Update 18th July 2008: I called Domotec today and the difference in response was like night and day. New component on it’s way to us now. Horrah!
If you’d spoken to me or Lindsay recently you might have thought we were on comission from iRobot, the manufacturers of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. We’ve been raving about how easy it is to keep the carpet clean when it can automatically trundle around the floor every day. Indeed in the past couple of weeks we’ve convinced two other households that the Roomba sounds like a good idea.
It’s a shame then, that we’ve discovered this weekend that the 500 series (we have the 560 UK model) has a glaring design flaw and is backed up by simply terrible customer service.
Roomba has two counter-rotating brushes underneath that sweep dust up into it’s little dustbin. Unfortunately even if you maintain the device according to the manual, cleaning dust from the brushes every 3 to 5 cleaning cycles – the parts of the cleaning head module that turn the brushes can eventually get so gummed up with dust that they stick, failing to turn at all. The motor that drives these gears doesn’t seem to have any sensor that tells it the gears are sticking, so continues to try to drive at full speed. Eventually, as in our case, the motor appears to burn out. Now our Roomba, even with the brushes removed, can’t turn the gears that would have turned the brushes.
We have a battery powered lump of plastic that can run round the room doing nothing useful at all. Great.
The warranty in the supplied manual states (page 26 of this pdf):
This product is warranted to the original user for use in the UK for 12 months from date of purchase to be free from manufacturing defect at time of purchase.
I took that to mean that iRobot would replace or fix the faulty part, since it’s clearly a known problem. Indeed, in the United States iRobot have an advanced replacment programme – sending out the faulty part as soon as they are able. It is telling the in the US iRobot have a backlog of orders and are often out of stock of replacement cleaning head modules.
According to the iRobot UK Store, a company called Domotec are responsible for UK warranty repairs. I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org with my Roomba serial number, a description of the fault and a request for a replacement part. They sent back the following message:
I am very sorry but the unit you have was not sold by us in the uk.If you call service we will arrange to collect the unit but the evaluation and the repair is chargeable,
I bought my Roomba from the iRobot UK Store so was surprised that Domotec were denying support. Next, I phoned the number listed for iRobot’s UK customer service (0845 225 1919). I explained how the unit had failed and that I needed a replacement part. The guy on the customer service desk directed me to contact Domotec. I relayed the content of their email, and to my surprise he confirmed their stance.
He said that because the Roomba was outside of 30 days since purchase any support would be chargeable. We’ll ignore for now that I bought the device on the 29th May and today is the 30th of June as a bit of cruel irony.
I asked a specific question in order to clarify things: “Are you saying that I need to PAY a third party to look at a flawed unit that has broken down and PAY again for them to fix it?”
After consulting with his supervisor he said that was the case.
I quoted the warranty terms and made it clear we’d been maintaining it as per the manual, and said if iRobot would not honour the warranty, they could take the unit back and I’d stop recommending them to friends. At that, he talked to his supervisor again, then took down my name, phone number and email address promising that his supervisor would be in contact soon.
I hope that they are, and that they have a better resolution for me. If not I shall chargeback the amount on my credit card, box up the Roomba and let them know it is ready for them to collect. I shall also make sure that anyone else knows that until Roomba improve a) their build quality and b) their customer service, most people would be better off with a Dyson!