A Perfect Storm is Brewing – Image Retention Issue That Can Shake LCD TV Industry
By Consumer Protection GroupDated: Mar 15, 2011
The global market for LCD TVs grew at a remarkable rate of 30% in 2010 and is forecasted to exceed 200million units in 2011. There is only one small cloud on the LCD TV technology‘s horizon – the imageretention phenomenon.
The global market for LCD TVs grew at a remarkable rate of 30% in 2010 and is forecasted to exceed 200million units in 2011. LCD TV technology has established itself as uncontested market leader leavingplasma TV far behind and making CRT TV obsolete. There is only one small cloud on the LCD TVtechnology‘s horizon – the image retention phenomenon, also known in the field as temporary imageretention (TIR), image sticking, image persistence or pixel burn. The image retention issue marringconsumer experience can burst anytime in a wave of consumer protection suits and shake LCD TVindustry. Here is how Philips’s whitepaper describes this phenomenon:“When an unchanging fixed image or repetitive sequence is displayed over a sufficiently long timeinterval, electrically charged particles (ions) that are always present in liquid crystal material can collect atthe LCD panel electrodes. These ions cause a parasite electric field that affects the normal LCD behavior.The result is observed when the screen image is changed, and a residual image of the previous image can beseen – this is image retention. In most cases, image retention is temporary, and can be reversed by takingparticular measures. However, when no measures are taken for long time, image retention can becomepermanent.” Currently the legal status of the image retention issue can be described as a grey area. On the one side,warranty certificates offer rather vague clauses designed to protect warranty providers from customers’suits. On the other side, the leading LCD TV manufacturers go the extra mile to please disgruntledcustomers and suppress any potential suit that can set up the precedent for mass claims. The standardoperating procedure is to replace the image retention affected LCD TV set free of charge by new set evenwhen the set is out of the warranty period. A perfect storm that could affect the LCD TV industry is brewing in the small hall of the Israeli (HaifaMagistrate)Small Claims Court. On March 14, 2011 there was a hearing in the Haifa Small Claims Court– file #23292-11-10 – E.E., a private person, v. Ralco Consumer Products Ltd, the exclusive importer anddistributor of Sharp’s products in Israel. The Plaintiff has applied for warranty service within warrantyperiod when she discovered faded bands on the screen of her LCD TV. Technician, sent by warrantyprovider, had diagnosed a problem as unrepairable irreversible pixel burn. Ralco Consumer Products Ltd.,a Sharp’s importer and warranty provider, took a stance typical for Israeli service providers against smalland helpless consumers – “Deny and Procrastinate”. The elderly judge Honorable Rev. Rachel Hoze,whose lifetime experience has been shaped mostly in pre-digital era, presided over the case bristling withtechnical terms and arguments.The Plaintiff, E.E., has complained that faded bands on the screen developed after watching LCD TV informat 4:3. The Defendant, Mr. Yakov Gurman, Ralco’s Service Director, has blamed the Plaintiff in abreach of User Manual instructions which say that watching in format 4:3 for extended periods of time maycause problems. Asked what is “extended period of time” - an hour, week, month, year, continuous oraccumulated – Mr. Gurman mumbled something about one movie after another and necessity to stick toformat 16:9. Asked if format 14:9 could cause any problems or if there any reservations in using format