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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.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

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.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

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

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks very much Lauren.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

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 🙂

Member
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.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

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.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

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?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

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.

Member
dieseltaylor says:
3 May 2016

From the Web – and relevant.

Cold – Fail!
Just received the machine, and having issues similar to other reviews. The Coffee is coming out luke warm. I can stick my finger in the stream out of the machine. Called Nespresso support and they are useless. I asked them what temperature it should be, and was told… “I don’t like my coffee hot” by the support person. They have no idea what is an appropriate temperature. I measured with my Thermapen – 120 F.
Sounds warm… it’s not. Coffee is typically brewed at 190-195 F. If it were in the 140 range it’s probably be ok.
Another issue – the Milk Frother seems to be “used”. That’s a little troubling, but called W&S, they said I must have received a refurb frother. The Coffee Machine was new and sealed in box. Perhaps returned for the same “cold” coffee by another customer.
W&S is going to refund me.

Makes lukewarm mediocre coffee
My kids got me this for Christmas. I returned it yesterday. It makes lukewarm coffee. I called Nespresso and they told me to fill my coffee cups with water and microwave them before making coffee. Humph. The fancy milk frothier makes barely warm milk that is well aerated, but just warm. Not worth the price.

I also looked at the Amazon site for the DeLonghi version and around 10% feel the temperature is too low. One writer noted a 20-25F drop from the 140F claimed figure.

Shucks I feel really guilty I do not look at this when we last had a Conversation on these machines. It would have been highly relevant.

Member
Momo Perth says:
3 May 2016

I have a Dolce Gusto machine and the temperature of the coffee produced with it is also cooler than I would like, but it is probably kinder to my gut as I used to drink my coffee – black – at near boiling! If I want really hot coffee I use a cafetiere.

Member
dieseltaylor says:
5 May 2016

Seeing the number of comments on Amazon regarding less than hot coffee from a DeLonghi Nespresso machines I asked my brother to run a test on his make.

The water temperature after a minute or two in the cup was 151F and the cup exterior 132F. This seems higher than the 140F quoted in the US for the Delonghi machine operating temperature. One customer who measured the output was complaining of a heat of 115-120F . Generally around 10% found it too cool.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Do Which? test temperature on these machines? Perhaps they could revisit the testing (if any machines are still around). Or maybe poll the Connect group and ask them to stick a thermometer in their next batch of Nespresso – use the resource available!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Which? did a report on the temperature of washing machines on the 60 setting and the length of time that this was maintained. Washing machines are now judged on performance, apparently, rather than the temperature they reach.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I won’t be using my washing machine then to make coffee.

Online, blackbearcoffee.com says “The brewing temperature of the water used is very important. It should be between 195 F (91 C) and 205 F (96 C). The closer to 205 F (96 C) the better. Boiling water (212 F – 100 C) should never be used, as it will burn the coffee.”

I only use a cafetiere and use water boiled in the kettle. By the time it is poured on the grounds it is probably still close to 212F (100 C to others) but I have not noticed any unpleasant taste. Probably by the time it hits the cold cafetiere body it is below the nasty point.

One cafetiere (we have two!) is a stainless steel double walled single cup type that keeps it warm (hot ); I don’t usually leave it in for more than 10 minutes but never get that burnt taste that you get from “hotplate” coffee.

Member
dieseltaylor says:
3 May 2016

August 2013 was when Which? revealed that they had done a test that showed 2/3rds of washing machines did not get near the 60c or only briefly. That is the last time they have tested and they do not report on it. The German Test.de had triggered the revelation by reporting on it in 2012

Whilst wavechange says Which? reports on performance he omits to say that they judge optical cleanliness and not hygienic cleanliness. For some occupations [and B&B landladies] I think 60C is best.

