/ Home & Energy, Shopping

How long have you waited for an appliance to be repaired?

Broken fridge

Having lived without a freezer for a year, I can’t imagine not having one now. I’d be lost if it broke down, but I’d expect I wouldn’t have to wait too long for a repair.

However, it would seem I shouldn’t be so confident judging by the nightmare repair experiences that have been shared with us.

Your washing machine, fridge, boiler, probably your freezer and likely your dishwasher too are appliances you’d struggle to live without. They’re essentials for everyday modern living. So it’s a major inconvenience – and pretty stressful – when they break, never mind waiting around for them to be fixed.

How long have you been left waiting for an essential appliance to be fixed? And how long is it reasonable to wait?

Repair despairs

One Which? member got in touch to tell us about their washing machine woes:

’I bought a £700 washing machine which broke after two weeks, and it’s taking them a week to come and look at it.’

Another member was stumped by the waiting time for repairing a two-month-old dishwasher:

‘I bought a dishwasher, it was delivered on 28 August and is already faulty in October (not heating the water and therefore not washing the dishes properly or drying). I now have to wait for the retailer to come out to try and fix it on Wednesday afternoon. I have not been offered a replacement due to the machine being faulty so quickly.’

Repairing older machines

So it would seem that repair times for new or nearly new products could leave you hanging around for days or even weeks. But what if you’ve had your appliance for a few years, should you expect a longer wait to get them fixed?

One owner of a six-year-old washing machine found that ‘the handle failed recently with wet clothes in it. The manufacturer couldn’t fix it for over seven days (leaving mouldy clothes) so a local repairman sorted the handle same day. But the whole door was not right – there was a problem on door-side of hinges. Three replacement doors have now been delivered – all broken on arrival!’

And another told us about a washing machine, purchased for around £1,000, five years ago which came with a 10 year warranty:

’The machine has recently broken down and she has called out a technician with this warranty but she is unhappy that she has to wait a week for them to come out. She feels that for the price she paid she should get a faster service especially since she could have purchased a good enough model for far less money.’

If it’s broken, how do you fix it?

We’d like to hear your experiences of getting your essential large appliances repaired, including washing machines, boilers, dishwashers, cookers, tumble dryers, fridges and freezers.

How long did it take, how old was the product, was it still under guarantee, was there a call-out charge, did they have the parts with them and how did you find the process?

Useful links

Read what to do if you have a faulty products

Comments
Profile photo of bishbut
Member

If you buy from a shop or retailer who knows you as a name not just an account number they will want you to go again and buy something else or get a new appliance when it needs replacing and they will give you the best service they can, this applies to anything you buy

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Some years ago my TV developed an intermittent fault when it was between two and three years old. Most of the time it would work fine but sometimes the screen flickered a few times and the picture disappeared, leaving the sound working. I thought about pursuing a claim against the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act but I had bought the TV online and had disposed of the packaging not long before the fault appeared.

Having repaired TVs and other household electronics goods when I was younger I decided to have a go at fixing what showed the symptoms of a ‘dry joint’. I was unsuccessful and since I had worked on the TV, I could not send it back.

With some difficulty I managed to find a shop that offered TV repairs. When I heard nothing I chased the shop a couple of times and eventually went to collect the TV and a large bill, which I paid. The fault soon came back and I found that they had not replaced the part shown on the invoice. (It is very easy to see whether parts have been replaced if soldering is required.) I took the TV back to the repairer and they said they had not managed to find a fault and that the charge was ‘a mistake’. I let them have another two attempts at repairing the TV and each time I phoned, the engineer was not available or they could not find the fault. Eventually I collected the unrepaired TV and asked for my money back, which they refused to do, claiming to have spent a long time on the job. When I said I would go to Trading Standards, a cheque for the amount I had paid, less the £30 inspection fee. arrived in the post, with no covering letter. I had been without the TV for a total of nine months.

Trading Standards told me that they would take no action unless they had other reports. On the few occasions when I have had dealings with Trading Standards they have taken no action. I should have taken legal action over being charged for a part that had not been replaced.

I have started to look for goods that come with a long warranty, either included in the price or for little extra cost. I have never regretted refusing expensive extended warranties.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

The pertinent question is in para 4 of the Intro : “how long is it reasonable to wait?”. This begs the question whether the time should include weekends and bank holidays.

When goods are under warranty, so the repair is within the retailer’s responsibility, it might be argued – based on the anecdotal evidence reported in the Intro – that it is a grudge job that they don’t exactly stir themselves to attend to pronto. For a boiler or a fridge or freezer I would say it needs to be fixed within two working days of the problem being reported. For other appliances I would say a maximum of five working days as the outside limit of a reasonable response and normally, unless a special part or repair technique is required, it should be within three working days – if it’s a question of difficulty then a replacement product should be installed. Each household will have a different degree of urgency. Many would struggle without a working washing machine for more than a couple of days so the issue of whether a weekend is included in the timescale could be critical. I suspect that repair back-up for warrantied goods is one of those areas of commerce that has been quietly degraded over recent years with support logistics being thinned out and dispersed so that response times become elongated. In this situation it would make sense for a stock of temporary replacement products to be held which can be rapidly delivered to the customer. That is alright for free-standing appliances and possibly for washing machines and dishwashers if the customer can make the hose connexions but it would be no use in the case of boiler breakdowns; there is also the risk that firms that had supplied a substandard temporary replacement would not expedite the full corrective action to the faulty appliance.

Although boilers are referred to in the Intro, no further mention is made. In most cases boilers are installed by central heating engineering companies that have a seven-days-a-week emergency call-out service, and it is unwise to buy a new boiler from a firm that does not have that degree of back-up. If it is outside the warranty period it is still important to have it serviced regularly and the service company would probably be the first point of call in an emergency.

What I think would be useful would be a provision that where there is an unreasonable delay in fixing an appliance that is ‘critical to the household’s basic needs’ the purchaser has the right, after giving [say, six hours’] notice by telephone or e-mail after a logged repair has gone past the ‘reasonable’ timescale, to arrange an independent repair and recharge the cost and any losses [e.g. spoiled laundry, wasted frozen food] to the retailer concerned.

With goods out of warranty it will depend on the understanding between the customer and the repairer as to how long it will take to restore the appliance to working condition. In this case it is advisable to make time the essence of the contract by specifying a time limit but it would be very difficult to obtain financial redress if this was not honoured, and, since the contractual relationship would have broken down by that point, it might be injudicious to expect a trouble-free repair process anyway. Since the repair is no longer within the responsibility of the retailer or manufacturer customers are free to contract the work to any independent company in their locality that is competent and resourced for that type and model of appliance. Since consumers’ contact with such firms is usually under distress people would not necessarily know the form of the various operators listed in the local papers or the on-line lists so it is not easy to make a good choice and several phone calls might be required. The Which? Trusted Trader website or local authority equivalent might be a good place to start looking. If one firm is substituted for another it is essential to notify the first firm that their service is no longer required, give the reason for the withdrawal, and confirm that the contractual disengagement is without penalty.

