/ 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

This ongoing discussion proves how complex the problem is. The main problem is that “reasonable” is subjective, and dependent exclusively on individual facts. Therefore it’s impossible to have any blanket system.

For example, a £350 washing machine used by a family of 5 every day for 3 years which then keels over and is scrap? I wouldn’t argue that is necessarily unreasonable. The same machine bought and used by an old lady washing light loads just once or twice a week? That’s more of a case.

But as I’ve pointed out a few times, the manufacturers having no responsibility, yet being mostly the ones in charge of whether anything gets repaired or replaced – or not – has created a system where the retailer is responsible, but relies almost exclusively on the manufacturer taking the financial hit, which it commonly refuses to do.

This leaves consumers routinely being erroneously told that because the manufacturer says there’s no obligation to give a free repair it’s tough luck – and I’m only talking about legitimate – not spurious claims K 🙂

This specific Samsung issue surely highlights my point well? If the fault is inherent, then under the sale of goods act customers should get it repaired (and modified) free. But the manufacture has no SOGA responsibility. It’s only the retailer. So the retailer thinks, well yes it does sound like people have a valid claim – so they go to the manufacturer – who says NO. Where does that leave the retailer? Are they likely to then say to the manufacturer well we accept there is a valid claim under the sale of goods act, we’ve seen the part has had to be modified and improved so we accept that we sold it with an inherent fault – so could you please arrange to spend (potentially) millions repairing them all or giving them all new fridges and send us the bill? Of course they aren’t. They are going to say to the customer, sorry, Samsung say there’s nothing they can do. And there in a nutshell is the problem.

Whitegoods help said:
“This specific Samsung issue surely highlights my point well? If the fault is inherent, then under the sale of goods act customers should get it repaired (and modified) free. But the manufacture has no SOGA responsibility. It’s only the retailer. So the retailer thinks, well yes it does sound like people have a valid claim – so they go to the manufacturer – who says NO. Where does that leave the retailer?”

If I were a retailer in that position, my reaction would be to say, “OK, I shall no longer sell any Samsung products.” If they all did that, Samsung would have to start taking some responsibility. The only other option would be for them to sell direct to the customer in which case, as ‘retailer’, they would be obliged to take responsibility anyway!

Yes John, I believe that is one of the theoretical benefits of making retailers solely responsible, but in practice it just doesn’t happen. In theory retailers should only sell decent quality products that last a reasonable time and don’t have lots of design or quality faults. In reality, the manufacturers are protected from most blow back because they have no SOGA obligations, and the retailers are substantially protected by selling extended warranties, and insisting that once the manufacturer refuses to help there’s nothing they can do. Although they may have lots of clashes with consumers (often when consumers overestimate their rights) it’s only usually the sales staff who have to deal with the sharp end but profits remain high – higher when selling products with short lifespans.

I’m pretty sure small independent shops would stop selling products which gave them too much trouble though – it’s just the big companies who can carry on regardless.

Yes, I understand. Some liablity, then, must rest with the consumer who should, whenever possible, use retailers who have been shown to offer good customer support and who sell reliable products.

Obviously, Which? has a part to play here, providing surveys of customer satisfaction not only of specific products (and their manufacturers), but also of retailers and their standard of customer support.

An example would be John Lewis, who do not sell rubbish (for obvious reasons) and, at the same time, offer excellent support to their customers including price matching and two-year warranties on many items compared to the usual one year. I shop there whenever they have what I want.

As previously posted J Lewis in my case refused point blank to comply, although better than most they don’t always get it right.

It is very apparent after reading most of the comments on this controversial subject that [a] there is an urgent need for a review by Trading Standards to introduce new legislation to enforce manufacturers to take on more responsibility for the production of inherent flaws, prior to goods being dispatched to retailers and [b] rogue [or non-compliant] manufacturers who continue to produce inferior substandard goods should be NAMED AND SHAMED by Trading Standards [or maybe consumer groups] so that prospective customers are pre-warned of the potential risks before purchasing their products from retailers.

Yes Beryl, JL are not perfect and in all honesty neither is anyone else, we all make mistakes. How you deal with that is more relevant than making an error or, it is for me at least.

It is a controversial subject, no doubt will continue to be so and I think it important to understand the various points of view. I can see what customers or consumers (I don’t like that term much as it’s like an us and them thing) that have never been involved in a business, especially one that deals with the public, may hold a certain viewpoint that is, will we say, distorted by PR people and the likes. I very often come across people in business that want to tip toe around these issues and not explain to people why things are the way they are and I do not hold with that. Whilst many people might not like how I see the world, it’s how I see it from my perspective.

If you go down the road of naming and shaming, as Which? and any other publisher knows all too well, you better be absolutely certain of what you’re saying and that it is 100% on the money. If not, figure on a significant knock to your finances as well as reputation.

That is why that you have to *prove* an inherent fault or flaw and not just pluck it out the sky based on mere speculation or a few people that say there’s an issue. There has to be tangible evidence.

Please understand though that very, very few business go out to deliberately cause harm to their customers and those that do should unite rightly be punished as much as possible. They not only do damage to people in general and people’s perception of businesses but they also do harm to those of us that trade responsibly and I really, really dislike that as it often leads to people assuming straight out the traps that the business is trying to rip them off or something. This is almost always not the case.

Anyone that does want to make such claims about inherent faults and businesses ripping them off should be wary and fully aware as I have heard talk of some businesses looking to sue members of the public for false accusations or representation in comments. Keep in mind the damage that this can cause, especially if untrue, to any brand or business and in this day and age with the ability to openly publish on the internet anyone can go off on a rant. But, a rant that might not be exactly accurate or even remotely truthful.

It’s a double edged sword.

