Picture this. You're looking forward to your favourite release of the year, a new DOOM. And you've got a fancy $1000 monitor to play it on. There's just one small problem. One day, you wake up and discover a bug has somehow carked it in your screen. No problem: the monitor's well under warranty. So everything should be OK, right?
That's what happened to long time Australian gamer Narull. Just before Christmas, he forked out the money for a very nice 1440p IPS screen, the 165Hz ASUS ROG Swift PG279QE. It's a good gaming screen and one that you think would be perfect for games like DOOM Eternal, with all their colour and blood.
Sending my monitor to @ASUSAU today they refused to replace it in store because of a literal bug inside the panel, not even 4 months old.
With everything shutting down due to pandemic bet will take ages. Wish their customer service coulda made an acception in this kinda case.
— Narull (@Narull) March 17, 2020
Narull didn't even have the option of blaming himself and wallowing in self-pity, like Kirk did. Like most people, he asked the simple question: how the hell did the bug get inside his monitor to begin with?
You'd think someone would make an acception in this kinda situation.
-I'm in self isolation as on a disability pension for sickness
-A pandemic is breaking out
-It's a premium $999 monitor
-It's less than 4 months old
-How does a insect get inside a screen!
-Doom Eternal /cry
— Narull (@Narull) March 17, 2020
Yeah, I bought it end of November, been working perfectly since then this bug appears inside it on Sunday night. I assumed monitors were sealed but I guess not...?
— Narull (@Narull) March 17, 2020
"It's my most anticipated game of the year and I'm just ... I know it's corny but it hurts," Narull wrote.
But all was still looking well at this point. The monitor was not only within warranty under Australian consumer law, but ASUS's limited 12 month warranty. Parts weren't required, because all a competent repairer needs to do is pull the screen apart and clean the gunk from the protective layer that sits between the LCD panel and the screen. There's plenty of legitimate precedent for it being free, too. LCD screens are a bright light source, and naturally small insects and moths are going to gravitate towards them. It's the manufacturer's job to make sure they can't get inside.
One day later, Narull shipped the monitor back to ASUS's repair centre. As is customary for a lot of PC parts, the original manufacturer is the one who deals with repairs, not the retailer (Computer Alliance in this case).
Impressive delivery speed by @startrack now it's truly in @ASUSAU hands. No parts are needed, it shouldn't take long IF their system tells the centre of the issue, otherwise it could wait for weeks for a simple (you'd think) fix.
Or longer depending on how the world goes atm... pic.twitter.com/H1AFJSYyHs
— Narull (@Narull) March 18, 2020
Well that confirmed @ASUSAU don't deal with small problems first I guess. Over a week to take an insect out of a screen (and I'm expecting longer honestly)
It pisses me off. Screw you ASUS for having a fucking $1000 monitor that insects can get inside of. pic.twitter.com/lPjfkuJFfp
— Narull (@Narull) March 19, 2020
Things were looking up. Sort of. A ticket on the official ASUS support page replied: they'd deal with the issue, but not immediately. Narull would get his PG279QE screen back on March 25, two days after DOOM Eternal's official launch. Not ideal, but at least someone was putting the poor bug where they belonged.
Or so Narull thought.
On March 21, a couple of days before the monitor was due to be shipped back, Narull received this reply:
Well now I'm just confused. How does removing an insect from the monitors panel require parts? pic.twitter.com/XHO8OpqroE
— Narull (@Narull) March 20, 2020
There was no explanation of the problem: for whatever reason, ASUS needed more parts, and as a result the repair would be delayed. On the same day, the timeframe for a repair was removed entirely from the status page. But still there was hope: on March 25, the original delivery date, an ASUS support staffer sent back a glimmer of hope.
"Based on the escalation response that we have received, the parts are ready and the unit will be repaired by the end of the week," the email read. "In this case, you should be able to have your device by week 31/03/2020."
But a lot can change in 24 hours. On Thursday morning, Narull received a response from a different ASUS support member. "After inspecting the LCD, we are determined the LCD have insect inside the panel unfortunately insect damage is not covered under the manufactory warranty," an email from ASUS read, directing Narull to ASUS's policy for Australia and New Zealand where "contamination with hazardous substances, diseases, vermin or radiation" is not covered under warranty.
The cost to get the monitor "repaired"?
$572. More than half of what the monitor actually costs at retail.
Naturally, Narull was perplexed. ASUS initially accepted the support request and said they'd send the monitor back within a week, only to say new parts were needed. Then to turn around and say the monitor couldn't be "repaired" at all, even though the monitor doesn't need an actual repair. It just needs the bug cleaned out of the panel (and maybe some questions answered as to how the bloody thing could get inside to begin with).
