in the paperwork for a rebate months ago, and still haven’t gotten it?

You need to complain to the California Attorney General. You can do this even if you’re not a resident
of California, or even the United States.


The Problem

The most serious long-term problem we as Meade owners face is keeping our telescopes running. That
means we need a source of spare parts, service, and information after the warranty expires. Meade’s answer
to every problem, no matter how minor, is “send it back.” That is often not a viable option.

1.    Shipping to Meade is expensive.
2.    Shipping an optical instrument of this size, with UPS or FedEx, is extremely risky. If damaged, getting
      the carrier to replace it is difficult to impossible.
3.    Shipping an entire large, 14” or 16” telescope to have a simple part like a circuit board replaced makes
      absolutely no sense.


The Law

California has a piece of legislation called the Song-Beverly Act. See

http://www.bear.ca.gov/forms_pubs/parts_letter_final.shtml

and

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=civ&group=01001-02000&file=1792-1795.8

          1793.03.
          (b) Every manufacturer making an express warranty with respect to
          an electronic or appliance product described in subdivision (h), (i),
          (j), or (k) of Section 9801 of the Business and Professions Code,
          with a wholesale price to the retailer of one hundred dollars ($100)
          or more, shall make available to service and repair facilities
          sufficient service literature and functional parts to effect the
          repair of a product for at least seven years after the date a product
          model or type was manufactured, regardless of whether the seven-year
          period exceeds the warranty period for the product

          http://law.onecle.com/california/business/9801.html
          (h) "Electronic set" includes, but is not limited to, any television,
          radio, audio or video recorder or playback equipment, video camera,
          video game, video monitor, computer system, photocopier, or facsimile
          machine normally used or sold for personal, family, household, or home
          office use.

          (m) "Computer system" includes, but is not limited to, a central
          processing unit that performs data manipulation functions, and any
          associated peripheral devices, including, but not limited to,
          keyboards, display terminals, printers, or disk drives.

(Emphasis mine).
As for “computer system,” Meade’s own patents 6392799 and 6304376,
claim “computerized telescope,” “central control processor,” and
“distributed intelligence.”

http://www.google.com/patents?id=bIILAAAAEBAJ&dq=6392799
and
http://www.google.com/patents?id=hIgIAAAAEBAJ&dq=6304376




How to File a Complaint

Don’t use that number in the above State of California government link.
For that matter, don’t use that department. Here’s why.

That leads to the “Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Electronic
and Appliance Repair.” The number in the web page isn’t current anymore
anyway. I called the new number, 916-574-2063. I spoke to "Holly". Apparently
her desk’s main job is... um... roofing complaints. Holly will tell you that it
doesn't qualify as an appliance or computer because it’s “not on the list.” (Note
that the law says “but not limited to...” Holly probably doesn't grasp the scope, so
to speak, of this situation and needs some persuadin'. This department
does not have jurisdiction, it only acts as a go-between for consumers
and the companies that screw them. One can file a complaint there,
online, and "somebody will get back to you." Ultimately, the people
with jurisdiction are those in the California Attorney General's
office, the general number for that is 1-800-952-5225, but that will eventually
lead you to a number for filing complaints. Might as well go straight to the top.

I made the call to the state Attorney General's office to get
information on how to pursue this under the Song-Beverly Act.

I spoke to a human, outlined the present situation, and he strongly
encouraged me to post the information on the relevant online forums. He said
that the greater the number of complaints, the greater the likelihood
of action by the Attorney General's office and the greater the
likelihood of an acceptable response by the company.

It may help a little if you, as the aggrieved party, are a resident of
California. But that’s by no means a limiting factor. You can call from
anywhere. (See below – the complaint form only asks if you're outside
the country, not the state). I have read anecdotal evidence on precisely
such Meade situations that indicate the California AG’s office even acts
on complaints from overseas; see

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/LX200GPS/message/103019


If anyone is getting the runaround re parts, here's what you do to
proceed with a complaint.