And also bear in mind that there are people that are paid to both promote one product and denigrate others online. There are marketing companies that specialise in this and other forms of advertising or promotion using social media, just Google it if you think for a minute that I am wrong.

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors out there. That makes it all the harder for people buying just about any product.

None of that is even slightly illegal. Immoral, maybe, that would depend on your point of view but certainly not illegal.

The only reason I point it out is to illustrate that you may not be able to say perhaps whatever you like without any recrimination and that all of this makes it really, really hard for publishers like Which? and others to publish stories without them being held to account if they get it wrong.

Very little in life these days is simple.

K.

Kenneth wrote: “Anyone that does want to make such claims about inherent faults and businesses ripping them off should be wary and fully aware as I have heard talk of some businesses looking to sue members of the public for false accusations or representation in comments.”

They can consider suing members of the public but if there are design flaws then all they will achieve is negative publicity. 🙂

“The only reason I point it out is to illustrate that you may not be able to say perhaps whatever you like without any recrimination and that all of this makes it really, really hard for publishers like Which? and others to publish stories without them being held to account if they get it wrong.”

I suspect that Which? is doing OK, Kenneth. If Which? was getting it wrong, there would be numerous cases of legal action against Which? reported in the press. The press is not full of examples.

Perhaps the most extraordinary of the claims you have made in this lengthy discussion is:

“No, a common fault does not automatically mean or prove that there is a design flaw, I would not agree with that at all.”

I would prefer to use the term ‘design fault’ because a flaw suggests a minor problem, whereas we are often referring to a failure that makes a product unusable.

I hope you will agree that there is a design fault with the Samsung fridge-freezers that are the subject of this discussion, and that Samsung should have taken prompt action to maintain the credibility of their company.

Hi wavechange,

My point was in response to Beryls’ call to “name and shame” in that publishers cannot do so without ensuring that the information is completely correct and accurate. Obviously there are no example, there’s been no naming and shaming without cause.

I hope you agree that not every fault is as a result of a design flaw which, whether intentionally or not, is what is coming across from your posts and I’d think that an unreasonable assumption to make.

To be blunt, I think it preposterous to float the notion that a manufacturer is responsible for every single fault ad infinitum and I think you will find that I will not be alone in that.

I realise that some people don’t want facts to get in the way of a good story or an agenda but, in home laundry, about 80-85% of all reported failures in the first six months of ownership alone are due to customers not using the machines correctly, learning or failing to understand how to use them (often not bothering to read instructions) and installation errors. Beyond the initial six months that figure drops but it is still fair to say that a good proportion of faults are owner generated. So please understand, it is not always the machines that are the cause of an issue.

On these Samsung fridges.

These fridges with the same back panel design are sold in many markets, the US included where there are significant volumes in operation. They are also sold obviously in Korea, across many EU countries, South Africa and Australasia to my knowledge.

Yet, so far, the only territory that there’s been an issue in that I am aware of is the UK.

Why?

Now, I’m no fan of Samsung at all but if I were a tech guy sat in Korea looking at this I’d be wondering what these Brits are doing to cause the problem or trying to work out why there was an issue in one particular region.

It is also of note that Samsung did not issue a recall for this particular problem, they offered to repair free that issue up until the product is five years old. Nor am I aware of any modification to try to solve the issue.

So I cannot definitively say one way or the other that there is a design flaw. I can say that many owners would appear have had this issue, what that equates to in terms of faults to the number of units sold to allow a more accurate judgement I do not know as no figures have been released to allow anyone to fairly judge that.

I am also unable to determine the cause with certainty.

Therefore, logically, I am not in a position to either agree or disagree as I do not have the information to do so.

On the dishwashers in the news the other night, many models sold over the entire EU, probably in the hundreds if not thousands of models equating to hundreds of thousands in the field and yet, only the UK and Eire seems to have this issue to any great degree.

Why?

Or you could argue that UK owners were more empowered under the system in force in the UK by way of the SoGA, TS etc and that they managed to get what others did not. The problem might exist elsewhere but the mechanisms to force the producers to act are not up to snuff.

It’s all well and good baying for blood but unless you understand the reasons why these things happen you cannot prevent it from happening again nor can you get to the point where it is possible to determine exactly who or what is responsible.

Berate Samsung and whoever else all you like but anyone with an ounce of common sense will realise that any producer of any product would have to investigate, find out and understand the reasons behind the problem as, without doing so, they would be unable to solve the issue.

That can take time.

From your posts and what you’ve said, I get the impression you just want to shut down all these big bad companies that are all out to rip us all off and all producing sub-standard products with built in design flaws. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit too conspiracy theory for my taste and I can see little to no evidence to support that position.

K.

Kenneth – I am sure that we could find more to agree on if we met face-to-face.

“I hope you agree that not every fault is as a result of a design flaw which, whether intentionally or not, is what is coming across from your posts and I’d think that an unreasonable assumption to make.”

When referring to design faults I am thinking of the sort of fault that a service engineer would identify a very common problem with a particular model of fridge-freezer, washing machine, TV, car, etc. I used to repair radios and TVs as a hobby and knew that engineers working on a product would sometimes replace inadequate components even before they had failed. I am very definitely not claiming that every fault is caused by a design fault. I am very well aware that many failures are due to abuse or fair wear and tear. I’m a scientist and try to take an objective and balanced view.

In one of the other Conversations, there is much criticism of Amazon over the problem screen failures in Kindles. In order to be sure that there is a design fault, we need to know something about the frequency of failure (those who don’t have a problem are less likely to comment than those who do), which model(s) are affected, and to consider the possibility of damage by the user. I think it is high time that there is an independent examination to establish whether the design is sufficiently durable for its purpose. The fact that screens are failing yet the glass cover remains intact does suggest that there MAY be a design fault.