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

I think a lot would depend on the appliance in question.

Being without a washing machine or a fridge for more than a few days would probably get most of heading off to the likes of Argos for a cheap but serviceable replacement.

Many cheap appliances are now available for about the cost of a week’s groceries.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I agree with you Derek but some of the case histories described in the Intro were for brand new goods which failed within a very short period of time. Says a lot about quality control processes during manufacture.

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

John/All, I guess if we all want cheap appliances – then we’ll get them, but we’ll need to carry more of the quality control risks ourselves.

Also, I expect repair times would be a lot shorter, if there were more field service engineers.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“brand new goods which failed within a very short period of time”. Also can be down to poor design, deliberate sourcing of cheap materials, poor assembly methods. These can all lead to failure, but not necessarily within a relative short guarantee period. We need longer protection from this sub-standard manufacture and at present only the Consumer Rights Act provides it. But we need help to make the law work for us.

One day we will learn that decent quality costs money and if we want products that last we need to be prepared to pay for them. In return we want manufacturers and retailers to support products with remedy or redress if they happen not to last as long as they should. I would think supporting consumers to see this happens should be near the top of Which?’s priorities. Is it?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Unfortunately, products can often fail soon after manufacture, John. It would add significantly to the cost of domestic products to test them for any length of time, though this may be done for expensive laboratory and commercial products and anything that could risk life in the event of failure. Early failure is not just confined to cheaper products. My Miele vacuum cleaner is the only product I’ve owned that has developed two faults soon after purchase, though it has behaved itself since. The high failure rate of new equipment is often depicted in the ‘bathtub curve’.

It amazes me how anything as complex as a computer or car ever works faultlessly for years.

Profile photo of nonstarter
Member

My Best Buy 4 year old John Lewis condenser tumble dryer broke down last weekend. I mainly use it winter only preferring line drying in the fresh air. Being out of warranty I contacted a local domestic repairer who was able to come out early Tuesday morning as I work. They confirmed the circuit board was not powering up and it is uneconomical to repair . I paid the £47.50 call out fee that if I buy a new tumble dryer through them, they will refund. This week I checked out the Which?report on Best Buy tumble dryers and again the John Lewis latest heat pump is a best by. Heat pumps may be cheaper to run but they cost twice the price of a condenser type that again is more expensive than a vented. After doing some calculations I have come to the conclusion it will be cheaper overall to buy and run a less energy efficient cheaper model if it breaks under five years old. It’s a shame expected hourly use over the warranty period is not factored into
running cost. What do other readers think?

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Two things would help here: One, a much longer warranty in the first place, and Two, a warranty based on hours of use as well as duration. Four years is far too short a lifespan for a tumble dryer and for the fault to be in a non-mechanical component like the circuit board is unsatisfactory. This is a case where I would say the concept of durability would be worth testing under the Consumer Rights Act.

Profile photo of Sarah Ingrams
Member

Hi LM, thanks for your comment. Heat pump tumble dryers can indeed be pricey, although with lower running costs as you point out. There’s a bit more info on heat pump tumble dryers here (http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/tumble-dryers/article/gas-and-heat-pump-tumble-dryers) if you’re interested. EU energy labels for tumble dryers show the running costs in kWh/ year. We estimate annual energy running costs for every tumble dryer tested based on average usage by consumers and the cost of energy (rather than the price of the product), not the EU label. So we take the energy used to dry a load of cottons and multiply it by three runs per week, 52 weeks per year.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

The old OFT (Office for Fair Trading) published a guide for retailers called “The Sale of Goods Act explained” . I am sure the same instructions apply under the new Consumer Rights Act. On faulty products it said “Any refund, repair or replacement you arrange with your customer relating to faulty goods must not cause them too much inconvenience and you will have to pay for other costs,
for example, collection or delivery.”

I wonder how many customers know this. I think perhaps Which? could do more to promote customers rights like this?

Not by any means an essential appliance – very useful though – but we had a microwave fail about 2 months before a 2 year warranty ran out. The bulb failed and seemingly took out a fuse that also fed the turntable motor. After a couple of inconclusive phone calls to John Lewis’s call centre (that looks after such matters) I spoke to an electrical dept. man at our local John Lewis. “I think our repair company is in your area tomorrow – can they collect it?” “Yes, thanks”. They did, and delivered it back 10 days later, Not as quick as I would have liked but no great problem. We still like much of John Lewis’s service, but less enamoured with their current attitude to “Not knowingly undersold”. 🙁

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I wish there was more publicity about the Consumer Rights Act, especially on how people can exercise their rights. When consumer protection/trading standards were an active service they would place leaflets on consumer rights and related topics in town halls and public libraries and sometimes had their own ‘shop’ or advice centre in a local high street. Bringing helpful guidance to the forefront is better than leaving it to be found on-line. Perhaps the Citizens Advice office has them but I don’t even know where my local CAB is!

So many receipts that consumers get, and product labels and wrappers, say “Your statutory rights are not affected”. Shops that say this should have a leaflet available to explain it.

Malcolm, I presume you are referring to the qualification that john Lewis have introduced over the last few years to their policy on underselling whereby they will only match their prices against other retailers with a ‘bricks & mortar’ presence. Initially I think this was a response to Amazon but as internet sales have increased massively they have had to acknowledge that they cannot compete against firms operating out of big sheds or spare rooms with no ‘frontage’. Their response has been to improve service, offer free delivery on higher spends, extend warranties, and move into own-label products for big ticket items so that ‘like-for-like’ is more nuanced. So far as I can see they have also de-listed many popular brands and moved their inventory more up-market since people were using JL as a showroom and interrogation centre then going home and ordering their washing machine or fridge/ freezer on line from other suppliers.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

John – John Lewis offers a two year guarantee on all electrical goods (five on TVs), whereas many shops only give a one year guarantee. I recall that they used this as a reason for not engaging in price matching.

JL cater for the lower end of the market as well. You can buy a washing machine for £229 at present.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

wavechange – I thought it was now established that two years IS the minimum guarantee in the UK!

From the EU site
“Whether you bought the goods in a shop or online, under EU rules you always have the right to a minimum two-year guarantee period at no cost.
This 2-year guarantee is only your minimum right and national rules in your country may give you extra protection. Remember that any deviation from EU rules must always be to the consumer’s benefit.
If an item you bought anywhere in the EU turns out to be faulty or does not look or work as advertised, the seller must repair or replace it free of charge or give you a full refund or reduction in price. In some EU countries you will be offered the choice between all four remedies from the outset. Otherwise you will be able to ask for a full or partial refund only when it is not possible or convenient to repair or replace the item.
And bear in mind that you might not be entitled to a refund if the problem is minor, such as a scratch on a CD case.
The two-year guarantee period starts as soon as you receive your goods. In some EU countries you must inform the seller of the fault within two months of discovering it otherwise you may lose your right to the guarantee.
Within six months from receipt of the goods, you just need to show the trader that they are faulty or not as advertised. But, after six months in most EU countries you also need to prove yourself that the defect already existed on receipt of the goods, for example, by showing that the defect is due to the poor quality of materials used.”

