/ 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
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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?