There's a strong argument to be made that the ACCC and Australian consumer law wouldn't be impressed. Here's the note from ASUS's site about Australian guarantees:
ASUS products come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are also entitled to have the products repaired or replaced if the goods fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure.
It's not a huge stretch to say monitors should be built in a way that doesn't allow bugs or insects to crawl inside the panel. LCD/LED screens are giant sources of light. Of course they're going to attract moths, mosquitoes, tiny flies and whatever else comes in from outside the window. One would assume they'd be built to keep critters at bay, even with modern monitors having more aggressive cooling mechanisms.
According to emails and correspondence shared to Kotaku Australia, the ASUS Service team confirmed the monitor would be covered under warranty when the original ticket was supplied. But that information apparently wasn't saved in ASUS's support system, with a follow up reply from an ASUS support staffer saying their call centre had no records at all regarding warranty.
"If you are seeking a remedy (such as replacement) the correct respondent is the place of purchase as we only provide repair services," the ASUS staffer replied.
"It makes me wonder what they lodged [the issue] as," Narull told Kotaku Australia. "When I first called and they ask the issue I said 'there is an insect inside the panel' but clearly the service centre did not know that, so what did they lodge the issue as?"
Obviously, no one would agree to pay almost $600 to have a monitor cleaned (not repaired). After rejecting the service charge, providing details about the first phone call and evidence of ASUS pledging delivery by March 25, and an email from ASUS themselves saying the monitor would be repaired and shipped the week of March 31, ASUS's support agreed to escalate the problem.
It's not the customer experience you'd expect after buying a $1000 monitor. Generally, most brands are pretty good about support on their premium products. You've already paid several hundred, or almost a grand in this case. Having a bug that can climb into the screen and die is obviously a suboptimal experience. I get why a company might try and reject it after a year - especially if the user is dumb enough to squish the bug themselves.
It all started when I thought I saw a bug crawling across my computer monitor.
By this stage, Narull had well and truly cracked the shits with ASUS support, so he tried his luck hitting up Computer Alliance. The retailer got in touch with their ASUS rep, and by late Thursday afternoon the insanity seemed to be coming to an end. ASUS told Computer Alliance they were "happy to offer free repair" in this instance, although that was communicated to Computer Alliance and not Narull directly.
ASUS eventually sent Narull a message Friday morning saying "we have received approval this morning to cover this repair in warranty", but the email didn't contain an apology for the runaround.
"I can't believe how much this has destroyed my faith in a company I've recommended to people for years," he said. "I always thought ASUS was a top of the line brand, but after this I will NEVER buy anything from ASUS again," he wrote. "I want to deal with Computer Alliance; they have gone to bat for me, and I respect that."
The story is a good lesson for all brands. Shit happens, but what truly matters is how you handle it. And the way ASUS dealt with the matter has lost the company a lifelong customer.
ASUS's support system, in the meantime, is still saying the monitor was repaired and delivered on the original timeframe.
Kotaku Australia emailed ASUS's local team for comment, asking for an explanation on how the customer service should have functioned, what steps they would take to improve logging of customer complaints in the future and their approach to dealing with small insects getting inside enclosed monitor units. I also asked what their official advice was to users who discovered bugs inside their monitor - if ASUS isn't going to cover it, should users try and fix it themselves? Can they fix it themselves?
The company replied on Friday morning, saying they were reaching out for answers from their service team but were yet to hear back. Shortly before publication, the company followed up, saying "we've agreed to offer a free repair" and the repair should be completed by today.
"Based on our warranty policy, the insect damage is actually excluded from warranty coverage as it is not a product failure, but highly dependent on the storage and environment," an ASUS representative told Kotaku Australia, linking to a passage from their limited warranty policy.
ASUS reaffirmed that contacting Computer Alliance for a replacement was "appropriate" because they believed Narull was asking for a replacement rather than a repair, although Narull's initial phone call and emails with ASUS support indicated the monitor would be repaired by March 25.
"We believe different customers do have different expectations on our product and services, and ASUS will always try to minimise the gap within the scope of our service terms," the ASUS representative said.
As for small insects, ASUS said monitors are "not a completely sealed device" and customers should be patient if they discover one. "When customers find an insect in their screen, we would suggest him or her to wait the insect to get out by itself while it’s still alive," ASUS said. "However, if the insect has already dead in the screen, the customer should always contact our service team to arrange the repairing as soon as possible. Service fees may apply in this situation. Service fees may apply in this situation."
As for Narull, he just wanted to play a bit of DOOM and escape from the misery in the world.
"This is such a stupid thing to stress about in the grand scheme of things, but it does matter to me," he said. "They are being forced to fix it because I put up a fight ... I'm very annoyed there is no apology for the screwing around, nothing at all."