Millions of consumers went out and purchased a flat screen television set 12 to 24 months ago, hoping for years of trouble-free viewing. Increasingly, some of these consumers are encountering the same frustrating - and expensive - problem.
"My children were sitting and watching TV and it all of sudden went black," Angela, of Anaheim, California, told ConsumerAffairs.com. "The sound was still on so I thought maybe the video cord was loose or something. I tried everything and realized that nothing was going to work to fix this problem. Got the same run around as everyone else. The TV costs more to fix than I paid for it."
Angela's lament is one of 61 complaints about Vizio flat screen TVs received at ConsumerAffairs.com in the last 12 months. Many of the complaints describe the same problem; suddenly the picture disappears, leaving a blank screen - "the black screen of death," as it has been dubbed by some consumers.
Dennis, of Belfry, Kentucky, bought a 47" Vizio LCD in December 2007 and experienced the "black screen of death" three months after the warranty expired. He took his set to a number of area repair shops until he found one that would work on it - Hall's TV Service, in Pikeville, Kentucky.
"I wouldn't say Vizio is any worse than any of the off -brand TV sets out there," owner Ray Hall told ConsumerAffairs.com. Most are cheaply made and not real easy to work on."
Besides Vizio, Hall said he sees a lot of Polaroid flat screens in his shop. Both brands are sold at Wal-Mart stores and both produce plenty of complaints. ConsumerAffairs.com has logged 206 complaints about Polaroid TVs in the last 12 months.
"We purchased a new Polaroid FLM-373b in February 2007 for $997.00 from Wal-Mart," said Michelle, of Raton, New Mexico. "Three months out of the box we had an issue with our TV not wanting to come on."
Hall said in many cases the problem stems from a power supply failure.
"Most of these sets have three power supplies," he said. "The main power supply usually holds up but what happens, one of the screen power supplies fails.
When that happens the screen goes dark and repairs can be costly, assuming a service provider can get the parts. Hall says he has found Polaroid, in particular, is difficult to deal with. On the other hand, he says, he finds it easy to work with Sanyo.
But for consumers considering what flat screen TV brand to purchase, Hall says one brand is about as good as another. Which means, not very.
"It used to be you could buy a TV set and it would last 20 years," said Hall. "It's not like that with these flat screens."