in General

Poor Customer Service from iRobot UK (Roomba)

iRobot Roomba 560

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 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!

  1. Unfortunately I came across this a couple of hours too late – Roomba is ordered and been despatched.

    Will be interested to hear the response from iRobot, as their UK site clearly states on the product page under more product details that the Roomba has a one year manufacturers warranty.

    It just seems bizarre that you can buy direct from the manufacturer in their UK store and not get a warranty when you could have walked into John Lewis or Makro and got one that would be covered.

  2. They are playing games with you – the limit is the reasonable life time of the unit up to 6 years. They have also stated a 12 month warranty as part of the sale. 30 days is not a reasonable
    lieftime for such a product. The seller is responsible for repair/ replacment or refund – nobody else. I-robot may have appointed Domotec. It’s very easy to make a small claim on-line (CAB will help) for anythign up to £5,000.00 and I find that this usually reminds sellers of their responsibilities. Of course, it’s tough on a seller sometimes if there is a design fault – but fortunately they have the same rights as you do with respect to their supplier. Obvsioul they’d rather pretend it’s your problem.

    Sale of Goods Act Quick Facts
    Subject: Sale of Goods Act, Faulty Goods.

    Relevant or Related Legislation: Sale of Goods Act 1979. Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994. The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002.

    Key Facts:

    • Wherever goods are bought they must “conform to contract”. This means they must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality (i.e. not inherently faulty at the time of sale).

    • Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description.

    • Aspects of quality include fitness for purpose, freedom from minor defects, appearance and finish, durability and safety.

    • It is the seller, not the manufacturer, who is responsible if goods do not conform to contract.

    • If goods do not conform to contract at the time of sale, purchasers can request their money back “within a reasonable time”. (This is not defined and will depend on circumstances)

    • For up to six years after purchase (five years from discovery in Scotland) purchasers can demand damages (which a court would equate to the cost of a repair or replacement).

    • A purchaser who is a consumer, i.e. is not buying in the course of a business, can alternatively request a repair or replacement.

    • If repair and replacement are not possible or too costly, then the consumer can seek a partial refund, if they have had some benefit from the good, or a full refund if the fault/s have meant they have enjoyed no benefit

    • In general, the onus is on all purchasers to prove the goods did not conform to contract (e.g. was inherently faulty) and should have reasonably lasted until this point in time (i.e. perishable goods do not last for six years).

    • If a consumer chooses to request a repair or replacement, then for the first six months after purchase it will be for the retailer to prove the goods did conform to contract (e.g. were not inherently faulty)

    • After six months and until the end of the six years, it is for the consumer to prove the lack of conformity.

  3. The main brushes on my 530 packed in on Monday this week. I phoned domotec uk on tuesday, new cleaning module arrived this morning (thursday)..easily fitted, and working great again. Sorry about your problems, but i found the service exceptional. (My unit is 6 months old, and i bought (new) from a company on the web.

  4. Had the same problem with a 560 – old style cleaning module stopped working.
    Called Domotec on Wednesday, they asked for a serial number and an address to send the spares – it arrived Friday!
    I was stunned at how easy it was – they must have identified the age of the unit and that it had the ‘old’ style module and just issued a replacement, no questions, no hassle.
    Can’t fault iRobot or Domotec, I’m still stunned at how fast & easy it all was.

  5. Hey its not only in the UK that IRobot gives terrible warranty and customer service.

    I have been lied to, put off, etc on the repair of my Roomba….

    It stopped working within the first two months of purchase and I have been battling with them ever since.

    I have better ways of spending $400……..and it will never be with a IRobot product ever again.

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