/ Home & Energy

Samsung – fix all faulty fridge-freezers for free

Empty fridge

In the wake of the Beko fridge-freezers scare, if a burning smell was coming from your fridge-freezer, and you could hear the sound of plastic cracking inside, wouldn’t you be concerned? I would.

And I’d like the manufacturer to send an engineer out pretty damn quick to fix it for me – for free.

It might sound like a far-fetched problem, but according to Samsung’s technical reports, this is exactly what’s been happening with the RSH1 and RSJ1 side-by-side fridge-freezers. Defrost heaters at the back of the appliances get too close to a metal sheet, which can heat up, leading to cracks in the lining and burning.

We understand that this isn’t a safety issue but it’s certainly a design flaw – if there are undetected cracks in the lining, moisture will enter the insulation and performance will be affected.

What is Samsung doing to fix the problem?

Samsung have been fixing the problems by sticking aluminium tape over the cracks, while newer versions of the fridge-freezers have been modified and aren’t affected.

Samsung told us that if the faulty fridge-freezers were within the warranty period, they’d fix the problem for free. But when we asked them about out-of-warranty machines they told us:

‘If the product is no longer under warranty, then customers are encouraged to contact Samsung customer services for further advice and we will do our best to provide a satisfactory solution.’

So despite our requests, Samsung haven’t confirmed whether customers will have to pay for the privilege of having their faulty products fixed.

Fix the flaw for free

This just sounds wrong to me. It’s not like owners of the affected appliances have been misusing their products; it’s a design flaw which means some machines will need to be repaired, and Samsung have admitted as much in technical notes sent to their engineers.

When Samsung’s RS21 fridge-freezers developed a problem which led to them heating up, Samsung agreed to repair this problem for free under an extended warranty covering that fault.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if Samsung did likewise with their RSH1 and RSJ1 and could confirm that all out-of-warranty appliances would have this problem fixed for free?

Comments
Guest
Gerrard says:
16 June 2014

WRAP has published information on consumer attitudes to product lifetimes – including how factors like brand, price and guarantee length influence purchasing decisions. It’s available at http://www.wrap.org.uk/node/18468

We tracked some real shopping trips and it was amazing to see some shoppers starting to shop around for guarantee length when they’re on the internet. In other research, we found that 80% of householders would like to see a minimum guarantee of 2 years on products, rather than 1 year.

Focus group work suggested that householders see a manufacturer’s guarantee of “putting their money where their mouth is” [sic] so it’s a great opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves when they have good reliability and design. Of course, they would need to balance out heavy and light usage but Defra, DECC and EST recently found in a study that single-occupancy households use as much energy on laundry as multi-occupancy households (sounds crazy, but that’s what the data showed) – so perhaps we’re all heavy(ish) users after all.

Guest

Gerrard, A very interesting report that seems to support many of the comments made in the conversation – assuming it is representative. Consumers consider lifetime important, are prepared to pay more for longer life, would like longer guarantees, choose by brand or previous ownership as a guide. They find information lacking on making a choice (include life or reliability), see life as not just time, but cycles, and also express a view on what acceptable lives should be. Also of interest is that most surveyed consider the products they bought gave acceptable lives. Could it be, therefore, that only a small proportion of products fail in an unacceptable time, and that dealing with these early failures in a fair way by the supplier is not a huge problem?
Forgive me if I have summarised this inaccurately – i’m sure I will be corrected!

Guest

I hadn’t read that one Gerrard.

It raises some interesting questions for me though.

The most obvious being that, if people are so keen on longer warranties they are there to be had so, why then is 40% of the home laundry (washers) attributed to sub-£300 product that, at best, you will get a two year warranty on?

My best guess and, it is merely a guess, is that in order to produce something significantly more durable the build cost increases quite dramatically and then you create a barrier through pricing, which there is little to no way around.

For example we know that carbon brush motors will wear down carbons in a few years if the spin speed is increased to above about 12-1400rpm, or at least this has proven to be true with a number. To increase life you can switch to an induction motor but, to keep the cost even remotely sensible along with energy use you need to use a DC motor. A DC motor is more expensive, yes but, you must also add an inverter card for supply and control as well and, those are not cheap. To do both you can easily add between €30 and €100 without batting an eye at build.

By the time that works through to retail you will likely be looking at, on even a moderate mid-range machine, adding at least £50-£150 to the ticket price.

The same or similar can be found on other elements such as the use of stainless for outer tanks, heavier bearings with better seals and so on. Where you go to town and throw the kitchen sink at it, the cost ramps up quite considerably.

And, all the while you do that you add weight which not only affects shipping costs to a marginal degree but, more it hits you on the WEEE Declaration as well. So if you build better you face a sting on the fact that you become unavoidably more expensive, therefore not as competitive on several fronts. You end up with, great warranty and quality, shame about the price.

You also gain no advantage whatsoever under the current EU Labelling. Other than POS or literature, which is often less visible or requires some research, there’s no discernible or easy to consume guidance for buyers.

The energy thing is interesting, it may be erroneous or it could be the sample, I really can’t say for sure without a heap more data. Even then I don’t know that you’d ever get to the bottom of that one as I have a feeling that it could be a use thing.