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I posted a similar comment earlier this year, Dieseltaylor. I understand that the problem is that t’guarantee’ is a two year equivalent of our Consumer Rights Act rather than what we normally understand as a guarantee.

The equivalent page in other languages is clearer.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

DT, this is not a “guarantee” in the sense of a manufacturers’ warranty, it is the minimum time that legal protection is in force for EU consumers. The equivalent of what the UK has in the old Sale of Goods Act and the replacement Consumer Rights Act – except in the UK this legal protection extends to 6 years instead of just 2 (except Scotland 5 years). However in both cases consumers have to use the Act to enforce their rights, which may mean resorting to the courts.

The legal protection is between the consumer and the retailer (not the manufacturer). It is time proper use was made of this – too many consumers with legitimate problems with products are, I suspect, deterred from pursing their right to redress because a retailer is obstructive (or lacks knowledge of the Act) and because they do not want the hassle and expense of taking a retailer to the small claims court. I think this difficulty could be improved by Which? making it clear to retailers what their obligations are and helping test cases to a just conclusion.

The biggest problem consumers face, I again suspect, is products that do not last as long as they reasonably should – they lack adequate durability. Which?, I think, needs to take a proper look at this aspect of the Act and begin to set “reasonable durability” for a number of key offending products – such as major domestic appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, fridges and fridge freezers. If you don’t start somewhere……….

Of course manufacturers (and/or retailers) warranties that protect a product for a “reasonable working life” would be better. We don’t have them yet in most cases and they do not seem to be likely in the near future. Until then we only have expensive purchased extended warranties as one option or the protection of law as the other.

This is my understanding. Perhaps Which? or someone might put me right if I’m wrong.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

John, I can sympathise with John Lewis for diluting their “not knowingly undersold” marketing approach. However I think it has become so restricted now that it is almost mis-selling. You might buy a product from them believing if you saw it elsewhere cheaper they would refund the difference, only to find out the restrictions prevent recompense.

I was sourcing a built-in fridge freezer; it was available at both JLP and a builders merchant retailing to the public, with a large showroom ( so a store), within a mile and a half of a John Lewis shop. The builders merchant’s was £80 cheaper. Both would deliver the appliance direct from the manufacturer. Initially JLP refused to price match because the other store was not the sort of store they matched. On principle I pursued it and after a couple of emails ordered it from the builders merchant; just as I’d done that JLP decided they would price match.

JLP also trade (as a separate company I believe) online of course but don’t price match there. So I think it has become a very weak promise.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thanks Malcolm. It is certainly not the gold-plated assurance that John Lewis used to give. Once we have decided to buy something we usually check John Lewis first and as often as not buy it there and then, whether in-store or on-line, and then never look elsewhere. Having a new house to fit out, we have bought so much in John Lewis in Norwich that we are well known to the staff and they address us by name before we get to the transaction point. You can’t get that on-line.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If enough people make it a priority to purchase goods with longer guarantees or warranties then we are likely to see more of them. That has worked with cars. Of course the cost of providing this protection is factored into the cost of buying a car, but it’s probably more cost effective than paying for a separate extended warranty.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

In my experience, most people don’t have much problem in getting goods repaired or replaced under guarantee/warranty, as Malcolm’s example illustrates. In contrast, pursuing a successful claim for premature failure of goods after the guarantee/warranty has expired is fraught with difficulty. It is common for retailers to claim that there is nothing they can do or that you should contact the manufacturer. Both are wrong.

One way that consumers may be able to tackle retailers that are uncooperative over claims under the Consumer Rights Act is Alternative Dispute Resolution: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/alternative-dispute-resolution/settling-out-of-court/using-alternative-dispute-resolution-adr/

I wonder if Which? can offer us any additional advice regarding ADR.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Citizens Advice is an excellent but under-praised and under-advertised resource.

citizensadvice.org.uk/Global/Public/Advice%20trends/Advice-trends-four-year-snapshot-2011-2015.pdf

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’ve found Citizens Advice very helpful but they have come in for a lot of criticism on this site and elsewhere, probably because of local differences. As far as I am aware, you have to go through Citizens Advice before being referred to Trading Standards. That’s a sensible measure because it routes enquiries elsewhere if they are not relevant to Trading Standards.

I wish that school kids learned something about consumer affairs to help prepare them for life.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

The shame is that Trading Standards within local authorities used to be there to protect the consumer and to give a direct contact when things were wrong, whether food standards, mispricing, dodgy traders or whatever. Now we have to work though a third party which lacks expertise and has many other jobs to do.

Consumers need someone that can take action on their behalf.

The plight of Trading Standards with many teeth removed is summed up by this extract from a 2015 report prepared for the Dept for Business, Skills and Innovation and the Trading Standards Institute:
“The contraction in budgets and staffing levels have led to changed ways of working and priorities and a reduced portfolio which has resulted in areas stopping various special initiatives, such as the administration of ‘proof of age’ and ‘approved trader’ schemes, reduced product testing and fewer enforcement projects.
• There has been a shift from proactivity and prevention to a more reactive and responsive approach. The tradition of routine inspections and sampling work to check compliance levels among businesses has largely given way to a work pattern that is much more driven by referred complaints from consumers and other intelligence reports.
• There has been much loss of expertise and experience through voluntary redundancy programmes, departments have lost much of their resilience, and there is less emphasis on specialisation, with most staff working more flexibly together.
• A combination of the above has led to a relatively weak, and probably diminishing, profile of trading standards, both within the public eye and within the local authority context.

Surely we have never needed a strong Consumers’ Association more?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

From the Trading Standards website:

“There is also the Citizen Advice consumer service. The consumer service was created to provide one place for everyone to go to get advice on their problems and to report issues to Trading Standards. Quite often you will find that when trying to contact Trading Standards you will be asked to contact the Citizens Advice consumer service in the first instance. The consumer service basically acts like a call centre for all of theTrading Standards departments. They will take down the details of your issue and provide you with advice. Every complaint goes on a database which is accessible by every Trading Standards.”

As I said earlier, TS screens calls so that they are directed efficiently. You and I probably know whether an issue is relevant to TS, but many don’t. It’s important that the limited resources of TS are used as wisely as possible.

I don’t understand why successive governments have run down this essential service. I don’t know if Which? are pushing for any action.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

We need a national Trading Standards organisation to collate information that will decide when a product, trader or service for example has had enough complaints to make investigation appropriate. It should also ensure it returns to being proactive – looking at weights and measures (if it doesn’t), checking pricing issues and all those other consumer protection issues that it was set up to do. Perhaps a useful campaign from Which? could be to organise a super complaint?

Farming out ones responsibilities to a third party like CAB is unlikely to be in the best interests of consumers.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

Hi there Wavechange, thanks for your comment.