What you are doing is requesting that the office contact Meade on your
behalf.
Filing a complaint by mail:
Mail a letter describing your complaint, and any accompanying
documentation, to the
California Attorney General's Office
Public Inquiry Unit
PO Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244

If you want to fax it, 916-323-5341

If you want to do it online (which however will prevent you from
attaching any relevant documentation),
go to
http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=CL
and fill out the form.
Note that it doesn't limit the complaints to California residents.
That's important.


Our Case

What we need to stress here is that these are not cheap pieces of
equipment; they cost many thousands of dollars and are not toys. They
are expensive, complex CONSUMER goods that aren't being adequately
supported in the field by their manufacturer. And especially that shipping
to the factory involves considerable expense (much greater than the expense of the
parts involved) and risk of damage in transit. We’re asking that the manufacturer
be required, under existing law, to provide the same third-party parts
and service information support that is required of, say, refrigerator makers.
Seeing as Meade is still actively manufacturing the very telescopes for which
they refuse to supply parts, they have no excuse for not making such available.

Several tens of thousands of these Meade “advanced products” scopes have
been sold, and are currently left unsupported by the manufacturer as far as
parts and third-party service goes. Collectively, we need to make our voices
heard by the Attorney General – because we already know Meade isn’t interested
in listening.



Also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau

See the BBB’s Meade report card:

http://www.la.bbb.org/BBBWeb/Forms/Business/CompanyReportPage_Expository.aspx?CompanyID=880
00205

or

http://tinyurl.com/4arquv

They probably can’t help you; judging by Meade’s existing grade of “F”, it’s apparent
that Meade’s service is abysmally poor, both Meade and the BBB know it, and Meade
just plain doesn’t care to change that.

However, it adds one more to the weight of complaints. One web site claims that “when
unresolved complaints stack up, BBB offices typically forward these to the Attorney
General’s office, which starts investigating them.”

So if you can’t get parts or service, complain to the BBB as well. The link is on that
BBB page, above, in the right-hand column.



It Gets Worse – The Possible Racketeering Angle

Apparently, they will still fix scopes under warranty.

And they also offer 3 and 5 year "Sky Assurance" extended warranties.

But if you only took the standard 1 year warranty and your scope needs
a simple part you could install yourself, you're out of luck. I understand
that even franchised dealers cannot get parts to service their customers’
out-of-warranty scopes.

For a 10" or 12" scope, the 3-year is $350 and the 5-year is $850. You
also have to pay shipping to Meade.

The thought occurs to me that this amounts to racketeering. "Buy our
warranty, or you'll be sorry."

IMPORTANT BIT: This is something that could be pointed out by anyone
who is filing a formal complaint (by letter, not by e-mail) to the
California Attorney General.

Sound too harsh? Read one definition of racketeering at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeering

         Typically, this usage is based on the example of the "protection
         racket" and indicates that the speaker believes that the business is
         making money by selling a solution to a problem that it created (or
         that it intentionally allows to continue to exist), specifically so
         that continuous purchases of the solution are always needed.

Buy our warranty or you get no parts – sounds like a racket to me.



A New Problem: Missing Rebate Checks

Now it looks like there’s yet another Meade self-induced problem: several people have reported that they
bought Meade (“Coronado” brand) solar telescopes months ago, with the promise of a $100 rebate, and
have yet to see a check.

Others report that rebates for Meade ETX telescopes, submitted in fall 2007, have still not arrived in late
April 2008.

Remedy: same thing. Contact the California Attorney General. See above.

The Federal Trade Commission also takes an interest in these cases.
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/rebatealrt.pdf
or
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/rebatealrt.shtm

An example:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/compusa.shtm

Popular press article:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52798-2005Jan31.html

Rebate fraud is an ongoing, serious problem, and there are government mechanisms in place to deal with it.

Rebate enforcement examples:

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/04/soyoinphonic.shtm

http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0223278/050311analcompusa.pdf

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2002/08/woffordana.htm




Meade service nightmares on Cloudy Nights

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/1972444/page/0/view/collapsed/sb/5
/o/all/fpart/3/vc/1