Panasonic Won't Replace Defective DVD/VCR Combo

David in Massachusetts bought a Panasonic combination VCR/DVD player about a year ago. It came with a special feature none of his previous Panasonic VCRs had: it randomly freezes. A lot.

In a letter to Panasonic consumer affairs division manager, Michael Marino, Jr., he explained the situation:

The Panasonic DMREZ47VK is an inherently defective product. The problems I am having with the unit, which I will describe shortly, are duplicated by virtually everyone else who owns the model. A quick glance through the product reviews on Amazon.com, and other sites bears this out. Apparently, this was a poorly designed product that received little quality control. The problems consist of regular and random unit freezes, requiring me to physically unplug the unit from the wall to regain function, and an annoying habit of Mode indicator overlays randomly appearing in the picture (eg, “Play”) while viewing a DVD. These problems are extremely annoying, and completely detract from my expected use and enjoyment of the device. Quite simply, I did not spend $250 for a device that works properly occasionally.

During the course of my ownership, over the past year, I have contacted Panasonic on numerous occasions in an attempt to either correct or resolve these problems. Unfortunately, the summation of these attempts has been a complete waste of my time, and lack of concern for your customer.

I have wasted hours on hold.

I have endured several indecipherable phone calls with foreign support agents

I have attempted several firmware updates, that do not address the issues

I have written in several e-mail support inquiries that went unanswered

I have written in several e-mail support inquiries that were finally responded to a month later with a useless canned reply

And basically, I have reached the end of my patience with this company and this product. Quite frankly, I have endured far more than any customer should be expected to endure.

This problem isn’t unique to David. Online reviews of the same product recount similar problems. Most of the four-and five-star reviews on Amazon come from customers who recently purchased the appliance, and long-term owners with defective units use the reviews section to vent. Their problems are similar to David’s. From the one-star reviews:

I purchased this player last summer, but didn’t realize it had problems until I tried to set it up to automatically record which was about 2 months after I got it. When it automatically recorded 3 shows but not another automatically, I just assumed I set it up wrong. I set up to record again being very careful. I still have problems. Some weeks it will record a show and other weeks it won’t record the same show.

Although this unit has a great set of features & capabilities, it has so many fundamental problems that it’s given me nothing but headaches. I even bought a second unit to compare & found that it had *the same problems*! This is not a case of me getting unlucky & buying the 1 bad manufactured unit—these are flaws in the software & programming itself!

Many calls to Panasonic customer service (after looong waits & painful menu navigation & customer service reps who were not very helpful) resulted in 2 firmware upgrade discs being mailed to me in 8/07 & 11/07. They didn’t fix the problems.

My unit is now at the local Panasonic authorized repair center, awaiting new parts, which will leave me without my player for about 3-4 weeks in total, if I get it back when they claim it will be done.

Will new parts fix a fundamentally flawed device when firmware upgrades didn’t? Maybe. Panasonic has offered a similar repair deal to David, but he’s had enough. Instead of waiting a month or more to see whether his problems might be repaired, he wants a new VCR.

Customer Reviews: Panasonic DMR-EZ47V Up-Converting 1080p DVD-Recorder/VCR Combo with Built In Tuner [Amazon]