What I would suspect although, I do not have enough evidence to prove, that where you have a two person home, perhaps even one, that more care is taken to split loads correctly and/or smaller loads washed more regularly. This is highly subjective though based on much observation of habits.

What I think happens is that young people will split laundry better and/or do smaller loads in order to care for expensive or specialist garments and older people to maximise life as well as being generally more caring of the items.

This is where you see the majority of under loading, spin imbalance and so on type issues.

But crucially, that will inevitably lead to more cycles being run.

Families will tend wash much more in a single load and be far more prone to overloading, incorrect detergent use and so on as the focus changes from having the time to care and do things more correctly to, getting as much done as quickly as possible. Hence in those situations we see far more overloading and damage caused by that and some other common issues than in the former scenario.

This means less cycles per kilo of laundry, if want like to measure it that way, but impacts with poor wash results, stressing the machine and so on.

Both can suffer from extremes either way but in general from my experience this will largely hold true based on what I see back from the field as well as first hand experience.

Were the laundry done correctly in accordance with the machine instructions and also (crucially) the care labels etc. then I suspect you would then see reflected exactly the result that you would expect, which would be that larger households would use accordingly more energy.

That would be the only reason I could think to explain the energy being roughly similar.

The same kind of habit based methodology could be applied to other products such as tumble dryers and on refrigeration there should be little to no discernible difference. Cooking, maybe a more notable difference in some instances.

Thanks for that, made me put the economist hat on and think a bit that one.

K.

Guest

At last some light at the end of the tunnel. The British integrity is intact!

Guest

Welcome to the debate Gerrard. It would have been very helpful to have your input earlier. I very much support what WRAP aims to achieve. The following comments are intended to be constructive.

1. Is there good evidence that the results of the WRAP studies reflect actual product choice rather than aspirations? If you ask a person how much they would be prepared to pay for a washing machine the answer could be different from what has happened in practice. As Kenneth has pointed out repeatedly, cheap products sell well and it is not difficult to suggest reasons for this. In many cases a purchase will be made because an existing appliance has failed and urgently needs to be replaced, so the purchase has not been planned and budgeted for. Paying more for a potentially more durable washing machine is unlikely to be appeal to anyone who is not paying off their credit cards each month and at current interest rates it may make more sense to opt for a cheaper model and avoid taking on more credit.

2. It would be very interesting to explore the reasons why consumers have chosen a product. Obvious factors include influence of marketing, brand image, brand loyalty, warranty length and availability of products. There are many factors and sometimes people choose a product because experiences of friends and family guide their choice and that is less daunting than making up your own mind. The WRAP report shows that most people would consider buying a Dyson vacuum cleaner. I would love to believe that this is because Dyson offer a decent warranty, but I suspect that it is superb marketing and a distinctive appearance. The Which? ‘Best Buys’ list is not dominated by Dyson cleaners but there is little doubt that Dyson has helped push up amount that we are prepared to pay for a vacuum cleaner.

Guest

Whitegoodshelp wrote:

“If they make a printed circuit board, how can 2 or 5 out of every one hundred be “expected” to fail when they are all identical?”

Circuit boards may look the same but they are not identical, mainly because of difference in the components. Many of the boards you replace will have only one or two failed components and the hundreds of other will still be in good working order. 🙁

When circuit boards are built they are tested and a certain percentage will either not work at all or not perform adequately. Failure in use is often as a result of components getting hot, which is why it is so important not to use underspecified components. Often failures are seen in new products, which is why most of have experienced ‘dead on arrival’ goods, even if they worked fine when assembled. In use there will be some early failures, which is an inconvenience for consumers but not a major problem assuming that the retailer is helpful.

In use, failures will continue to occur, particularly if components are getting hot. Voltage spikes can cause failure at any time and vibration can cause failure in poorly designed mechanical products.

It’s important to consider statistics. Take a hundred ‘identical’ lamps or any other simple items and some will last much longer than others.

To keep this in perspective, well designed circuit boards can last decades. You just need to build them with decent quality correctly specified components that don’t run hot.

Guest

It was interesting to note from Gerrards comments that there is such little difference in single occupancy energy usage. This could be attributed to the multiple programmes available on modern w/machines. Single people after all still have whites, coloureds, delicates, cottons, synthetics etc. to be sorted and as a result a similar number of washes but most probably lighter loads per wash.

If the 60C washing temperature fails to kill off all bacteria and viruses I don’t see the point of wasting energy using it except perhaps for ‘refreshing’ the machines drum. I used to have trouble with a nasty smell when I kept the door closed when not in use as I have an integrated machine, but the problem was easily overcome by leaving the door sightly ajar and always wiping away excess water from the rubber seal after each wash. I never use the tumbler dryer programme as it tends to be a bit of an energy guzzler but would be interested to know whether the heat produced in the drying cycle is more efficient at killing off viruses and/or bacteria.

It came as little surprise to learn of the discernment and the amount of research carried out by consumers generally before making a purchase, although except perhaps of course through more desperate measures in breakdown situations when regrettable and/or unwise decisions are more likely to be made rendering prospective buyers open to mis selling by sales assistants.

I look forward to the follow up from Which? as promised by Patrick and would be very interested to hear the views of other members as to their preferences before making their final decision to buy and how it compares to WRAP research.