This is certainly an important issue, and one that Which? has been closely following. That includes us directly feeding in to both the current Government review of Trading Standards, and also the National Audit Office review. The NAO are looking at some of the changes, which includes the moving of complaints from individual Trading Standards Departments to a centralised system through Citizens Advice, as you describe.

​We are concerned about some of the changes that have been happening to Trading Standards and certainly think that there needs to be a more strategic approach, and more sharing of resources and expertise. This is something we will continue to focus on – and also think that the CMA needs to play a bigger role in dealing with these issues.

Hope that helps.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks Lauren. My understanding is that Trading Standards is now seriously under-resourced and unable to act in many cases, even where there is a clear need for action. Sharing of resources and expertise will undoubtedly help but I am not optimistic that Trading Standards is ever going to cope without considerable additional funding.

I would be very grateful if Which? can keep us informed about progress, because it’s very easy to assume that nothing is being done.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Lauren, I extracted part of a report into the current plight of Trading Standards above. The whole report is a sad indictment on the decline of TS’s role to the detriment of all of us. It seems to me it no longer has the resources to carry out its job effectively. Simply moving the collection of complaints from TS to CAB does not address the issue. We still need to provide the resources to take action. CAB will not play that role; TS still need to be properly resourced to act on behalf of consumers.

I hope that Which? will campaign for a properly resourced national trading standards organisation that can collate information and organise local initiatives, and ensure that council funding is ring-fenced to allow their TS departments to return to their proactive role of protecting the consumer. Unless someone can demonstrate that CAB has been effective at stepping into the void left by an inadequate TS service then I see their involvement as little more than a token gesture.

Surely Which? wants effective consumer protection on the ground? How is it seeking to achieve this?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Malcolm – The purpose of CAB is not to do the job of Trading Standards. From my experience, CAB asks questions and records details so that cases can be referred appropriately. For example a caller might not know whether their case is relevant to Environmental Health or Trading Standards. Screening calls to direct them appropriately is perfectly normal and avoids wasting specialists’ time.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

wavechange, I’m aware of CAB’s role and as an advice centre have no problem with them providing information. So if you ring them with a problem that is relevant to TS then by all means redirect you to TS. However they have taken on the role of deciding whether your complaint is appropriate and should be passed on.

Many people would have known when to contact Trading Standards to report a problem, with their council advising them if necessary. Collating relevant information is best done by people who know the job, not a third party. We should restore TS to its former proactive role where it can directly assess problems and take the necessary action. A national database is necessary for the many issues that do not involve only local trades and traders.

Incidentally phone calls to CAB are charged for, so making your complaint can cost you up to £4.

However if someone can demonstrate that trading complaints are dealt with more effectively by CAB than TS then I’ll happily listen. But I think consumer complaints – for example mis-pricing in supermarkets and rogue traders – are better dealt with directly.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Those of us who have a passion for consumer affairs can probably make an informed decision about whether a call is relevant to Trading Standards or another department or organisation, but the reason we have customer service numbers is to ensure that calls don’t go to the wrong person. What you would like would waste valuable resources.

Some of the criticism of CAB relates to unhelpful and poorly trained staff. I cannot fault the behaviour and advice I have received from CAB but I hear what others have said and support the service being improved for everyone’s benefit. It would be a poor show if they could not recognise a case that should be referred to Trading Standards.

Trading Standards now has an 03 number, which is charged the same as 01 and 02 numbers. Calls to these numbers are included in many landline tariffs.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

This is about the decline in Trading Standards’ ability to look after consumers, as you will see from the report “THE IMPACT OF LOCAL AUTHORITY TRADING STANDARDS IN CHALLENGING TIMES”
Research Report by
John Raine, Catherine Mangan and Peter Watt. University of Birmingham Institute of Local Government Studies
Commissioned by
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and The Trading Standards Institute

This is the situation we need to reverse. I hope Which? will have a view on how the protection they provided can be retrieved.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I think it’s time to call in Mr Nick Boles MP, the Minister who currently holds the consumer affairs portfolio, for a meeting at Which? HQ with the key people and put to him, on behalf of all consumers, that the position with Trading Standards is not acceptable; press for an assurance that the decline will be reversed by May 2017 and that additional resources will be allocated from then on year on year until the end of the current Parliament; and demand that the government comes up with an action plan to restore the local authority service to the level required for the challenges that consumers face today. In their pomposity, government ministers like to call all the shots and decide who and when and where they will meet people from representative organisations. This patronising and condescending nonsense needs to stop; no other organisation in the UK represents more people than Which? and the Minister should be pleased to attend and be made to understand the seriousness of this issue. I realise this breaks all the cosy protocols and the usual fancy-dancing orchestrated by the civil service, and I recognise that Which? cannot force the Minister to attend a high-level meeting, but Which? can deal with any lack of cooperation in such a way that the government thinks twice before declining to take part. Which? also needs to show that it is serious about this; “feeding in to reviews” is not enough.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I very much support John’s suggestions. Without an adequate Trading Standards service, the public is at the mercy of unscrupulous traders.

Profile photo of Adam French
Member

We certainly do have advice on finding and using the relevant ADR scheme. But we do call them Ombudsmen instead. Sometimes in life there are too many acronyms

Here’s the link: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/when-to-take-a-complaint-to-the-ombudsman

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks Adam. We could do with some examples to give us confidence to use them.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

Hot topic in the trade.

Basically, expect it to get worse. Repairs will take longer due to a lack of technicians to repair.

From the top of the scale right down to the bottom, in some areas you can expect to wait two weeks or more on occasion to get someone to your door with 3-5 working days the norm. Weekends are not counted as working days for service generally although they can be worked depending on the brand, service arrangements and so on.

Spare parts, if required can take 1 working day through to months to get, depends on what it is, who it’s from and where it is.

Keep in mind the very low cost of the products which is a large part of the reason for this but, also a decline in out of warranty repairs also has a part. There are other reasons of course but those are the striking ones that have led to a decline in repair companies and repair technicians as renumeration is poor in the industry.

K.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thank you Kenneth. I don’t think domestic customers are the only ones experiencing a slower response. I sometimes see chiller cabinets or other equipment out of order in Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s for days. Luckily they’ve usually got enough apparatus to work around the outage whereas the householder usually has no spare capacity.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

No, you are correct John.

Recently a refrigeration engineer friend got offered a job in the USA repairing aircon and commercial refrigeration just because he mentioned what he did as they have exactly the same problem there. A shortage of skilled people.

If you live in Italy, expect to wait at least a week for service even in major cities.

Same in Spain. Same in Portugal. Same in Greece. Same in France although, often worse.

In short, it is not a phenomena confined to the UK nor to solely domestic appliances.

But then, you can wait a week or more to have a £20,000+ car looked at so, is it any surprise that the level of service on a sub £500 appliance isn’t very good?

Whilst it can be an inconvenience, nobody every died or was injured because a domestic appliance had a fault so, it’s not a critical item other than for the storage of medicine and, in that case, a suitable specialist product should be used if it is that critical an item. I believe that is likely why it is that way.