“To be blunt, I think it preposterous to float the notion that a manufacturer is responsible for every single fault ad infinitum and I think you will find that I will not be alone in that.”

Where have I made that claim?

“I realise that some people don’t want facts to get in the way of a good story or an agenda but, in home laundry, about 80-85% of all reported failures in the first six months of ownership alone are due to customers not using the machines correctly, learning or failing to understand how to use them (often not bothering to read instructions) and installation errors. Beyond the initial six months that figure drops but it is still fair to say that a good proportion of faults are owner generated. So please understand, it is not always the machines that are the cause of an issue.”

I accept that many users misuse their purchases. If you look at my comments in this and other Conversations, you will find that I have repeatedly said that manufacturers should not be expected to be responsible for abuse. Expecting repair or replacement of an item that has been abused is as bad as making a fraudulent insurance claim, in my view. Nevertheless, a good product designer will try to eliminate the effect of misuse if reasonably possible. For example, it makes sense to have a way of avoiding coins etc getting into the drain pump of a washing machine.

“From your posts and what you’ve said, I get the impression you just want to shut down all these big bad companies that are all out to rip us all off and all producing sub-standard products with built in design flaws. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit too conspiracy theory for my taste and I can see little to no evidence to support that position.”

Not at all. I just want to see consumer durables sold with a ten year manufacturer’s guarantee/warranty, excluding components that could be reasonably be expected to wear out. As I have said, the manufacturers of washing machines and other mechanical products could limit the warranty to a certain number of hours or cycles, just as car warranties often provide cover for a time period or mileage – whichever comes first. If manufacturers are responsible for the cost of repairs then I suspect that their products might have fewer design faults.

Although very informative and interesting, I think we have veered a little too far from the main topic Kenneth.

Samsung admitted the design flaw when they agreed to repair all of the older models covered under the 5 year warrantee free which in turn prompted them to modify the new model – fact. Therefore, on that basis the issue was, in the event of an inherent design flaw [or fault] Samsung could have confirmed they would agree to repair all out of warrantee models. This was only brought to light through consumer feedback from Which? Conversation. Without such input from consumer groups inherent faults could go unnoticed. In this instance proof was not needed.

Customers are manufacturers and retailers bread and butter – without them there would be no Company which is why they engage in very sophisticated PR, marketing and promotional schemes and in a very competitive capitalistic market system companies, if they are to survive would do well to remember that very simplistic message.

“I am sure that we could find more to agree on if we met face-to-face.”

Probably. 🙂

“I’m a scientist and try to take an objective and balanced view. ”

In that case you will understand the need not to presume or assume but base conclusion in available fact. If no facts are available or, not enough data, you cannot reach a reasonable conclusion.

You will also know that results are gained through observation, experimentation and repetition. You need to recreate the problem to be able to determine cause and cure.

What you cannot do under lab conditions is replicate real world use in every scenario. Therefore designers and manufacturers have to simply do the best that they can with what they can replicate in a lab and, almost inevitably, that will mean that on the very odd occasion things will slip through the net. This is unfortunate but unavoidable.

However they will test under the fairly reasonable assumption that the product will be used under the criteria set out and not wildly removed from that. A degree of tolerance sure.

But consider this with appliances as here, what you cannot account for is what people will put in them in terms of additives, load size, volumes, on cookers and fridges overloading can block airflow, hamper performance and cause blockages or over heating and so on, there’s a long list there. This before you even begin on proper installation, additives, correct programs and more.

That’s a lot of data to crunch to get to the actual cause.

“Where have I made that claim?”

I didn’t say you had.

“For example, it makes sense to have a way of avoiding coins etc getting into the drain pump of a washing machine.”

To you, yes.

To me, no.

But then I have data you will not.

One reason is that many years ago most moved to magnetic self reversing drain pumps that largely remove the need for proper filters which, in the past, used to get full of lint or fluff. They jammed people couldn’t removed them to clean as they didn’t clean them regularly enough and then had to call someone in to replace or repair. That often led to confrontation with owners, especially in warranty or on cover as it is not covered on virtually any warranty or insurance so people had to pay to resolve the problem.

Guess what, owners said that this was a design flaw and that the filters shouldn’t get clogged up!

Manufacturers have just gone with the lesser of two evils.

In either case though it relies solely on people not putting things in the machine that shouldn’t be there and/or checking the filter as instructed. Almost all problems relating to this are a result of a failure there, not with the product or the design of it.

“Not at all. I just want to see consumer durables sold with a ten year manufacturer’s guarantee/warranty, excluding components that could be reasonably be expected to wear out. As I have said, the manufacturers of washing machines and other mechanical products could limit the warranty to a certain number of hours or cycles, just as car warranties often provide cover for a time period or mileage – whichever comes first. If manufacturers are responsible for the cost of repairs then I suspect that their products might have fewer design faults.”

And as I have repeatedly stated, people can buy those already. Or they can choose to optionally purchase the additional cover if it is not included in the initial purchase price.

It is the buyer’s choice to make as to which option that they wish.

In the end, if manufacturers are forced to offer longer warranties they’ll just cost it out and add that to the upfront price, makes no odds to them as it is purely a financial and/or logistical problem to most of them, especially the larger ones.

K.

Kenneth wrote: “In the end, if manufacturers are forced to offer longer warranties they’ll just cost it out and add that to the upfront price, makes no odds to them as it is purely a financial and/or logistical problem to most of them, especially the larger ones.”

That’s what I am looking for. If manufacturers are responsible for repairs then build quality will improve or the cost of repair work will soon wipe out profit from the sale. Consumers deserve reliable goods and it is environmentally irresponsible to manufacture products with a short life unless, like a smartphone, they will soon become obsolete. The additional cost of making products reliable will vary depending on the nature of the product. I have repaired electronic items where use of under-rated components may have literally saved pennies but resulted in premature failure due to overheating. On the other hand, using a more powerful motor in an appliance could contribute significantly to manufacturing cost.

