Consumer complaints about faulty consumer electronics have prompted Lithuania's Ministry of Justice to investigate whether goods sold in the country may be of inferior quality to those in Western Europe.
The European Commission recently adopted rules banning so-called dual-quality foods in the EU. The rule was pushed by Central and Eastern European member states that discovered identically-branded food had different ingredients in their shops and those in Western Europe.
Now, Lithuania wants to ascertain whether the same is not true for mobile phones, computers, TVs and other gadgets.
“There is a sense that electronics break down faster than in other countries, this myth has been around for a long time and everyone has heard it,” Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius told LRT TV. “It is important that we look into this, to confirm or refute this myth.”
The investigation will consist of purchasing consumer electronics in Lithuania and abroad and having forensic experts compare them, the minister says. However, it is yet unclear when the study will start.
Consumer protection organisations point out that eight out of 10 consumer complaints filed last year concerned electronics. In many cases, gadgets failed soon after the end of the warranty period.
Meanwhile retailers reject the idea that makers could be supplying different gadgets to Lithuania and other markets.
“We receive computers that are identical to those in the rest of the world,” insists Juozas Eidukonis, a division manager at the online shop Kilobaitas. “Neither worse, nor better.”
Other retailers say that some consumers are abusing rules in order to get their money back for perfectly good products.
“If [consumers] want to return a good item, one of the duties is to keep it in marketable appearance for 14 days,” says Andrius Visockis, the chief of service centre for the online electronics shop Varlė.
“I've had a case where a buyer brought a coffee maker full of cat hair. The client said: I have the right [to return the item], you clean it yourself.”