K.

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LM reports his problem with a John Lewis tumble drier – the circuit board seemed to have failed and was said to be uneconomic to repair. This may be a common problem – price of spares extortionate , unobtainable, or maybe a repairer looking for a sale. How does the cost of a circuit board compare with the cost of a drier?

Perhaps to avoid continually throwing away basically good appliances with life left in them retailers should be required to offer spares of components likely to fail for a sensible length of time at sensible prices. Perhaps the EU should require this in its circular economy. I know the arguments against (well, some of them) – cost of stocking spares, some of which that may never be used, for example. However if instead of changing models every couple of years an appliance was decently designed so it could be manufactured longer then this may be less of an issue.

We need to alter the throw-away culture imposed on us if we are to preserve resources. We cannot go on as we are for evermore so it is not if, but when. Perhaps an enterprising retailer like JLP might lead the way by marketing its own brand of repairable appliances with decent guarantees that remain available for a few years with sensibly-priced spares. Maybe a long guarantee will drive manufacturers down this road.

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You’re into a very complex area here Malcolm.

WC is correct, there is no requirement to hold spares whatsoever. None.

I’ve looked, DEFRA, the OFT when it was there, a bunch of legal people including EU and there is simply no requirement on spare parts anywhere.

I’ll try to keep this as brief and simple as I can.

What happens is that the manufacturer goes along while a machine is in production and orders 10,000 widgets over the next three years or whatever. In that there will be a proportion for spares, warranty replacement essentially.

When those stocks are exhausted they go back to that supplier and ask for 100 widgets. The price is then as astronomically different as the scale of the order.

To try to anticipate what will be used, in what quantity for the next X, Y or Z years is nigh on impossible so it doesn’t matter how hard the manufacturers try, they will always run up against this.

Where it’s a part for a car that was, say £100 and it goes up to £200 well, too bad, it’s expensive and that’s it really. If the same happens on an appliance or whatever that has a monumentally lower replacement value, it’s an outrage. The perspective is completely different yet, the issue the same.

I doubt JLP will do squat. All their laundry products either are or, are about to become, sealed tanks. Throw them away after the bearing collapse or something else goes wrong with the tank. They also don’t take to do with spares so far as I know, that’s done either by the manufacturer or often by the likes of my company as it’s a just a bit more specialised than flogging the stuff in the first instance as you will often need some technical capability and experience.

All this stuff are topics I have written and talked about quite a bit and, you are absolutely correct, until this stuff is sorted out I would think that the notion of a circular economy is liable to stay just that, a notion.

K.

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K, I understand all you say. I am simply saying at some point in the future we will not be able to keep producing throw-away goods in the way we do now. So something will need to change. Probably through legislation to ensure everyone is on the same level playing field.

Retailers who badge products – like John Lewis – do have some options to choose which products to badge and to specify what they want – if they have enough buying power. But until a demand appears I guess they will all take the easy option.

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I’ve been on this for years, banging the drum as it were about the issues that are given rise due to non-availability of spare parts, lack of technical documentation, restrictive service practices and all that. And, while it all may help lower the price in store, it has a nasty surprise or many lurking in the shadows for later ready to pounce.

The one you’ve highlighted is that, as the model cycles are shortened so is the life of spares if they were ever available in any event as, some of the machines are so short lived that they may well never need spares. They break, sure, but people just replace the machines as they are so cheap.

That means that the requirement to hold spares is lessened yet further, just adding to or further fuelling the throwaway mentality.

So you get into this vicious cycle that is very difficult to break back out of.

Retailers and manufacturers are trapped in a way also as, they have to compete and if one does something with no restraint, they generally all follow.

Therefore I can tell you that JL can buy from, maybe, four or five manufacturers at most. The bulk are either in Turkey or China and are wholly geared to produce very low cost products for the OEM market or, will rebadge for them.

JL buy the bulk from Electrolux as they have the volumes to support a deal there, most won’t, but they also can or have bought from F&P, Smeg and so on.

I know this because, spare parts don’t lie. 😉

Lux is mid-range at best these days and not all that different from most of the household brands most people will know. Not a huge difference between them in that area of the market.

But, them, BSH, Whirlpool and so on are all being *forced* to compete at the bottom with the cheap Turkish and Chinese etc because, that’s what consumers and in turn, retailers, are demanding and ultimately buying, products at lower prices.

So lower and lower prices, less and less availability of service and spares, feeds more volumes, feeds lower prices…. and, you’re in a right old mess.

Without meaningful legislative change it’s a situation that cannot and will not be resolved.

Voluntary won’t cut it, nor will one retailer or even manufacturer in global market.

But, as I like to point out at meetings and giving talks on this, show me the politician that will stand up and tell everyone that they will have to pay more for consumer goods and some of the less well off may not be able to afford them any longer but, they’ll last longer and we’re being truly green by truly reducing waste? Good luck finding one.

K.

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If you advertise cheap products, people tend to buy them. Many brands seem to move towards the cheaper end of the market. Argos are now advertising various Bosch washing machines for £250. At present they are still selling more expensive models but I question the wisdom of a company that had a reasonable reputation (as far as I’m aware) moving downmarket.

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Just like all the rest, Bosch have compromised, in some cases substantially in order to hit price points.

If they didn’t, volumes would drop, they’d need to put up prices and all the rest.

K.

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Legislation is probably the only way to ensure we are less wasteful. The EU can make these “unpopular” laws so I will have to rely on them to deal with this. 🙁

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Yes, it is in my opinion.

Many of the Far East manufacturers don’t supply spares beyond the cessation of a model. No rule says that they must continue to supply spares.

Some owners of side by side American style fridge freezers from some well known brands will find that, after a few years, they can’t replace a door shelf, salad bin and as many other parts, it’s for scrap in a number of cases. Even although the machine is perfectly serviceable.

In short, some of it is simply, to be as kind as I can be, an utterly disgusting waste.

But, perfectly legal.

So, even if the owner wants to repair the machine, often times that’s not an option.

In turn, this whole cycle has led to a massive reduction in repairers that are out there. Our research shows a drop of about 50% or more from 2004 through to now.

There’s a heap of reasons for this of course, it’s not easy to wrap your head around in some ways but, is demonstrable fact.

With less repairers to fix stuff, lead times to repair inevitably have to lengthen.

Lengthen the repair lead time, lower the cost of replacement in real terms, raise the cost of repair/spares and all you do is fuel yet more replacement.

When you talk to manufacturers, most at least, they don’t really want this but to some degree they’ve gotten themselves to blame partially, not even remotely wholly to blame but, they haven’t helped themselves. I believe however that this is unintended consequence, not by design. But that’s another topic.

After this you see market consolidation where one big fish snaps up smaller fish, becomes a bigger fish, snaps up yet bigger fish. Less and less consumer choice, even if you see more “brands”, that’s all that they are, brands.

