So 17 months ago (6th of march 2009) I bought a BFG graphics card. I’d been tossing the thought in the air over it for a while. I had a medium-spec (at the time) PC which should have been able to play games on high graphics but for the ageing ATI Radeon X1950Pro so after a particularly difficult month I decided to treat myself, spending £318 on a brand new graphics card. One that was technologically the best on the commercial market at the time, a BFG GForce 285 GTX OC2 with 1GB of GDDR3 Memory.
About 4 months after purchasing the card, the computer started to do some very strange things when playing games. One of my screens would occasionally flicker when on a black screen and when I was playing games with a lot of colour in them, such as Audio Surf, or games with a high particle count such as Saints Row 2 (when its raining or when there are several things around you on fire) the graphics card driver would crash then re-load or even crash-out the whole computer.
I thought it was a software problem so I removed the graphics driver and installed the latest version. Sadly, that didn’t fix the problem but the motherboard I had wasn’t too brilliant and my windows installation was questionable too. Knowing I was upgrading everything soon then I thought that if I waited I would soon find that either everything works because I’ll have a bundle of new equipment with a new windows installation or I’ll be back in the same boat. So I persevered with it until I got my new computer and a proper copy of windows 7, but I still had the same problem.
Now the only common denominator was the card and the two monitors connected to it. The monitors on their own won’t cause a problem like that so it had to be a fault with the card. I contacted BFG, Gave them the symptoms (not realising myself what was causing them at this point) and within 2 days they issued me with an RMA number. For those that don’t know, RMA stands for Returns Materials Authorisation. It basically means the manufacturer will accept it back and either repair or replace your product as soon as they find a fault.
I sent the card back and had to wait for BFG to repair or replace it. Until then I was reduced to using my old PowerMac G4 as my PC or my laptop. After about a weeks worth of swearing at my Mac because APPLE COMPUTERS DON’T DO HALF THE STUFF I WANT TO DO WITH A COMPUTER, and getting frustrated with my laptop since its only a laptop. They are fine as a temporary or portable solution but I was used to a high-powered dual-display gaming rig as my permanent pc, not a mediocre Centrino processor with a 15” display, I went and bought a £50 PNY Gforce 210 to use in my PC. Finally! A computer with some bang that I can at least use for a few games and for university work.
About 3 weeks past and finally fedex turned up with my graphics card again. First thing I did was disassemble the computer, put the graphics card back in and presto! It worked. It continued to work for about 4 months until I started getting the same problem again.
This time I did a little diagnosing myself. I knew where the problem lay so I downloaded a GPU monitor and loaded up one of the games. Sure enough the graphics started to glitch and I watched the GPU monitor which showed the core temperature still rising through 85 degrees C and yet no increase in fan speed to compensate. I kept watching it. 95 degrees it got to before the PC crashed completely. So okay, it’s the temperature.
I called up BFG again who gave me a new RMA number but this time I get the new card before I can send them one. 6 WEEKS the wait is. But if that’s the wait time, that’s what I have to live with. About 2 weeks later I get a letter from BFG…they have gone into administration and will be cancelling my RMA. Son of a BITCH!! So my 10 year warranty isn’t worth the damn paper it’s written on? Actually the loss of the remaining 8 1/2 years warranty wasn’t a huge problem to me. While it’s a bitch and having a warranty like that is a nice thing to fall back on, I wasn’t that bothered. What I was bothered about was my faulty fucking card that should I dare to play Saints Row 2 without setting the AUTOMATIC fan control to 80% MANUALLY.
I would have lived with the having to manually set the fan if the settings didn’t change so drastically with the temperature of the room. The room my computer is in gets pretty hot in the summer and depending on whether or not the heating is running pretty cold in the winter. Over the space of a few days I tested it with the same games. 1 degree change in room temperature could mean needing a 10% increase in fan speed. The top I ever ran it at was 80% and this was in march. What would happen come the summer we have just had where there were days of 30 degrees C?
Fortunately, I work in retail. I have had many customers come up to me and say “EU Law says…blah blah” they are usually wrong in what they say and I have had to do a little research to be able to say “No, you’re wrong. First off, we go by UK law. second, BOTH laws say this…” add to that my 6 years of retail experience. I know retailing law pretty much through and through, since I have to deal with it on a daily basis.
One thing I know is that if you can prove that you have been having the same problem from inside the basic 1 year RTS (Return to seller) warranty, that you have continually had the same issue, that you are still experiencing the same problem, then it is the SELLERS responsibility to get you a working product within a reasonable time. Notice that I said “Working product” not “replacement” you cannot demand a replacement, the seller has the right to repair the item before offering you a refund or replacement.