“That’s what I am looking for.”

I can respect that but I don’t think it would pan out just the way you think it may.

If you beef up the build then there’s the obvious cost on the build but then that adds to the gate price then you have to add the cost of warranty, additional spares, infrastructure as well. If the gate price rises then so does the margins thereafter as almost all are percentage based.

HMRC will love it though, more VAT. It cracks me up that on a decent machine you can pay more VAT than a low end washing machine even costs and, you could have change too.

An example I trot out often is one given by a cooker maker when I asked why they didn’t just fit a ten Euro fan to help cool the controls as users complained it was too hot. The answer, because by the time that runs through the system it would add about £30-50 to the RRP and that would mean that they would be unable to hit the price point demanded by the retailer.

Again, back to the retailer. 😉

People wouldn’t spring for the extra feature said the retailer as in store the perceived value was zero by buyers.

Then, after all that, you get into an area that I get involved in with a number of manufacturers which is, what is and is not covered by warranty.

Most will cover electrical and mechanical breakdown. No more, no less.

But people will assume that they have no responsibility at all and will often go quite hard as they believe it’s fine, the warranty will cover it regardless.

Whitegoods manufacturing is really a very low margin area, these companies outside a very small number don’t have huge margins to play with and cannot spend or throw money at problems, they don’t have it to do so. This is why we’re seeing another round of failures and mergers, margins are wafer thin and I’m talking about huge seismic shifts in the industry, not jus the odd change. Fagor Brandt, bust. Baumatic failed. HI Group. Indesit in merger or sale talks, who own Hotpoint. I’m sure these won’t be all we’ll see either.

I know all this from the outside looks really simple but the truth of it is, it really isn’t at all. It’s taken me many years to get to grips with it and understand it all and, I do this stuff for a living. Even then, I don’t know everything, there’s always more to learn.

K.

The only answer is to force manufacturers to make reasonably reliable products, which of course will increase prices, and so force consumers to pay a proper price for a decent product. That’s all most want. Ask consumers if they prefer cheap unreliable unrepairable appliances or ones that cost more but last longer and can be easily repaired and they will almost all prefer the latter. When you bring in the environmental damage caused by all these scrap appliances it’s hard to justify not doing it.

I have a small poll which indicated just that –

How important is it to be able to have your appliance repaired?

YES: I want my appliances to be affordably repairable so I can keep them running for a more reasonable time – even if it means paying more for them 94.59%

NO: I’m happy with appliances being less repairable and not lasting as long – as long as it keeps them cheaper to buy 5.41%

The evil is cheap prices created unaturally.

I agree, but perhaps this is a loaded question. If you asked people if they would choose to live on credit or save for a rainy day, I expect that most would choose the latter option. Reality is different and a worrying number of people are living on credit.

In order for it to be attractive to spend more on a machine that is likely to be more durable, a rational customer really needs some assurance that the money is well spent and they will not be left with a machine that is beyond economical repair after a few years, possibly because spares are not available. That is where a ten year manufacturer’s warranty comes in. It provides the customer with assurance and forces the manufacturer to retain adequate spares to keep machines running.

To be truthful, it is the environmental issue that concerns me most, but that is often seen as a weakness in discussions with those that don’t care about such matters.

It is loaded I think.

If you ask a series of questions the results will usually come out with very roughly the following in order of importance, as in, which factor is the most important reason in buying…

Price: 35% sometimes higher

Looks: 25-30%

You can get load capacity, space etc in here and that will be 15-20% usually.

Sold with home/kitchen (no choice): 15-20%

After that, all the rest pretty much evenly spread.

Overwhelmingly though, it’s cost to buy and cost to run. So largest capacity with as many features as possible at the lowest possible price and it has to be A+++++ (etc) and with the fastest heat time, cool time or spin speed.

I’m afraid wavechange that you are very much in a minority when the marketing gurus look at the numbers. Whether I agree or anyone else, that’s the way it is.

I don’t know what the policy is on linking here or, if it’s even possible but I could send a few that would give you some interesting bedtime reading. You are correct though that it is an environmental disaster zone, hence the involvement of DEFRA et all.

K.

I’d like to see independent numbers. But I believe a lot of consumers buy what they regard as decent brands and those who are aware will look at Which? best buys. I’m not talking only about white goods – although this conversation started with a fridge the principles cover many more product types. Others will, agreed, buy on price and end up buying,say, two washing machines in the time a decent one would have lasted. We just need to ensure that the consumer gets what they pay for. If a retailer is not prepared, or not able, to meet their legal obligations then maybe they have the wrong business model, or should try a different business. The consumer should not suffer or give up their rights out of sympathy.Ouch -:)

It all depends on how you ask the questions, Kenneth. You have not even mentioned reliability, which could well be more important than the factors you mention.

Have a look through the Conversations on this site and you may realise that some consumers are not stupid and taken in by marketing, even if many are.

Links must be approved and this is normally fairly rapid during weekdays. Alternatively, just give the title if a search will find the document.

One way of tackling the problem of the market being flooded by low quality products is to introduce an environmental surcharge on new goods, perhaps with some way of rewarding those who are not profligate.

There’s nothing loaded in the question. It’s simply asked if the cost of cheaper means they can’t be repaired would you rather pay more and have them repairable? Nothing even remotely loaded in that question.

If you ask would you prefer cheap or expensive of course most will say cheap, but if you say cheap – but with a heavy hidden price to pay – or expensive, then people realise it’s false economy and would prefer to pay more.

Kenneth

“HMRC will love it though, more VAT. It cracks me up that on a decent machine you can pay more VAT than a low end washing machine even costs and, you could have change too.”

