/ Health

Ask Which? – Help, my treadmill’s run out of steam!

Mark asks: Last June my wife bought a new treadmill. Recently while running on it, the frame snapped in half. When she called the company, it said the treadmill was out of warranty and there’s nothing it could do…

This seems very harsh as it’s not a small issue – the actual frame broke. Is there really nothing we can do?

Joanne Lezemore, Senior Solicitor for Which? Legal Service, responds:

When you buy goods they are often covered by a warranty that is issued directly by a manufacture for a certain period of time. If goods fail during that warranty period you can ask the manufacturer to repair or replace the item, depending on the terms of the policy (as they all differ).

However, whether a warranty exists or has expired is irrelevant as you still have rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 against the retailer of the goods. The Act says that the goods have to be of satisfactory quality and be durable: this means you can expect goods to last a certain period of time before having to pay out for repairs.

Therefore, there is a claim against the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act. However, the burden lies with you to prove that the machine had an inherent defect that has taken time to manifest itself – in other words, it has not broken due to something you or someone else has done to the machine. And you will need to obtain an independent report that verifies that the machine has an inherent defect. You should therefore write to the retailer setting out the above, and asking if they are willing to obtain a joint independent report.

If you paid for the machine using your credit card (and presuming it cost more than £100) then any claim you have against the retailer can also be made against your card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This Act makes your card provider jointly and equally liable with the retailer for any breach of contract.

I hope this helps you and your wife with your broken treadmill! Please be aware that the guidance given is limited by the information I have and should not be treated as a substitute for taking full legal advice.

Have you ever owned a product that broke just outside of its warranty for no apparent reason? Did you go back to the retailer and quote your rights according to the Sale of Goods Act?

Comments
Member

I have no idea how successful claims under the Sale of Goods Aact are in practice. It would be a good idea (?) for Which to survey members who have taken action and collate successes and failures. That might start a trend to using the Act more regularly, rather than just resigning yourself to relying on the goodwill of the manufacturer. For example, what is a reasonable life for different product classes, to decide whether you might have a claim. What types of fault / claim have met with most success. And what is the cost of using the Act, and can you do it without legal intervention if the supplier will not co-operate/

Member

I agree, Malcolm. Which? gets involved with all sorts of important issues but I feel that this is one of the most important.

It would be interesting to discover what would happen if Which? send investigators into shops and asked for advice about items that have failed after the guarantee period. I would be very surprised indeed if they were told that they have rights under the Sale of Goods Act.

The big problem for the consumer is to get an expert that will provide a report that indicates that a fault is due to a problem that existed at the time of manufacture. That could be expensive. In many cases, no fault will exist and the failure is due to poor design and/or use of cheap materials.

I don’t see the SOGA as very useful to the consumer and we should be pushing for goods that include an extended parts & labour guarantee. The length of guarantee should be appropriate to the type of product. Thus it would be reasonable to expect a washing machine, fridge, TV and vacuum cleaner to work for ten years, whereas a computer or mobile phone could be warranted for a shorter period because these are likely to become obsolete more quickly.

If manufacturers have by law to provide extended warranties, I am quite sure that the build quality will improve dramatically.

Premature failure of ‘durable’ goods is not just a major cost to customers but contributes to the mountains of consumer waste that has to be recycled.

Member

Hi both, not sure if this is of interest but you might like to see a piece of research we did in November last year where we did a similar test to the one you suggest, wavechange. We went into some big name shops and tested staff knowledge on the Sale of Goods Act, to see whether they would give us the correct information about our rights.

http://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/11/staff-from-big-name-shops-fail-consumer-rights-test–269667/

Member

‘… according to EU Directive 1999/44/EU, a minimum two-year guarantee should apply to the sale of all consumer goods everywhere in the EU’
I posted this on a thread about extended warranties and then saw that the last post was in February, so am re-posting in the hope of an answer
Can anyone tell me why some manufacturers and retailers are still insisting that you only get a one year warranty and that is that. Surely under this EU law manufacturers and retailers are legally obliged to adhere to the two year warranty period?
I have a printer that is not functioning after only 19 months of moderate use and Amazon are refusing point blank to entertain any repair or replacement, I don’t understand how they can deny responsibility under EU law, much less under the ‘quality’ clause that things should last a reasonable time, with the UK’s six year claim period.
Fact is that this printer cost £152.99, and so I would expect a longer life than 19 months – if I had bought a £50 printer and it only lasted 19 months I could now still buy two more £50 printers and have a further three years use for the same money. Can anyone advise?