Then all the service requirements get placed on an already creaking, groaning and often antiquated service provision and lead times for service slip yet further.

All the while the “management” of these arrangements are under mammoth pressure to ensure that they show a profit or, at least break even. So, some things get priority over others with the more lucrative taking the centre stage. Or, they dump the problem somewhere else.

Again, the service the actual customer receives often takes a knock, unless you just happen to be lucrative or, in the lucrative bit of it all.

Therefore, in response to “How long have you waited for an appliance to be repaired?”, the answer varies depending on where you are, what you have, what the problem is, what spare part/s are needed, where they come from, if you’re a paying customer etc and likely a myriad of other factors.

If you ask me about a specific I can give you a fair idea but, even with the intimate knowledge I hold of the appliance service industry and spares, there’s often no straight answer and, it can change quickly as arrangements alter or, what service companies are available to actually fix the bust machine. That is of course, if they haven’t gone bust themselves.

K.

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Very well put Kenneth but for the practical among us there is always -diy in many but not all cases saving you a lot of money. But as you know young people arent being trained in engineering as it is nearly non-existent in this country and dont see it as an attractive prospect compared to IT . Gone are the days of =broken hinge /door handle on fridge/washing machine etc make a new part from scratch yourself /drum lose on washing machine -get out your Halfords socket set/screwdrivers etc and retighten or replace bolts . This country was once the Worlds innovative place for engineering every young boy could at least repair their bike ,many garden sheds/garages held a wealth of repair equipment now its a laptop/PC/tablet etc in the bedroom where,s the engineering there ? Am I one of the few relics left that repairs everything ?

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Duncan – I’m another of the relics who will have a go at repairs. When I needed a new drain pump for my Philips washing machine, the local shop did not have the correct part (the machine was over 10 years old) but I was able to buy a similar pump and adapt it to fit. Soon after, a coin I had carelessly left in a pocket destroyed the plastic impeller of the new pump. Rather than go back and buy another pump, I made a new impeller from a brass disk, brass strips and the bush from the damaged impeller. I fashioned a simple filter with plastic-coated garden wire to keep foreign objects out of the pump. My repaired pump has worked for over 20 years. The machine itself was bought in 1982 and I have replaced the motor and repaired the door catch. I only know two other people who do their own household repairs. One is an agricultural engineer and the other an accountant.

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And, that’s absolutely fine as well as to be encouraged IMO but, on more modern machines, often made impossible by what I regard as restrictive practices.

What a lot of manufacturers will do is to restrict the availability of both spares and technical information to their own employed service departments or, to only their appointed agents.

Without that information, such as what fault codes mean, how to clear them, how to run diagnostics and so on, it can be impossible to DIY repair them. Then many people and, even in the trade at times are left to guess at what’s wrong, which can prove an expensive mistake or, simply replace the product.

Once again, this impacts directly on the question posed in this article as, if the service is restricted to the manufacturer’s own or appointed service arrangement then the customer has no choice but to wait, regardless of the timescale involved.

And yes, you also have no choice other than to pay the ransom demanded either, you will often have no option but to employ the services of the “approved” repairer which, to my mind, is effectively a mini-monopoly and certainly not, in my opinion, in the best interests of the customer nor a free market.

It is however, so far as I can ascertain, perfectly legal.

K.

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I cannot comment on manufacturers deliberately making life difficult for DIY and professional repairers but practical issues have certainly made life more difficult. Integrated circuits, wonderful though they are, effectively killed off the opportunity to diagnose and repair faults. The only way of carrying out a repair is to ‘repair’ electronics is to swap an expensive circuit board. Microprocessors have compounded the problem. Metal components have given way to plastics that are fine until they break. Many components are now specific to a product, whereas in the past there was more opportunity to use a similar part intended for a different model.

Fault codes should not be necessary now that cars and even washing machines have display panels. It would be easy for for the display to indicate what the fault is in plain English (or maybe a choice of 38 other languages) if the manufacturer wanted to help the service engineer and owner. Maybe the manufacturers are deliberately trying to make life more difficult.

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Most times though, the electronics are just fine, they are incredibly reliable for the most part these days.

People presume them to be faulty when they often are not.

But if you don’t know what the fault code F1, F3 and so on is, what chance have you got?

Again, in an effort to keep costs down and, I suspect, to drive people to manufacturer service, just like that engine fault light in your car, it tells you something’s wrong, not a lot else. All the appliance and consumer electronics people have done is mimic the car industry in that regard.

The big difference is that, due to an EU block exemption, car manufacturers must make that all available to the trade at large. Appliance and consumer electronics (or anyone else?) manufacturers have no requirement to do so in law.

Model specific components are driven by two main factors, consumer desire to have “things” that fit their individual needs or taste (cosmetics) or the manufacturer/retailer desire to offer more choice at varying price points, often around the former.

Add to this that manufacturers are not at all keen on keeping components the same or, they get copied and they can lose revenue. Yes, there are deliberate tactics to try to stop that.

Not all appliances do have displays, the bulk of the low end and well into the mid range do not have them or, have simple digital displays no better than a digital clock. Therefore, getting faults typed up isn’t going to happen for most probably the bulk of the market.

But why would they? Did you not read the comment about about mini-monopolies?

This is deliberate, very deliberate and drives people to the approved service or, perhaps insurance or service cover.

K.

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Circuit boards should last the life of an appliance if correctly specified components are used and there is protection from voltage spikes, moisture and vibration. I agree about people wrongly presuming that they are at fault and have seen many examples of this, mostly in the non-domestic environment. I’m not blaming service engineers because time is money and faced with a challenge or an intermittent fault, working parts are likely to be replaced.

I don’t accept the argument that we have fault codes rather than faults described in simple English to save cost. As I see it, the intention is to deny us useful information, in the same way that the error codes may not be explained in the manual or on the manufacturer’s website. I appreciate that not all models have display panels.

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You might not accept it but, sadly it’s the way it is and, is liable to be for a long time to come and not just for the perhaps nefarious reasons people may think but, for practical and technical reasons/limitations.

From the example cited, F1 will usually be a door lock issue.

But whilst you can find that out in many cases what it does not and cannot tell you is why there’s a door lock issue. Could be the lock, could be wiring, could be the door not closed properly, could be a dodgy catch, could be the board and so on.

All the machine knows is that, on a chick that there’s a problem with that area. If you understand how the machines and the logic in them works then, this makes perfect sense and, without massive complexity and expense, is the only way it can be done.

Fault codes are not a replacement for diagnostic skill, they are an aid.

Why they are not published, well, one commonly cited reason is safety. If the manufacturer publishes them and someone not “competent” tried to repair and harms themselves or others then the ambulance chasers will file a claim.

And, if you think that unreasonable, it has happened.

Reason being, the manufacturer has no way by which to judge the competence of the person attempting a repair. So, why should they risk legal action or just the hassle and cost of a nuisance legal action?

Easier just to tell people, tough, you can’t have it.

An unintended consequence of the litigious society we live in.