If we get rid of the cheap and nasty products, this will be less of a problem and an environmental tax on new goods would help narrow the gap between cheap and better quality products.

“An example I trot out often is one given by a cooker maker when I asked why they didn’t just fit a ten Euro fan to help cool the controls as users complained it was too hot. The answer, because by the time that runs through the system it would add about £30-50 to the RRP and that would mean that they would be unable to hit the price point demanded by the retailer.”

Alternatively the manufacturer could design their cookers so the controls don’t get hot, so no fan is needed. Prototype testing should eliminate such a basic problem.

Clearly you are not happy with the low quality of some of the white goods on sale. Why not focus marketing on cost of ownership, so that the potential purchaser is better informed and not just comparing price tickets? Offer a ten year ‘free’ warranty covering everything except parts that can be reasonably be expected to wear out and compare the cost of ownership with independently sourced information relating to rival machines with only a one or two year guarantee/warranty and uncertainty about the availability of spares.

If spares are not going to be available, that is key information that the customer should be told about. At one time it was common for domestic appliance spares to be available for an extended period. Thankfully I can still get spare door springs for my 1982 Belling cooker. Having replaced them both several times, I suspect there is a design fault.

Poor wording perhaps Andy, didn’t mean offence at all.

If you ask a person if they want steak or gruel for their evening meal I can bet over 95% will take option number one.

K.

“If we get rid of the cheap and nasty products, this will be less of a problem and an environmental tax on new goods would help narrow the gap between cheap and better quality products.”

Doubt it but in any event you would have companies and less well off in society complain that they were being discriminated against etc.

“Alternatively the manufacturer could design their cookers so the controls don’t get hot, so no fan is needed. Prototype testing should eliminate such a basic problem.”

You say that is this company doesn’t know what they’re doing, I can assure you, they do.

It’s all about the design and price.

“Clearly you are not happy with the low quality of some of the white goods on sale. Why not focus marketing on cost of ownership, so that the potential purchaser is better informed and not just comparing price tickets?”

No and, tried that as have Miele and others.

Fastest growing brand in the UK of the past 10-20 years, Beko. Cheap products made in Turkey and China with a twelve month warranty.

They’ve gone from being completely unknown with next to no share in laundry to a 15% share in that time. I think we can safely say that the population at large has made what thy want known very well indeed.

Spares are a nightmare and, that is what I do day in, day out.

Suppliers go bust withhold designs so you cannot rebuild them, get bought over, drop lines, parts inside parts go NLA and so on.

To even a simple part such as an oven door glass made as a one-off, hundreds of pounds. So, when the demand drops off the parts will go NLA once stock is exhausted. When that will happen, with a lot your guess is as good as mine usually as a lot of this is completely unpredictable.

There is no legislation that says spares have to be available.

Another big can of worms as even cars are afflicted with the non-available spares with reports of some being written off at six years old due to non-availability of a part.

K.

I forgot to add wavechange, just Google “the great washing machine swindle”, it should be the top hit.

It’s a little out of date but you’ll get the idea.

K.

Thanks Kenneth but I saw this when we were having another discussion about washing machines.

No doubt the manufacturers of the third-rate machines had plenty of money to spend on advertising.

Cheers K. I think you probably meant something along the lines of they would say that wouldn’t they? The way I see it is that it’s similar to how so many smokers actually supported the smoking ban in public places because most of them would like to pack it in but couldn’t, and saw the ban as potentially helpful in forcing them to change their behaviour. Similarly 95% of people indicated that they would prefer prices to be higher if it meant that appliances were more reliable, could be properly repaired and lasted longer.

Without a more level playing field where all manufacturers had to produce reasonable products which must be able to be repaired and maintained for at least 10 years most of those who genuinely preferred better at higher prices would possibly find themselves still buying the cheaper stuff because they just can’t resist.

“If you ask a person if they want steak or gruel for their evening meal I can bet over 95% will take option number one.”

Ah, in that case if I’d just asked would you prefer better quality repairable appliances or cheap ones that analogy would apply. But I specifically highlighted the hidden cost of the cheap appliances so it was a very well worded question 🙂

Kenneth said

“Fastest growing brand in the UK of the past 10-20 years, Beko. Cheap products made in Turkey and China with a twelve month warranty.

They’ve gone from being completely unknown with next to no share in laundry to a 15% share in that time. I think we can safely say that the population at large has made what thy want known very well indeed”

I started off writing about washing machines back in 2000 with the attitude that the main problem was the general public. They get the quality they deserve because they shun anyone trying to provide superior quality because they of course cost a lot more. In other industries there is plenty of room for high class products at immensely greater prices but not in white goods.

I think after 14 years I have to say I still believe it’s the case. Clearly there are a smaller minority who are pleased to be informed of the true facts and those people tend to become Which? members and read sites like mine and yours but at the end of the day all we can do is try to inform the minority who really care and the rest will dictate how things are for the majority by continually buying the rubbish.

I am reasonably well aware of the reputation of different manufacturers for producing domestic appliances, so reading Which? members ratings sometimes come as a surprise. Beko, for example, does not do badly in the ratings for washing machines and fridge-freezers compared with makes that are better respected. I assume that those who purchase cheap products have fairly low expectations and vice versa.

Since I subscribed to Which? magazine, I have been able to confirm my own experience that it is important to look at an individual product rather than rely on a brand. In many of the Which? reports, there are examples of models of a brand featuring in both the Best Buy and Don’t Buy categories.

Any comments on either of these observations?