Member

Hello Jan, I’ve consulted Joanne, who said the following:

‘The EU laws relating to a 2 year warranty were not incorporated into English law on the basis that, regardless of a length of warranty, consumers have longer rights to enforce against a retailer under the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

‘All goods sold have to be of satisfactory quality under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, and are to be durable – this means goods should last a certain period of time before a consumer can expect them to start requiring repairs. One of the things taken into account is the cost.

‘Here the consumer would write back to the retailer asserting their rights under the SGA asking for a free repair (or replacement is a repair cannot be carried out within a reasonable period of time or causes significant inconvenience). The main problem here for consumers is that the burden lies with them to prove that the printer has an inherent defect that has taken time to manifest itself i.e. it is not something they have done to cause the fault.

‘The advice given above is limited by the information given and should not be a substitute for taking full legal advice.’

I hope that helps. Thanks, Patrick.

Member
alick says:
28 January 2013

Hi Jan
I am just experiencing the same thing with a kodak printer I bought about 18 or 19 months ago and just wondered did you get anywhere.
I had six kodak techs trying to sort my printer out and the last one finally said it is my printer cable connection that is faulty as I have been unable to complete the installation process.This all began because I couldn’t get it to scan so I unloaded the software and haven’t been able to reload it since.
They said its past the 12 month deadline so I would have to buy a new one (abt £150).arrgh!
And now it’s going to have to become landfill or whatever and I hardly used it in the few months it did work.sickening.
regards
Alick

Member
Tracey says:
28 August 2012

My running machine broke, when I plug it it, it blows the socket. It is still under warranty (which expires in 2 weeks) they have said they will repair it and have sent off for parts. This has been 4 weeks now and they say they are still waiting for the parts.
No one has been out to inspect the machine, but they have said that what I have described has happened before so they are certain its the motor.
My concern is how long do I have to wait for the new parts etc, what is deemed as reasonable time to wait for a repair?

Thanks
Tracey

Member

Hello Tracey, I presume you got in touch with the manufacturer. It might be a good idea to get them to send you an estimated time of delivery/repair. What’s a reasonable amount of time is a grey area, but there is another route you could take. You could, under the Sale of Goods Act, go to the retailer you bought the machine from: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/sale-of-goods/understanding-the-sale-of-goods-act/ Thanks

Member

Hi Alick
No the silence from both Amazon and Kodak was deafening! Threw away the Kodak and will never, ever buy another Kodak product again. Wrote to MD of Amazon who ignored the letter. Wrote to Norman Lamb who was the then trade secretary – he had no idea of the EU situation and passed it to his underlings – again no feedback. The trouble is our MPs cannot be bothered to read the provisions of the SOGA and understand that it does NOT give more protection than the EU directive because the provisions of SOGA are too loose and manufacturers/retailers can slip under the radar by saying that after six months the consumer has to prove that the goods were inherently faulty. Given that most engineers take the view: a) that home printers are so cheap that they are not worth repairing and b) engineers that will touch a Kodak printer are rarer than hens’ teeth, the consumer is completely lost. I do not understand why WHICH are not campaigning to get this two year guarantee incorporated into SOGA – I see no reason why it would dilute the ‘up to six years’ protection. All in all and as in so many other cases, all concerned with consumer rights have let us down badly.

Member
David says:
31 May 2013

I purchased a Contour Roam action Camera from Amazon in April 2012, it has started being faulty and filming in pink!!! I contacted Amazon and quoted the Sale of Goods Act, and they say they cannot take it back because ‘the system, won’t let them return it’. Can I claim through the small claims court against them.
I have tried returning it through the Manufacturer, but they are in the USA, and it will cost me £30 to return, and then there could be costs returning it back to the UK through customs.

Member
J honner says:
21 May 2015

I had a toshiba 40″ TV from tesco (299) and the backlight failed at 18 months. Tesco offered compensation of £120 and claimed this was an agreed deal with trading standards. I checked and trading standards were very clear that they make no deals with retailers. I will now challenge this and insist repair or replacement. But this is a very shoddy and untrue response from Tesco

Member

If you have this offer in writing then hopefully Trading Standards will take action against Tesco. Though many of us have experienced retailers saying that they have no responsibility for goods outside the warranty period, this seems so much worse.

