Don't buy software online (the Nero experience)
Of course it's convenient, but you're buying the cat in the bag. If something goes wrong, you're left on your own. Unlike the software you bought from a retailer which you can return (and thus prove that you're no longer using it) with downloaded software your acceptance of a licence key is final. If the program on the CD doesn't work, the retailer can't argue that you've forfeited your consumer rights buy opening the package. But if the downloaded program fails to live up to the promised standard, the software company will deny further responsibility of the problem as was the case in a recent experience I had with Nero. Nero AG does provide some sort of warranty of replacement or repair for faulty software and the right to withdraw from the contract should the fault not be remedied within a reasonable time, but that warranty is hardly worth the paper or computer screen it is written on. First you would have to get hold of a real person at Nero to deal with your complaint.
When it was an upstarting software company, Nero AG produced one of the best multimedia managing packages available for viewing and editing audio and video files. Version 6 of the Nero suite had an unimaginative user interface, but it was stable and allowed the viewing, editing and writing of audio and video files all in one neat package. Their technical support was proactive and competent. When I wrote to them about a bug in their software, they responded immediately, acknowledged the fault, and wrote back within a few days: "We have found the cause for that problem and we are working on the solution of it. It is not sure if it will be done in time for the next update, but we are working on it." I hasten to add that I wrote in as an ordinary customer, not a software reviewer or journalist. Those were the "good old days".
How much has changed in the course of two years. Nero 8 is an upgrade I suggest nobody needs nor wants. The promotional emails advertised it as a great further development of the Nero editing suite, but in reality it is a big step back. The user interface has become infantile and the functionality has completely disappeared. Well, it remains there in theory, and you can still watch DVDs, but try editing video files or burning a DVD and the program will inevitably crash. At least that was my experience. I could have got through a whole box of writable DVDs without successfully burning a single one of them. In the process I even had to endure the occasional dreaded Windows crash or "blue screen of death", something that has thankfully become a rarity after Windows XP Professional.
As for the technical support, I emailed them and am still waiting for replay two weeks later. I also emailed Asknet, the company who handles the online sales for Nero AG. They did reply that they, too, had forwarded my queries to Nero technical support, and so we both wait. Eventually I asked for my money back. However, this is where everybody starts hiding. Asknet, who on their website proudly proclaim that they afford customers a 14 day cancellation and return period: "If you wish to cancel an order, you can do so, provided that you cancel your order within the given time line for the Right of Withdrawal/Revocation. The minimum Right of Revocation is 14 days, but might vary depending on the service policy of the Software Publisher." I read this as there being a minimum period of 14 days, but it might be longer if the respective Software Publisher permits. When put to the test, I found, however, that this promise, again, was worth less than the paper it was written on should one want to print it off. This is how I was fobbed off: "Due to terms and conditions of the software that you have purchased, you must contact Nero in order to receive a cancellation. Please contact them using one of the methods that you have been provided. Asknet cannot assist further in this matter." And they referred me back to the silent Nero technical support department. The Nero website on the other hand refers all such matters back to Asknet stating: "Asknet AG is a Nero reseller and your contractual partner for all purchases in this store". A veritable game of ping pong.
I am pretty sure that the whole arrangement and refusal to deal with a justified customer complaint is falling foul of consumer rights in Germany where both companies are incorporated, but in my experience the consumer protection agencies and watchdogs of European countries are spineless and a civil suite would be far more expensive than the original cost of the purchase. I'm also pretty sure that the two companies know this and use this to their advantage.
What they don't seem to know is that companies alienating their customers are eventually forced to die a slow death. For some time they may try to invent new software and release it on the market before it has matured out of the testing stage, for some time they may trap new buyers, but over time their reputation will precede them. Anonymous FAQs and faceless websites, the refusal to provide telephone numbers where real people can be contacted, the persistent ignoring of emails asking for support - these and many other symptoms of the increasing impersonal nature of corporate Europe are gradually turning people off. In the case of myself and Nero, I once used to recommend their product. Now I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.
Last not least, the Nero PR department, the only one with a published telephone number, was given the opportunity to reply before this story was published. Sadly, it was only staffed by an answerphone. An email request to make contact was answered by, don't hold your breath: an out of office reply!