Many of us have had PCs that stopped working, printers that started chewing up paper for no reason and Xbox 360 consoles that developed the dreaded RROD fault after the warranty was up. But where do consumers stand when it comes to returning goods that are clearly not fit for purpose?

The first thing to understand is that whatever the fault, if it occurs beyond the warranty then you’re pretty much on your own. We’ll be investigating what this means exactly later in the week. In the meantime, if your hardware – it might be a mobile phone or a mouse, a game controller or a satnav – begins working erratically and indeed failing, then to add insult to injury you now have to prepare yourself to jump through a set of rather annoying, profit-protecting hoops.

Preparing for Faults

Whatever hardware you purchase, there are several things that you should do to prepare for the eventuality of an error or fault occurring. These steps will enable you to be prepared for problems further down the line, and take just a few minutes to arrange:

Keep the purchase receipt somewhere safe, along with a copy of the warranty.

If the hardware is Internet-ready, or used with a computer, complete the registration form. If you’re not keen on receiving spam emails there should be an opt-out checkbox – otherwise, just use an email address that you rarely check.

Store the box somewhere safe. This is important for various reasons: you get a psychological edge over the company you’re returning the hardware to if it has clearly been well-looked after, and if there is no comeback for the device to be repaired you can at least sell it in the box on eBay. Some people will pay a lot for boxes; you might even sell the box on its own!

At the point of sale you might also extend the warranty on the device. This is entirely up to you, and depends on whether you’re offered the option as well as if you can afford it.

Checking Your Hardware

When faults arise, the first thing you will need to do is check your hardware to ascertain the cause and nature of the problem. You can either choose to do this by checking the online support pages for the product concerned, or by calling the support line for the product.

Depending on the company you bought from you will either contact them, an allocated hardware support agency or go through to the manufacturer’s support department. This is when the hoop jumping really starts as you will be asked to perform a series of steps to establish the origin of the issue. What can be particularly frustrating at this stage is the amount of time the process can take along with the fact that often the operators don’t actually have any technical ability – they’re simply quoting from a selection of process charts.

Returning Hardware

Ultimately, if the device is within warranty and has a fault, then it must be returned. To whom is another matter entirely.

For instance, you may have simply packed your hardware away in its box and returned to the store you purchased from. Different countries have different legal requirements for shops dealing with returns, and at this stage you may find yourself referred to a telephone-based support line by the store.

Alternatively, you might go through the telephone-based support process and be advised that your hardware will need to be returned. Typically this will involve a courier being sent to your address to collect the item, but if you’ve purchased from, say, Amazon, then you will need to return the hardware to them, fully boxed.

Ultimately in these situations, making sure that you are fully covered for faults and damage to your new hardware is ideal, so purchasing an extended warranty might just be the right idea!