Member
Breda Innes says:
23 June 2015

February 2014 bought cooker from Curry’s in Corby. In August 2014 the elements in the oven stopped working, but Curry’s had it repaired under the warranty. This month the oven had the same problem and I had to make an out of warranty claim. As I only bought the cooker 16 months ago I think they have an obligation to repair or replace the cooker, I expect a cooker to last a reasonable length of time .The customer service at Curry’s is the worst I’ve ever had to deal with, call-backs that never happen etc. Surely, since they already repaired the cooker, the warranty should still apply. The lesson has been learned, I won’t be shopping at Curry’s again

Member

Breda, you should be able to make a claim under the Sale of Goods Act – “Quality” “durability”. This appliance has not lasted a reasonable time and your statutory rights entitle you to redress – certainly to a free repair. The retailer is responsible for meeting your claim, not the manufacturer (although if you get nowhere initially with Curry’s, no harm in contacting the manufacturer). You might need to point out to Currys that if they deny your legal rights they are committing an offence. Perhaps Which Legal could help you here if you get nowhere – if you belong. Alternatively you may have legal cover with your home insurance – that’s worth a try providing any excess is not….excessive.

Member

I stocked up on electronic gizmos for my next years presents as the Administrator disposed of Phones4U stock in the early part of the year. I’d been very satisfied with purchases in early batches as all the boxed stock was new and in perfect condition. After buying over 20 smaller items I bought, in March, three Hannspree tablet computers sealed in manufacturers boxes to be birthday presents for my children.

As is usually the case with complex electronics I expected the support to be from the manufacturer and it was later found that, indeed, each box had a printed warranty card giving the details.

The children discovered my hiding place and were given their presents early and opened them carefully unsealing the boxes and unwrapping the tablets, chargers, instructions etc. inside.

And then the problems started. One unit was dead on ‘opening’ and the second charged but then would not turn on and boot. Two disappointed twins and one upset dad. An email to Hannspree in Germany and I was pointed at the UK service centre – in reality a contracted out function carried out by Repairtech a specialist outfit in Southam. I obtained special numbers from them and drove the tablets to their workshop.

First I was told that Hanspree Head Office had decided that the units had been manufactured too long ago to receive warranty service. I asked for the location and name of the person to refer to at Head Office but received no answer (the emails do not have the information on them as required by law . . . but, hey, it’s a German company far, far away.

I then contacted Which who told me that if date of manufacture and delay before sale were not mentioned in the warranty then it was not a term of warranty. In fact I found a last example of this model for sale by Amazon in early April and further research showed that the model was considered such a ‘dog’ that it literally took years for stocks to move. These units were probably part of the ‘difficult to sell’ stock hence their being available to be sold off by the Administrator.

Armed with the Which response I wrote back asking again for the company itself and its proper contact details. Again, no answer to my question and then, after a further delay Repairtech wrote to tell me that the items were ‘second hand’ and therefore could not be covered by the warranty! I asked them on what basis they had made this claim and was told that it had been passed to them, Repairtech, by Hannspree Head Office. I asked again for the location and contact details of this Head Office, again no answer except a short email asking me to either pay or to take my tablets back.

Well, these tablets are not a treadmill although the process of getting any response seems to be one. The next step was that Which found the necessary ‘statutory information’ and I wrote a letter to their ‘address for service’ a week ago asking for the breach of contract explicit in the warranty to be rectified and that if nothing was done telling them that I would arrange for the repairs to be done before taking action to recover the cost. I’m not holding my breath.

Of course I was aware that the retailer was in administration and so there is no recourse there as they are wound up. However, I would have expected a rather better response from the manufacturer – and their agents who have been their mouthpiece. No doubt the manufacturer had been paid long ago for these items and part of that wholesale price should have covered the cost of warranty.

For comparison, I also bought an Asus tablet in the same sale. It had a ‘proper’ warranty system. A card plus a logging system online. Having registered my warranty there were no accusations concerning age of the item or ‘second handness’ . . . a return email told me how to find and download updates and when I had a software glitch service under warranty was rapid and smooth.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. My 8yo twins are just as disappointed as I am and almost three months is a long time for them to be without their birthday presents. We shall see.