Last Summer I had trouble with my B&G Autopilot. I called their service department in the UK but due to overflow I was told routed to Germany. A very helpful tech ran me through a few tests and told me my Rudder Indicator had failed. I obtained a new one for about 385 Euros. Installed and no change in the operation. Again, I called tech support in the UK. This time I was asked for my "Installation Certificate Number". I called the dealer where I bought the autopilot, radar, wind and speed, VHF, etc. (boat had been struck by lightning), but there was no answer. I had remembered the previous year that the dealer shutdown for a 2-week vacation and although I didn't remmember the specific dates, thought this might be the reason. I again called the UK to relay the fact that my dealer was not answering and that I had no idea what an ICN was. They too called the dealer and confirmed he wasn't answering.
BUT all the information was in their computer. They knew the serial number of my unit and when it had been purchased.
I learned that B&G markets their products at retail through normal marine supply houses but also has certified installers who have paid 2500 Euros to attend training. The difference for the consumer is that in the event of a warranty issue, if you have a ICN, the service is done on your vessel at no charge. For those that simply purchased the equipment from a retailer, you are on the hook for labor, travel, shipping, etc.
Since my problem was obviously the Autopilot computer (I could activate the mechanism, the rudder indicator was new and that's the entire system aside from the display and the keypad), I said why not take my credit card number and charge it for the computer and when I return the defective unit credit me back the charge. Oh no, we can't do that. We can only ship the replacement unit to a qualified dealer who will then make an appointment with you to install the computer. I was to pay the dealer independently for his time. I ended up paying just over 200 Euros and as it turns out was worth every penny as the tech from Dahlberg in Palma de Marjorca was excellent and adjusted the AP so that it worked better than it ever had before.
I'm a little miffed, however, over the entire episode. How is a consumer supposed to know that there are retailers and there are certified installers? Both display the same B&G banner in their stores. The UK tech guy told me I should have gone to the B&G website and learned which are certified?? Interestingly, when I did go to the website and look, I learned that indeed they did have different symbols for certified installers but there was no legend to identify them.