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

Spot on with temperature Malcolm as anything less can produce a weaker (paler) cup of coffee. According to some coffee connoisseurs it’s OK to boil the water as long as you let it cool to between 195 – 205 Farenheit before brewing so a thermometer is required to get it exactLy right. But to allow the water to boil for a long time before pouring is a definite no no.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

A useful piece of advice that I may have learned from Which? is to seek advice on the suitability of products before purchase. Generally, shops are prepared to dig out the instruction manual for a product so that I can check specifications. Looking at manufacturers’ websites is a great help but they don’t always have all the information supplied with the goods. If you have confirmed that a product is suitable for your needs it is much easier to return it as unsuitable if you have taken advice and noted who gave it.

We often criticise retailers but in my experience they are often very good at exchanging recently purchased goods that don’t perform well. At one time it was very difficult to get an exchange if goods have been used or even unpackaged.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I use Which? recommendations as well as doing my own research to sort out the “wheat from the chaff”. I trust Which? to look at products critically for not only performance, but build quality and likely durability. These can be very difficult to assess ourselves for products where much of what matters is concealed.

Which? is important to consumers. I am critical of its operation and agendas from time time time (some may have noticed) but that is not to put Which? down but to hope that. if others agree, it can help perhaps raise its game. Consumers are the biggest pressure group there is and they to be adequately represented.

Which? (CA) should contribute to the formulation of consumer law, like the CRA, and be prepared to use the legal provisions available to get fair play, when necessary.

Member
James Culbert says:
3 May 2016

I have a Nespresso machine that is used daily inc milk attachment. It’s delivers great coffee everyday.

Member
R . Sherwood says:
7 May 2016

John Lewis gave me the “run around ” some years ago with a Dualit coffee machine. I sorted it by dealing with Dualit direct. They were very helpful. They paid to have it collected, repaired & returned. I can’t remember the details but I seem to remember that John Lewis should have taken the problem on board but weren’t interested, in other words I’d bought it , it was my problem. I DON’T buy from them anymore.
Sainsburies are brilliant in that regard by the way. Keep your receipt that’s all & exchange is immediate.

Member
MrGumby says:
8 May 2016

But was the machine actually faulty? Nespresso said it wasn’t. Perhaps the user was at fault?

When using our 3-year-old Nespresso machine (with which we’re delighted), we run a small quantity of hot water into each cup before starting. That warms not only the cups but also the machine. It isn’t reasonable to expect a cold machine to produce an espresso-size quantity of coffee in cold cups and get hot coffee.

I feel quite sorry for both John Lewis and Nespresso.

Member
I Greenwood says:
9 May 2016

Espresso should not be drunk very hot. The Italians (and I!) drink it down in three sips. This article leaves me feeling uneasy. Was the user expecting something that is unrealistic? Many people are used to drinking long coffees at temperatures higher than espresso should be (about 75C). Espresso is drunk at a lower temperature. Surely it would have been easy enough to take the temperature of the espresso being brewed with a digital thermometer pen (cheaply bought on Ebay) and popping to the shop and doing the same? If there is a significant difference the evidence would be all that is required for JLP to act appropriatley otherwise it’s a subjective preference.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I use a cafetiere and am not keen on espresso, so cannot speak with any authority on drinking temperature. However the extraction temperature seems to be the important factor and may be the one relevant to this Convo’s complaint. This seemed a useful site
https://www.home-barista.com/espresso-guide-better-extractions.html on which it says:
Proper espresso extraction occurs at 90°C to 96°C (195°F to 205°F). Lower temperatures accentuate acidic origin flavors, while higher temperatures accentuate bitter roast flavors.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The brewing temperature is not regulated in the traditional ‘drip’ coffee machine but there are now ‘pour over’ machines that heat the water to the correct brewing temperature before the start of the process.

Although there is an optimum temperature for brewing coffee, the serving temperature is a matter of personal preference, which is why it would be useful to have a temperature control on all machines, including those using capsules.

As someone who prefers coffee and all hot drinks to be at a comfortable drinking temperature it’s good to know that espresso should be drunk that way. I enjoy the occasional espresso but would be embarrassed to ask for a triple. 🙂