Which? have their own way of assessing appliances and don’t take into account many of the criticisms myself and Kenneth have as experienced repairmen, so they often give Best Buys to appliances with sealed tubs that can’t be repaired or with very poor aftersales records and more. However, if they were to only give Best Buy status to washing machines me and Kenneth thought deserved it they’d hardly have any Best Buys 😉

wgh, a good point. Which? should be taking these factors into account (if they don’t) as they would certainly affect my judgement when buying a washing machine. Have you asked them about this directly?

wavechange, you make a good point that you cannot guarantee that one manufacturer’s products will be all good, and another’s all bad. A good manufacturer (one whose products are generally well designed and reliable) will still have hiccups. Mercedes Benz had a disastrous period when their quality of one or two models dropped like a stone because of a change of place of manufacture and material. Dyson have just recalled all their fan heaters because of a possible malfunction. But I would still expect a decent car from MB, and good but pricey products from Dyson, these days compared to a cheap brand. I have had good experience of Miele and Bosch products, but would steer clear of Beko – simply because I believe they put more investment into R&D and quality design and build than the other. I may be wrong! But my manufacturing experience has shown that attention at the design and procurement stage of manufacture pays off in the long term.
Similarly I have had extremely good experience with John Lewis and Marks & Spencer on the rare occasions we have had a problem. So I would favour them.
Clearly this policy may miss out on some bargains – it depends on the risk you are prepared to take, and how dependent you will be on the reliability of the product. I think Which? helps enormously in helping our choice in this respect.

wgh – Thanks for pointing this out. I agree with Malcolm and would certainly want to know which machines could be significantly more expensive to repair unless the risk of failure of a sealed tub assembly was very low.

They do take into account reliability records from their members, which is good, but they do not seem to penalise for unrepairability yet. I assume they have to try and advise on the best of a bad bunch much of the time and maybe are afraid if they are too strict they would have nothing much to recommend but I personally think they should be brave enough to say that there are no best buys because none of them currently meet their high standards.

I’ve always hated how they can give a Best Buy award to a washing machine but then say it has “cons” such as “very noisy” or “poor at rinsing”, which to me is very bizarre. I think you could argue a case that by giving lots of Best Buy awards to manufacturers who don’t make exceptional quality products which can be repaired and maintained for a very long time it encourages them to continue on that path.

Malcolm – I find perception of quality a fascinating issue. I remember reading the hype about Dyson cleaners but was disappointed by the poor build quality and reputation for unreliability. Which? would not give any of their models ‘Best Buy’ status because of this issue despite good performance, but relented when they introduced a longer guarantee. I have not studied the T&C’s but as long as they are fair, I am impressed. My first and only Miele product developed two faults soon after purchase, but it has redeemed itself and is considerably quieter than any Dyson I have encountered.

I avoid cheap products but after much searching to find a replacement fridge I bought a Proline (Comet) model, simply because it fitted my kitchen, which is overdue for refurbishment. It had to be replaced and I am not impressed.

By far and away the greatest success I have had has bee with Apple products, though I know others who have not been so lucky. I’m sure they are good enough for Apple to offer more than a one year guarantee, but at least they have information about the Sale of Goods Act on their UK website.

I have been happy with numerous Bosch power tools, which can be quite cheap if they are on offer. That might make me favourably disposed to considering Bosch kitchen appliances, even though there is probably little connection other than the name. On the other hand, a poor experience might put me off buying a particular brand because I would be unwilling to support a company that produced substandard goods.

wgh wrote: “I’ve always hated how they can give a Best Buy award to a washing machine but then say it has “cons” such as “very noisy” or “poor at rinsing”, which to me is very bizarre. I think you could argue a case that by giving lots of Best Buy awards to manufacturers who don’t make exceptional quality products which can be repaired and maintained for a very long time it encourages them to continue on that path.”

I certainly agree about poor rinsing being a significant factor, and it is one of the reasons I am hanging on to my ancient machine. Noise may or may not be an important factor, but if your machine is in the utility room or basement, other factors may be far more important. On the other hand, a noisy hairdryer or vacuum cleaner is always going to be a problem.

I’m certainly keen on repairable products but there remains the problem of cost of repair, even if parts are available. What I would really like to see is more products that can be repaired by the owner.

Indeed.

Which?’s focus is on up front value and performance it would be nigh on impossible to determine long term durability in a review beyond looking at the brand’s track record and I doubt that they will have people that are technical enough and with the industry knowledge to be able to see what we see.

In fact, of those below, only the JL machine has available spares and technical to the trade at large, all the others are restricted in some way or another if not entirely. That will make many repairs for DIY extremely difficult if possible and even for the repair trade awkward at best.

Current Best Buy washing machines….

Samsung WF80F5E5U4W – Split tank, complete rear tank about £100

Samsung WF80F5E5U4X – No info

Samsung WF70F5E0W4W – No info

Miele W5780 – Separate bearings, kit about £200

Miele W3370 – Separate bearings, kit about £200

LG F1495BDS – No info

Miele W1724 – Separate bearings, kit about £200

Miele W2819i – No info

Bosch WAQ28461GB – Sealed tub – £213.90

Hotpoint BHWM129 – Sealed tub – £156

Siemens WM14Q390GB – Sealed tub £213.90

Miele WMF120 – No info

Miele WFK120 – No info

LG F12B8QDA – Bearings available, approx £30-50

LG F12B8QDA5 – Bearings available, approx £30-50

Siemens WM14Y590GB – No info

John Lewis JLWM1606 – Sealed tub – £150

Bosch WAQ24461 – Sealed tank – £245.95

Miele W3164 – Separate bearings, kit about £200

Hotpoint WMSL521P – No info, suspect sealed tank

I only used one supplier to check them and some have no info due their age, too new for parts to show as yet but you will get the gist. Also, some like Miele, will not make the information available and you will be forced to use their own service and spares.

All prices are the listed SRP and exclude VAT as well as fitting.