Equally it also give the opportunity to say no, even if you really don’t have to and it could be argued that some may well do so. I suspect that this is the case in some if not many instances.

Personally, I think they should all be freely available, at least in so much as to allow people to see what the problem is likely to be and to at least be allowed the opportunity to make a judgement on what to do for themselves. And, my money’s where my mouth is if you like as, I’ve published slews of them online for all. I even added notes to most to point people in the right direction.

That has to be tempered though so as the company doesn’t get sued so, it’s a balancing act requiring a degree of care. I expect most manufacturers wouldn’t be bothered with the hassle of that.

K.

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There is no requirement to hold spares for any products, as far as I am aware. I have read that some trade associations encourage members to carry spares but it’s expensive to maintain stocks of spares that might not be needed. With most popular cars it is easy to get hold of spares, either from the dealer or from a third party source. Household products may not be repairable in the way that they once were. You cannot change the heating element on a modern electric kettle because it is welded under the base.

Printed circuit boards were introduced in the 60s and are now used in all but the simplest electrical equipment. Virtually no-one attempts to repair circuit boards, so it’s a case of replacement at whatever price a company decides to charge, assuming that spares are available. I enquired about the cost for a fairly simple circuit board for a stair lift. It would have cost over £400, so our charity decided to scrap the stair lift.

A circuit board is an example of an integrated assembly, and most of the components on the board will still be in good operating condition. Earlier this year, Which? reported that most washing machines now have ‘sealed drums’ so that if the bearings fail, the machine is likely to be beyond economical repair. Which? also told us that Bosch has introduced the ‘sealed door’. I guess this will be replaceable, but at a much higher cost than when component parts could be exchanged.

Desktop computers are an excellent example of use of integrated assemblies. At least with a desktop machine, the power supply, DVD drive, motherboard, hard drive/SSD and RAM boards can be swapped. A computer can be repaired at a sensible price by swapping the faulty part and many people are able to ‘build’ or repair their own computer even if they cannot usefully wield a soldering iron.

I believe that the way forward is SENSIBLE use of integrated assemblies. Having to replace the entire drum and tub assembly in a washing machine because the bearings have failed is not sensible.

Pushing for longer warranties will help encourage manufacturers to produce goods that can be repaired and the job done cost effectively, otherwise it would be costly for them to provide repairs during the guarantee/warranty period.

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It is a shame many young people live in a virtual and fantasy world dominated by computers and games. The real world demands survival skills such as the routines of house maintenance, gardening, repairing stuff and generally doing constructive things. When we get round to encouraging education in such matters, particularly in engineering and science, maybe people will learn that it is not necessary to throw away something that has stopped working because they will better understand how things work and how to look after them.

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Making and fixing things is so much more enjoyable than living in a phoney world that I find it hard to believe that young people wouldn’t prefer it, but perhaps they are not given the right opportunities or inspiration. Or maybe they just can’t be weaned off their computers and devices because of the adhesive effects of social media. Working out solutions to puzzles and practical problems is also better for the brain than looking them up on-line.

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Many young people do engage in practical activities, which is why DIY stores are so popular. Life is much easier with modern power tools. Some do it out of economic necessity and others do DIY for fun. Unfortunately the TV programmes often focus on major exercises like house renovations, but no doubt they provide the inspiration for the less ambitious to tackle smaller jobs. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to repair household appliances. Kenneth has explained some of the problems. Some repairs are still possible and there is nothing to be lost by trying.

I don’t understand why it is popular to criticise those who play computer games, but not those who spend hours watching films or sport , or engaging in discussion online. 🙂

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It is about a balance between constructive activity and leisure. It’s good to watch sport, but also good to participate. I would criticise some (many?) films (and tv programmes)for gratuitous sex, violence, foul language that seems to have to outdo previous offerings. I discuss online at interludes currently between making furniture – a large oak sideboard – and getting my greenhouse ready for the winter. I also enjoy reading (I confess largely factual).
But I’m not sure how many get the balance right – partly through lack of opportunity. Unfortunately trawling stuff on a computer or sitting in front of the tv can be addictive and easier than exerting yourself.

I’m not sure the criticism is “popular”, just a personal view.

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The web provides a vast resource of information, good, bad and downright dangerous, for anyone keen to carry out DIY repairs. One of my early successes was finding information about an HP laser printer that had cost me over £700 in 1997. There was information about a design fault that I had not recognised but soon worked out how to fix.

I hope I have not criticised anyone for how they spend their leisure time, but computer gamers (if that’s the term) are often looked down on.

I did not want to engage with social media, but it is helping me turn up some fascinating historic material. Yesterday it was an historic document from 1826. Recently I found a photo of a piece of machinery that I had played with as a kid. It was on the Facebook site of the village historical society. I’ve tracked the machine to a museum, where it is fully restored and they have the receipt from 1806 and the names of those who had contributed to its purchase.

If I want to find out how to fix something I will not hesitate to turn to social media. Just don’t ask me to be a Facebook ‘friend’. 🙂

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I recently had to wait 7 weeks for a washing machine drum to be ordered and installed by Hotpoint/Domestic & General. I could gone online and bought it myself in under a week. I’m currently waiting to hear back after complaining about this thoroughly unreasonable delay. My timeline, if you’re interested, is here: http://1drv.ms/1K0ZKLq

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John says:
3 May 2016

I am currently in a exactly the same situation except the wait time mine is slightly less at 5 weeks.
The engineer has failed to show up on 2 appointments which has resulted in loss of pay due to having to take days off from work to wait in and now we are expected to wait another 2 weeks.

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I foolishly tried to save some money by buying a new Panasonic condenser dryer on Ebay. It was shipped from Lancashire to Sussex where my daughter is living in a student house. The dryer didn’t work properly and at first Panasonic wouldn’t honour their guarantee. Eventually, after several months haggling, a Panasonic engineer came out but didn’t have the part needed to repair the dryer, so went away for several more weeks. After he had “repaired” the dryer it broke down completely within days. After a second repair of a NEW dryer, fortunately it worked and has been running for about a year without any further problems. So in future I shan’t try to do it on the cheap, and I will certainly never again buy a panasonic home appliance.
Had I simply bought a new dryer from a local Sussex store, I could have insisted that they take it back, and could even have taken it back myself and demanded a refund.