There’s a few other things to note here. Even if the product doesn’t go faulty right away, if you can prove that the fault is a manufacturing defect with the product then in the UK you can claim for a repair up to 5 years after purchase. There’s a few ways you can go about this but I’ll not bore you with the details. You can email me on advancedflea at gmail dot com or catch me on IM if you want the details.
So! Armed with my knowledge of the law, a little bit of bullshit and my graphics card, I drove 40 miles to Stoke-on-bastard-Trent to the shop I got it from, Overclockers, as I got nowhere with their webforms. I have to say the person who handles the webnote system they have comes across as quite arrogant. I’ve been to the shop before and dealt with the one person who mans their desk. A very well-spoken, polite guy. “Hello sir, yes sir, certainly sir” in a queens English accent is what you can expect to hear from him. Also, he’s pretty good at his job, I’ll say that for the guy.
I got into the shop and explained the situation, we went back to his manager, came back to me and said “as you are aware, you warranty is with BFG and as you are also aware, they have gone bust. There is nothing more we can do for you there” so I told him that I had been having the problem since before the RTS warranty expired and that the card had been back and forth several times to BFG. That last bit there, that was my small amount of bullshit.
He went back to his manager again, this time returning to tell me that they will book the card in and test it, then look at their options. Fine by me as I knew this would result in a working card OR my £318 back to go elsewhere and buy one. Either way I would eventually get a working card.
I did a little more digging and found that Overclockers have a habit of not bothering to call their customers if they had something in for repair. Great customer service there, I think not. Anyway, a week later I called up and asked what was going on. It turns out that their policy requires that they get my written permission to take the cooler off, as this will invalidate my none-existent warranty. Yeah, they can have my written consent to do that.
They had a plan. They were going to try re-applying the thermal grease. That isn’t going to work, it’s a fan-speed problem. Then they were going to try finding another cooler. Good luck, since it’s a BFG card and they have a different screw footprint to other cards AND It’s an overclocked card which needs a more powerful cooler.
After another week, I got a letter, signed by a Christ Montgomery saying that they have applied a blanket policy to all BFG cards. They will give me 10% off the cost of a new card. Now, for a card that’s 3, 4, 5 years old, that’s a GREAT policy. The manufacturer have gone bust so the retailer, who don’t have to help (provided the above conditions aren’t met) and they are. However, for my situation that’s a really AWFUL policy and nowhere near what I am entitled to. I went into the store to find out what the hell’s going on. Mr. Well-spoken guy told me what I already knew and you could tell by the way he spoke, he felt awkward about giving me that news and didn’t back it. He told me he was going to getch his technical manager who it ended up said exactly the same thing, and you could tell he felt the same way about telling me the bad news.
I told them I was going to leave the card with them and write into the Managing director, since it was his decision. They were both quite happy with that.
I grabbed a template letter from consumer direct, told them the situation so far, stated my rights then bombarded them with all the evidence I had found of the cards being faulty including posts from THEIR OWN FORUMS. I told them in no uncertain terms that the card was not “of satisfactory quality” and since I could prove so many people were having the same problem, the cards were arguably unfit for purpose. I made sure to send it as special delivery so that they had to sign for it and that I would get an electronic proof of delivery. I also made sure to tell them that I was sending it recorded delivery in the letter and said that I had already spoken to trading standards for advice (more bullshit) and since their own technical manager has said the card can’t be repaired, and since I can prove the card went faulty within the first year (with BFG’s full “confession” for want of a better word, to the known problem with the cooler) I would be reporting them to trading standards
So on Tuesday I got another letter through the post, saying they are prepared to offer me a GTX470 1250MB Which is an acceptable offer to me…but I fancied something better so I paid the difference between the 470 they wanted to offer me and the 480. The thing is this letter was from Chris Montgomery, apologising for the fact I have had a problem and saying “I can only apologise that it has taken so long to resolve this for you I have been out of the office and wasn’t aware until today of your problem” well that’s bullshit because you sent me the letter last week. However, I can’t complain there because I did a small amount of bullshitting myself. We all do it.
For the tech geeks out there It’s an EVGA GTX 480 1536MB GDDR5 PCI-E and it even came with a copy of Mafia II which was a steam-enabled licence key
Ofcourse, when I got the card home, this called for some serious …ahem “Testing” I loaded up EVGA Precision and left that monitoring everything while I played games. What do you know? A fan that speeds up automatically to cool the card, a graphics card that works below 70 degrees C when running games at full-whack…it’s a nice thing to have