I’m not doing a full analysis but as a sweeping statement, chances of a bearing failure on the Hotpoint’s in normal family use but it will hinge on the use level and care taken with loading etc, medium/high. Samsung, unknown on the current crop but the engineer feedback thus far would suggest not a lot better than the Hotpoints. LG, you can almost bank on bearings wearing out at about 4-7 years old. The Electrolux JL machine, not a huge lot better than the Hotpoint, maybe a little but you’re splitting hairs. Bosch/Neff/Siemens are better but they do fail and we already seek a few tubs a year for the sealed tank machines so, better than the rest but not even remotely close to best in class.

All these manufacturers are combating cheap imports from Turkey and the Far East with the Korean companies, in my opinion, trying to make out that they’re as good as the top end Europeans. I don’t think that they are, they make a reasonable stab at it in the case of LG, Samsung not so much.

The only one that is different is the Mieles. You are unlikely to need to replace the bearings but it can happen to them as it can to any but, when you do need them you will pay and pay dearly for them. Having said that like a few others, you’d think that they were forged in volcanic fires by Norse gods at the price and durability of them. Looked after well, they will last longer than any of the others by a considerable way.

Bottom line, you largely get what you pay for in terms of quality.

All the rest is largely subjective.

K.

Ken, a couple of comments. A key issue is how good the components are in the first place. Even if, say, Mield bearings are expensive, if the are very durable and unlikely to need replacing then that shows good quality.design.
Whilst on Miele, they do seem to only allow their (approved) repairers loose on their products – my local repairer said he could not look at my old dishwasher that was leaking. However, I spoke to Miele UK technical department who were very helpful. They gave me the cost of a new pump (around £300 + vat if I remeber correctly) , but advised a pump repair kit costing around £80 should do the job – it did. They also emailed me a diagram and advice onf how to fit it. Later a catch broke on an 18 year old Miele vacuum cleaner. More in hope than expectation I contacted Miele again; they sent me a replacement catch, less than £5 including p+p and vat, and again advised on how to fit it.

Hi Malcolm,

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Miele are bad or evil or anything at all. They have their business model that clearly works for them and that’s fine however, as I am involved with the independent repair trade I can only pass on what they tell me as well as owners and that is that many feel that Miele’s way is extremely restrictive.

The independents cannot access any technical information whatsoever. Have no support. Parts prices are positively frightening. Some things you cannot reset without proprietary software and hardware that is available only to Miele employees. And all of this leaves the customer with but one choice, call Miele and pay whatever they demand.

That’s absolutely fine in my opinion so long as people go into the deal knowing that is what they are buying into. Not so much when they don’t as they will end up feeling a bit cheated in many cases.

Miele are of course not the only ones playing this game but I am sure that most people can understand that this will, for a good many people, dissuade rather than encourage repair.

Your experience has been positive and that’s great, it will not represent all though.

By the way a Hanning pump on another similar quality dishwasher is substantially less than the repair kit on a Miele costs, the whole pump, not just some bits of it.

You are correct in that the quality of components is key in large part and, for the vast bulk of mid range and certainly all the sub-£300 machines, don’t expect to get high quality components in them just like more expensive models because, you won’t.

Can’t see that in a showroom though and very few can adequately explain it to people.

It’s all just white boxes that do the same thing with different price stickers to most people.

K.

Kenneth – I hope you have permission to publish the list of Which? ‘Best Buys’. 🙁

I may be wrong but my guess is that bearings and seals are probably available at significantly cheaper prices from specialist companies. Mechanical equipment in my university research labs often needed new bearings and the engineer would order top quality bearings at a fraction of the price charged by the equipment manufacturer. The equipment included centrifuges that would cope with unbalanced loads between 6000 and 20000 rpm, depending on model. Many of the bearings and seals we bought had to survive steam sterilisation at 121C. I expect that any reputable washing machine engineer will source parts from specialist suppliers and pass on the savings to customers.

More recently, I have learned that low quality bearings are being used on imported products. I do not know if this applies to washing machines. If so, that could result in premature failure.

I would love to see the build quality of a machine before purchase, but as you say, they are just white boxes in the showroom. That’s why I want a ten year manufacturer’s warranty on each machine, so that as a consumer I am protected against third rate products. If the manufacturer is responsible for carrying out repairs during this time, the machines will have to be both durable and easily repaired, or there would not be much chance of making a profit on a sale. It’s time to stop the ‘great washing machine swindle’.

wavechange, to progress we need to set achievable objectives. I see no sign that a free 10 year guarantee is likely in my lifetime except in isolated instances (do you know anywhere pursuing it?). So we should press Which? and allied organisations to lobby for more modest longer warranties that might meet with success. In the meantime,and as well as, we need to make sure consumers have the means to obtain redress when goods they purchase prove to be sub-standard after a reasonable time of use. This is where Consumers’ Associations should be helping; it is one of the key issues consumer’s face – to be dealt with fairly by retailers and manufacturers.

No, I don’t and in the process of highlighting a point, even removing the model numbers would be appropriate and the point still made but there is no edit functionality.

But, I still say that some people will just not get this and, bury heads in sand, do whatever you like, the truth remains that *CONSUMERS* demand lower cost machines clearly refusing in droves to pay for quality products but in equal measure of droves buying cheap, cheap cheap.

Manufacturers and retailers supply *CONSUMERS* with what they demand as, that’s what sells.

So they will do whatever possible to cuts costs and, if that means sacrificing quality or warranty then so be it. If it means that they look to claw more back at the backend through service, spares and so on, so be it. They will do whatever they must to survive in the climate that they find themselves in.

They are completely and wholly disinterested in demands that are unreasonable, such as ten year warranties on products at throw away prices and, I am sorry to be this blunt but Malcolm is correct, it will not happen. You can bang that drum all you want but the reality is that, South of about £1000 you’ve got not a hope of it ever happening.

