I currently own six Toshiba laptops - two are elderly and don't get used any more but the other four are in active daily service and not one of them has ever given me the slightest problem. Two of them are my own personal machines and the other two are for my staff to use when out and about.
I've owned more Toshiba laptops than any other brand and I have never had any problems with them at all.
To put some kind of perspective on this, you rarely here the good things but everyone hears the horror stories when things go wrong. Yours is, I would guess, an isolated case.
Think of it like this: if your experience was the norm Toshiba would have gone out of the laptop business a long time ago. Instead they currently enjoy one of the top positions in the world and you don't get there for nothing and it doesn't come easy for any company.
Warranty claims when correctly dealt with at both sides normally are quite painless. Errors can enter the loop in many ways, from couriers to and from the warranty centre to one fault being fixed and the rough handling machines sometimes get in transport causing another problem.
It isn't really fair to say that Toshiba machines or their support are any better or worse than their competition and had the matter been dealt with first time, on time nobody would have ever heard about it.
I realise that there is no comfort in this, but your experience is not the norm and Toshiba machines are, in most cases, superb.
If you look through the ConsumerWatch threads you'll find similar stories come up every now and then and pretty much every manufacturer has been accused of messing up at one point or another - always by someone who felt wronged by the fact that their experience was not as it should have been.
If the machine had been poorly repaired so many times in such a short space of time I would have exercised my right to reject it and demand a new replacement or refund. A machine of lower spec would not have been acceptable and you rightly accepted a refund. Frankly I am surprised that you did not ask for one yourself, instead of waiting for all of those calls to be offered one. The refund will not normally cover support calls and most manufacturers follow the same route in this.
For every story like this there will be thousands of 100% satisfied owners/users.
I am sorry for your experience but stating that "The products do not stand up to every day use.." is simply not true.
Best of luck with your new Sony.