/ Home & Energy, Shopping

Brief cases: getting a refund for a faulty coffee machine

coffee machine

After being sold a Nespresso coffee machine that wasn’t producing hot coffee, Kenneth Whitby struggled for a suitable solution from the manufacturer and the retailer, so he appealed to Which? Legal for help.

Following an in-store tasting demonstration, Kenneth and his wife purchased a £249 Nespresso coffee

Kenneth Whitby

Which? Legal member Kenneth Whitby

machine from John Lewis in November 2015. But after getting their new machine home, they found that the coffee it served wasn’t as hot as they’d tried in the store.

So they contacted Nespresso, who advised them to warm their cups and machine first. But this didn’t resolve the problem. So they appealed to John Lewis, who gave the same advice as Nespresso. John Lewis also said that the cardboard cups used in the demonstration would’ve kept the coffee hotter for longer than cups or glasses.

Unsatisfied with this response Kenneth went back to Nespresso to return the machine. Nespresso said its 30-day return policy had ended. Instead, they offered to inspect the machine, to which they concluded wasn’t faulty and advised Kenneth to complain to John Lewis.

Our advice on returning faulty goods

After being passed from pillar to post, Kenneth contacted Which? Legal for help.

We advised that Kenneth’s rights were governed by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and actionable against the retailer, John Lewis, not Nespresso. Goods must match the model seen, and given that the coffee their machine produced was not the same as the coffee in the store there was an argument in his favour.

Armed with our advice Kenneth returned to John Lewis and got a full refund.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose and as described. You should expect your purchase to match the model seen, except where any differences are brought to your attention before purchase. If they aren’t, this may be a breach of contract under section 14 of the 2015 Act.

If there is a breach, you have 30 days from the date of possessing the goods to get a refund. The next remedy is a repair or a replacement. Where this would not remedy the breach you’d be entitled to a price reduction, or the final right to give it back and get a refund. If you’ve had the item more than six months, the retailer can consider how much use you’ve had from a product when assessing the refund amount.


An account of Kenneth’s problem with a coffee machine appears in the May issue of the Which? magazine.

It would be good if we had a member of the Which? legal team host and participate in a Conversation to point us in the right direction over consumer issues. Many of us have experienced well known retailers denying us our legal rights, particularly when the manufacturer’s guarantee has expired and a fault has developed.

Many of us may have contemplated subscribing to Which? Legal and seeing more examples of how people have been helped would be useful, and should encourage more of us to make use of the service.


Hi wavechange, I’ve fed this back to the Which? Legal team. Thanks


Thanks very much Lauren.


Presumably somewhere a machine like this would declare the temperature at which coffee was made. Not meeting this temperature would fail the requirement of the CRA – goods not as described. It is a pity that JLP were not initially helpful; once they would have been on the customer’s side but their attitude seems to be changing.

At least this case shows that mentioning the CRA works. A pity it is not much more widely publicised and promoted as the customers protection.

Stores can be prosecuted for denying customers their rights. Perhaps if this were tested it might wake up delinquent retailers to their responsibilities in law.

I have had no trouble with the temperature of tasty coffee made in my John Lewis cafetiere that cost just £15 🙂

dieseltaylor says:
3 May 2016

It seems to me that perhaps IF we kept a score for all those firms that denied the CRA it might provide an embarrassing reminder – and a public one – who are the real rogues.

There is a more interesting point here . Water temperature is measurable. JL and Nespresso presumably can tell customers how hot the water should be. Kenneth could measure it himself or take it to the John Lewis store. So we have an article extolling the benefits of talking to Which? Legal but totally misses the point that this refund could have been based entirely on fact.

The questions left are, are the JL demo machines tweaked and/or, are the products rather variable in the operating temperatures.


Temperature has been an issue since electric filter coffee machines were introduced. Coffee spoils quickly at high temperature and one of the reasons I chose my present machine is that the Which? report mentioned that the coffee was not as hot as other machines.

As Dieseltaylor says, temperature is measurable and I’m very much in favour of use of facts rather than opinions in resolving disputes. It’s also not very difficult to control, as the growing number of variable temperature kettles and water heaters shows. Hopefully variable temperature will become a standard feature of coffee machines in the future, so that users are not disappointed.

We also need manufacturers to provide specifications. Not everyone will read them but they will be useful to determine if products are out of specification.


I have found with coffee that it is not the initial temperature that spoils coffee, but machines that have a hotplate and coffee is kept on it for too long. I have been given revolting ex-coffee from the commercial coffee machines where a large glass jug of coffee can stand, kept too hot, for a long time.

Were john Lewis suggesting, incidentally, that the machine they sold was only suitable for use with paper cups?


If you take milk in coffee, the colour will betray that it has been kept hot and with black coffee the distinctive smell makes it obvious. As soon as the coffee has stopped dripping through my filter machine I turn the hotplate off and if necessary reheat it in the microwave if it has gone cold.

When I used to put filter coffee in a Thermos flask it would keep longer because the spoilage is at least partly due to contact with oxygen in air. The pressure pots often used at functions keep the coffee away from air, helping to keep it drinkable.

dieseltaylor says:
3 May 2016