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July 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dive Gear Warranties: Always Honored?

generally satisfactory, with some annoying quirks

from the July, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Is it true that if you buy a regulator over the Internet, the manufacturer will not warranty the product? That’s a question we often receive, most recently asked by subscriber CJ Zulaica (Sacramento, CA).

It can be trickier when you buy dive gear online rather than from a dive shop, but the first question to ask is whether the seller is an authorized dealer of the product. If so, your gear gets the required servicing for a specific period, and you’ll be notified by the manufacturer if there is a safety recall. Many online equipment sources are authorized dealers (we know of no source falsely claiming to be an authorized dealer), which will send you an official warranty registration card with a product serial number that matches the one appearing on the product you’re buying.

But there is a caveat. Aqua Lung, for example, fights online sales of its products, even by authorized dealers. On its Web site, Aqua Lung states, “Beware of any retailer that offers to sell and ship our products for orders placed by phone or the Internet. These retailers are NOT authorized Aqua Lung Dealers. All authorized dealers must execute an agreement that does not allow the sale of our products except ‘in-store.’ Many Aqua Lung dealers advertise on the Internet, but they are not allowed to deliver our products other than ‘over-the counter.’” If they do, Aqua Lung won’t consider your warranty valid.

However the seller may establish its own warranty for buyer’s protection. One of the largest online retailers, LeisurePro in New York City, does just that. If a product isn’t covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, LeisurePro provides its own warranty which, they claim, “offers greater or equal protection.” LeisurePro warrants “the equipment will be free from defects in materials and workmanship for the same period offered by the manufacturer.” In the past several years, all reports to us indicate LeisurePro keeps its word. Reader Mac Lysett (Ten Mile, TN) told us that “after only 30 dives, my Oceanic Geo computer malfunctioned at night in my Cayman Brac hotel room, with lights flashing and sirens warning that I needed a deco stop at 45 feet. I had to pile towels on top of the computer and shut it in the bathroom to get back to sleep. When I returned home, I contacted LeisurePro and it gave me an RMA number and instructed me to return the computer to Oceanic. Within a week, a brand new Geo arrived and I’ve experienced no trouble with it. Both LeisurePro and Oceanic were terrific.”

We recently asked our subscribers via our monthly Dive News e-mail for their experiences with dive gear warranties. They replied that manufacturers are honoring them promptly and often going beyond the necessary fixes, like replacing the old product entirely, sometimes with a newer, upgraded model.

Reader Larry Klumb (Lithia, FL) said that “two years ago, the wristband detached from my Mares Nemo stainless-steel computer; the plastic anchor had cracked and was not repairable. I returned it to Mares in anticipation of getting a new band but in fact, I got a new computer. Seems the screws were so small and corroded that they could not be removed, so they replaced it with a new Titanium Nemo computer.”

Even if your dive gear is beyond the warranty coverage, some makers will give you a good deal on substitute or replacement models. That’s what happened to Steve Thomas (Boulder, CO) when his six-year-old Oceanic Pro Plus 2 dive computer had glitches with the air pressure. “My dive shop couldn’t fix the problem and Oceanic confirmed the problem didn’t have a fix at a reasonable cost, so it offered to replace the computer with the same model (rebuilt with warranty) for $150. A new replacement costs around $700 so I felt that offer was very fair.”

Those Extreme Rules

A few readers shared their “learn from my mistakes” tales. Dan Kopetski (Vancouver, WA) has an “Aqua Lung reg that I lost the lifetime warranty on because I had a friend who owned a dive shop service it. I later learned he was not an authorized dealer. Now I have to pay for all parts and service instead of getting the free parts and service that come with the regulator under warranty.”

And keep that warranty schedule handy. Mary Martin (Windermere, FL) says “I bought my Mares regulators at Divers Direct three years ago; they told me I had to get them checked every year to keep up the warranty. Unfortunately, I missed getting them serviced within the year. When I did take them back, 14 months after I bought them, it cost me just over $100 and I now have to pay every year. I would have thought that since the regulators were serviced and there was nothing wrong, I should get the warranty for life back but no. I missed the service because I listened to wrong advice from a fellow diver and it now costs me over $100 every year.”

When a Warranty May Not Cover You

While your warranty may be good at your old dive shop, another may blow you off. Richard Moles (Davenport, FL) and his wife bought Oceanic regulators while living in Illinois. Then they moved to Florida. “When I took my regulators to Divers Direct in Orlando last year, I was charged for parts, even though Oceanic’s warranty states they are covered. I had to fight with them but they finally refunded that part of my money. I called several other authorized Oceanic dealers in the Orlando area but none would honor the warranty, as I had not bought them from their store. I called Oceanic to learn that the warranty is voluntary and dealers do not have to honor it. Oceanic would honor the warranty if I shipped my regulators to California and back. By the time I paid the UPS fees, it was about the same as paying for parts.”

We called Oceanic about this policy, and customer service manager Mark Jones says that yes, it’s up to the dealer to decide whether it wants to service a product bought at another store. “If they do, they’ll service a product every 12 months and charge for labor but not for the annual servicing kit. Some dealers say, ‘I don’t want to run my business that way,’ and decline, and we don’t tell them how to run their business. But we do encourage it as a good marketing sales tool.”

So while some Oceanic dealers bail out of helping a customer, here is a case in which a Scubapro dealer lent that helping hand. Michael Cole (Edwards, CO) said, “Three years ago, I bought a rental Uwatec Air Z Nitrox from a dive shop in Colorado. The computer worked well for the first 50 dives, then the tank pressure readings began to go all wrong. I sent it, via Dive Odyssea in Ft. Pierce, FL, to ScubaPro in California, with the understanding that I would pay for the repair as the computer was purchased used. It was repaired at no cost to me. On my next dive trip, it again failed and I returned the entire unit again. Scubapro replaced the batteries in the transponder on the primary stage, the batteries in the wrist unit and a failed circuit board in the wrist unit -- again at no cost to me. Also, Dive Odyssea would not even allow me to pay for the UPS charges even though I had purchased the equipment elsewhere.”

So back to the question about whether online scuba equipment sellers provide warranties. According to our readers, they all seem pretty good about it. As you can see, there are quirks in the warranty system but by and large, a diver can expect that if he has a product he bought under warranty and he returns it to whom he bought if from, the problem will be solved.

But if you have a contrary experience, let us know.

- - Vanessa Richardson

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