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Phillip says:
31 October 2016

My 4 month old AEG washer dryer has recently broke, requiring a new PCB board (the engineer changed some other parts first), it has so far been 3 weeks and after contacting Service Force today (it’s being repaired under the manufacturers warranty) have been informed that AEG haven’t got the spare part in stock and don’t know when it will be back in stock as it needs to be manufactured and then shipped over from Europe. I have a feeling it’s going to take a few weeks to get the part. The machine itself cost £800! I’m appalled at how soon the machine has failed. I’m currently awaiting a response from both AEG and the retailer, though I’m sure they’re going to say “the repair has been ordered” and that there’s nothing they can do because of it (had this problem with a Hotpoint machine in the past and had to wait a few weeks for the part as the repair was already in process). This means I’m not going to have a fully function machine for weeks which I’m obviously not very happy about.
In December we got a new TV from Currys (never again will I go to Currys!), two days later I noticed some of the pixels had gone leaving large white ‘spots’ on the screen, needless to say having had just paid a small fortune for it I took it back to be exchanged, where I was informed that manufacturers allowed for a certain number of pixels to have gone (the amount that had gone was distracting when watching TV), but me being me became very stubborn and stood my ground refusing to go away without an exchange, after all I hadn’t just paid all of that money to have a TV that doesn’t work properly! The already large queue at the customer service desk continued to grow, to which the customer service lady slammed the documents she had in her hands down on the desk and declared she was going to quit and walked off! However another lady took over, contacted Samsung who agreed to exchange the TV and then walked out with a replacement TV, all of which took 5 minutes.
I myself am 32. I was raised by parents who repaired things due to not having much money, and so I repair whatever I can, and have noticed that designs have been altered so much that parts that could be easily changed no longer can be.

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The Consumer Rights Act requires the retailer to provide a remedy without unreasonable inconvenience to you. If they are unable to give you an acceptable time within which your machine should be repaired, i believe you are entitled to a refund or a replacement machine. The CRA is available online; I suggest you look at the relevant part, quote it to your retailer and insist, if necessary, that they meet their legal obligations.
Guidance on the implementation of the Act from the Government – BIS – says to the retailer:
“You must provide the repair or replacement within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer. This means that if the repair/replacement work takes too long, or causes significant inconvenience to the consumer, the consumer would have the right to reject the goods for a refund or demand some money back (see “7. The Final Right to Reject or Reduction in Price (2nd tier remedies)” for further detail on these remedies).

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It amazes me that companies seem incapable of resolving simple problems by using a bit of initiative. I should have thought a common-sense approach by AEG could solve this case to the customer’s satisfaction in a jiffy. There must be scores of identical brand new machines in the warehouse or somewhere in the sales pipeline so why not just whip the PCB out of one and send it to the customer [in a Jiffy bag] ready for the technician to fit it as soon as possible.

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One guess is the labour cost in dismantling a brand new stock machine to remove the part, and then no doubt when the donor product is made complete, a series of tests necessary to comply with legislation before it can be sold on, probably as “used”. Presumably the factory that makes the machine would have parts on the production line; use one of those. But I’d suggest simply having the machine refunded (if not happy with AEG) or replaced (if Phillip is happy with it) should be the simple and speedy solution. I hope Phillip reports back 🙂

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Small repairers sometimes cannibalise scrap appliances for serviceable spares, particularly expensive items like motors and circuit boards. Unless there is obvious damage to a circuit board, there is no guarantee that this is the fault, or the only fault. That’s why service engineers swap circuit boards when diagnosing faults.

Paying for expensive products is no guarantee that they are well made. About six or seven years ago I gave an expensive Panasonic DVD recorder as a Christmas experiment and it failed recently. The fault is not in the power supply section of the circuit board but the board is scorched due to use of under-specified components.

Companies may design good products but if they substitute properly rated components with ones that are barely adequate, premature failure may occur. It is very common to find overheating components and cheap plastics in consumer products and sometimes better specified components would have cost very little extra. Hi-Fi separates are about the only examples I can think of where I have not seen much evidence of use of inappropriate components. If electronic components are used well within their ratings and adequate spike suppression is provided, circuit boards should outlast the life of the product.

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Natalie Esteban-Wade says:
23 March 2017

I have a lovely expensive Rangemaster all singing all dancing fridge freezer, that is just over 4 years old. The first time it broke on me it was covered under the 2 year warranty so was fixed within a week, however the most recent time again a big repair of the circuit board I was told by the extended warranty provider Homeserve who work on behalf of Rangemaster it would not be able to get the part for 6 weeks…….

Trying to run a family household with no fridge freezer for this length of time with no sign of a replacement or a loan of a fridge to see me through even though countless phonecalls have been made by myself and John Lewis have all been to no avail.

I have received an e-mail from Rangemaster stating they would not replace a fridge/freezer over 4 years old and the warranty isn’t with them so speak to Homeserve… My advice to anyone buying an expensive product (£1, 750) please don’t be under any illusion that the high price will mean a. it will work without problem for a long time and b. that their customer feedback will be any good.

So upset with Rangemaster, it will be Beko for me next time. That’s if me and my family don’t get taken down by samonella beforehand…..

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Hi Natalie,
You might want to try : http://www.ceoemail.com/

You could send an email to everyone in Rangemaster you can find and express your disappointment with the F/F after you were expecting so much from it, etc. and request they sort it out for you.

Customer service at Rangemaster is hard work, but contacting them at the top does seem to produce results.

I later rejected our cooker as not fit for purpose at a year old. The store I bought it from contacted the Rangemaster area rep who thankfully agreed and I got a full refund.

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Natalie, the Sale of Goods Act applied when you bought your appliance (Consumer Rights Act now is similar). A requirement under “Quality” is that a product should be “Durable”. I would expect an expensive appliance to be more durable than a cheap one, and yours clearly has not been durable so unless it has been abused, fails to meet SoGA. However, remedy might normally be a free repair – and you already have this in hand through your warranty.

After two failures you might well wonder what will fail next. It sounds like your F/F might have poor quality components, poor design or poor manufacture. As your contract was with John Lewis (the seller) I would point out that this appliance fails to meet the requirements of SoGA and that you have no confidence in its future performance. See what they say.

I do wish that Which? would put more effort into helping consumers with their rights under SoGA and, now, CRA, including tackling the more difficult problem of durability. None of us like spending decent money on something that turns out to be a lemon. Why should we bear all the cost and inconvenience of something out of our control? It is the manufacturers who produce these products, and when they fail to meet reasonable expectations they should put things right.

A fridge/freezer will always fail at some point when you don’t want it to; a good idea is to have a back-up, just in case.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

While both Alfa and malcolm have given good advice Natalie one thing has not been mentioned , I have just checked up and can get a Rangemaster PCB delivered to my door within a few days or express next day delivery . The cost of the PCB and YES !! its the 100 % genuine/kosher /dyed in the wool product for a total charge -including- next day delivery for— £140.43 . I am actually sitting on the website and can click on secure card payment /PayPal and this is no “pip-squeek ” company this is one of the UK .s biggest companies specialising in spares of a domestic nature . For the technical among us — its like a miniature Motherboard with the same type of multi connectors so its -unplug old one– plug in new one – taking note of the connections when unplugging OR plugging in ONE at a time. This reminds me of a very large utility company ( no names/no pack-drill who come out with the same . By the way –there is only one listed as Rangemaster dont seem to use different ones in different models .

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That would be a quick solution, but Natalie seems to be covered by an extended warranty from Homeserve, so fixing it herself would both cost her money and maybe negate her warranty. If Homeserve provide a warranty they should be chasing Rangemaster for the part.