White Apple Inc. iPhone 4.

Although Telstra's iPhone warranty is average compared with rivals, its service in fixing a faulty phone was admirable. Photo: Bloomberg

BLEEDING Edge is prepared to admit that we can, at times, be less-than-prompt in dealing with defects in our supposedly smart technology. Last week, for instance, we finally took the iPhone 4 into the Bourke Street Telstra Store to have the speaker function fixed.

It had been only about 10 months since we had discovered, within hours of picking it up on a two-year contract, that nobody could hear our part of the conversation. While some of our friends might have regarded that as a desirable outcome, we found it highly irritating.

When 'fixing' actually requires 'replacing', the law is not clear-cut. 

Somehow we coped, with the aid of the outstanding Jabra Freeway car hands-free and considerable patience. But the early arrival of our fourth grandchild, Miles Luca, meant a sharp increase in group family discussions in all sorts of locations and we had to overcome our inertia.

While Telstra doesn't have the best iPhone warranty among the carriers, offering only 12 months' coverage on a two-year contract, compared with the full term for Optus and Vodafone, we found the process painless.

In essence, you take the escalator to the first floor, ring a bell at the counter, hand over the phone and tell them your phone number. They call up your account and take the phone behind a closed door, then emerge with a replacement and a form that tells you, among other things, that Telstra will erase all the data before returning the iPhone to Apple and - an unexpected bonus - the 12-month warranty period restarts.

They also ask you if you have backed up the phone, which is very handy, because we hadn't hooked it up to iTunes on the desktop for about a month and we didn't want to run the risk of losing anything. We took it home, backed it up and took it back to Telstra for the swap. If you haven't backed up your phone recently, we suggest you take this as a timely reminder.

The Telstra experience was a useful contrast to the situation we wrote about recently, when several people who had bought OCZ SSD drives were told the drives would have to be shipped to Asia and they would have to wait between one and two months before learning whether they could obtain a refund or replacement.

That column brought a strong response from readers, some of whom had experienced failures with other SSD brands and received the same lack of co-operation from retailers.

It also brought praise for another store, Scorpion Technology. Reader Barney Meyer reported that shortly after he'd installed a 250-gigabyte OCZ RevoDrive into his high-powered PC (Intel Core 97, 24GB RAM, two 2TB hard drives), he started experiencing disk errors during boot-up.

The system seemed to adjust itself but his Acronis imaging software refused to create a disk image because of sector errors, leaving no way of recovering from a drive failure. When he raised the issue with Scorptec's technical support, they told him they had become aware of the OCZ problems, agreed that a replacement OCZ unit would not solve them, gave him a credit for the OCZ drive and fitted an Intel 250GB SSD. Bleeding Edge now recommends the new Intel SSD 520 ahead of other brands.

Under Australian consumer law, that's precisely how retailers must respond - offering a refund or exchange in cases where products develop a ''major problem''. The definition of a major problem includes the following: ''If you had known about the problem, you would never have bought the product and the product cannot do what it is normally supposed to do and it cannot be fixed quickly or easily.''

Taking action against retailers who don't comply is not simple.

If the retailer doesn't satisfy the consumer's demand for a refund or immediate replacement, the customer must write a letter to the retailer, who has seven to 28 days to respond.

If a satisfactory outcome cannot be negotiated, the consumer can take action through the state consumer protection agency.

If the problem isn't fixed within a reasonable time, it's possible to have it fixed by someone else and recover the costs from the retailer but when ''fixing'' actually requires ''replacing'', the law looks less than clear-cut.

It costs $37.90 to lodge a claim on a matter involving less than $10,000 in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal's civil dispute and small claims list but you have to include details such as the retailer's Australian Company Number and registered office. Most people are likely to run out of patience.

If it involves a relatively expensive item such as an iPhone, however, it's worth proceeding. We imagine Telstra's 12-month warranty on a two-year contract would not hold up in a VCAT case. Perhaps they should reconsider.