As to looking for technical solutions, the mid and low cost manufacturers will not up the quality as the price doesn’t allow it. These things are largely cost engineered to meet the demands put upon them by *CONSUMERS*.

Look at the Which? list, six but probably seven of those machines, even inside warranty if they get something stuck in them (it’s not covered in a warranty) will most likely be beyond economical repair.

That’s just one single component.

It can be just as revealing when you look at others.

You will not effect any change in this until people’s attitudes change and the market at large demands quality products that can have a decent serviceable lifespan. For now, it’s all about price.

This is why people like Andy and myself admire what Which? do but we do not place blind faith in a single source of information and harbour some doubts over things we see and read.

K.

That’s a very fair question, Malcolm. It is a goal and I appreciate that ten year warranties are not going to happen overnight. But I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect consumer goods to be durable provided that they are not abused or used excessively.

Any increase in the length of manufacturers’ warranties is a step in the right direction and as I have said several times, Which? should be including the length of a warranty as one of the criteria in rating products and selecting ‘Best Buys’.

In other Conversations we have discovered that many contributors have fridges and freezers that are decades old and still working fine. Which? has pointed out that refrigeration equipment tends to be reliable compared with many household appliances. So that might be a good place to start to push for longer manufacturers’ warranties. The length of the warranty would then be likely to become an important selling point, as we have seen for cars.

As I have said on numerous occasions, we have to be fair to manufacturers and I am genuinely appalled when I learn of cases of people trying to get goods replaced or repaired if they have dropped them, for example. The move towards replacement rather than repair of goods means that evidence of abuse may never be seen, and of course it just pushes up prices in the same way that shoplifting does.

I hope you will join me in the campaign for longer warranties, Malcolm. I continue to supper your preferred solution of making use of the Sale of Goods Act, etc., though I believe that it is unfit for its purpose. The fact that this is not being used by the majority of the population is evidence that it is usually far too difficult to obtain a satisfactory resolution. I wonder if any retailer has told a customer that they may have a claim under the Act when they take back a faulty product that is out of guarantee. That’s what should happen. I have not heard that, but on several occasions I have been told that it does not apply to them, or something similar.

I recently heard about the Vauxhall ‘lifetime warranty’, which seems a very generous offer. The terms and conditions are reasonable, though it seems a bit odd to exclude wiring harnesses from cover. Presumably the company can afford to offer this because it applies only to the first owner, there is a mileage restriction and the quality of their cars must have improved greatly since I owned one.

It would be great if Which? would do an article focusing on companies and retailers that provide longer guarantees/warranties.

wavechange, I don’t have a preferred option – I support both longer warranties and redress based on consumer rights when it is justified. But we need to be realistic about what we could achieve. It should not be necessary to go to court to use SoGA – it simply spells out retailers’ legal obligations. It is general, so not easy to apply, but Which? could help by giving reasonable lifetimes for products and promoting the use of SoGA for when other remedies fail.

Kenneth, you rightly highlight those consumers who buy cheap goods and get what they pay for. However, you overlook all those consumers who pay what they believe is a decent price and expect a decent product in return. They need dealing with fairly.

Kenneth. I don’t think it is fair to put the entire blame on the demand for cheap washing machines. It is fairly well known that cheap products of any sort can be a disappointment and certainly not a bargain. A bit of honest marketing pointing out some of the pitfalls that you and Andy have mentioned could help.

If something as complicated as a car can have warranty cover for three or more years – and that does not just apply to top of the range models – then why cannot we do better with washing machines?

I would not buy a cheap washing machine, but I’m now becoming concerned that even the more expensive models could be a financial liability. If the build quality and repairability of machines improves then secondhand products could well be a better solution for those who do not want or cannot afford to spend hundreds of pounds on a machine. After all, the majority of private cars purchased are not new and even secondhand cars come with a limited warranty.

If we carry on down the route of cost cutting we could end up with washing machines with a significant failure rate within the first year of purchase. Perhaps that is the best thing that can happen because it may help gain support for the need for decent warranties.

Well I suppose everyone loves a bargain but at what cost? The problem is, how many consumers are so technologically well informed when it comes to purchasing white goods? Continued and ever changing advancement in technology is difficult to keep up with these days unless you happen to be ‘in the business.’ I have been using my w/machine for the last 11 years without fault [apart from a blocked hose which I fixed myself] but have to admit I still need to refer to the instructions on the odd occasion! I am frankly not terribly interested in spending my time learning the ins and outs of the latest technological modem with instruction manual at the ready every time I operate it. All I want to do is pop the washing into the machine, press a couple of buttons and forget all about it until it stops! Hopefully not before it should!

Machines are becoming ever increasingly sophisticated and more confusing to operate I find? No offence guys you obviously are very well informed and know your stuff! Simplicity durability and reliability is what is required and is paramount.

To achieve this, the notion of a 10 year warrantee would no doubt solve a lot of problems for consumers. Question is, would it increase the sales of the manufacturer who would be brave enough to go for it on all of their models? Who would be prepared to take the initiative and perhaps risk all? It would, as Wavechange has repeatedly alluded to, force manufacturers to improve design and durability and I assume reliability.

It could be a make or break situation but a decision I for one would not like to take.

We need to keep up the pressure and raise awareness of the lack of durability and repairability of some modern goods, Beryl. 🙂

Kenneth has provided us with some interesting information about washing machines that contain effectively sealed units that cannot be repaired and must be replaced. Unless these sealed units are considerably more reliable than conventional designs, they are just costing consumers more to repair and/or forcing us to scrap machines that cannot economically be repaired.

Though I support Which? in their struggle to stop mobile phone companies from pushing up monthly prices mid-contract, it is high time there was more focus on warranties. A cheap product is not a bargain if it does not last long. To be fair, we have been told countless times that paying for an extended warranty is usually poor value for money, but why not launch a Which? campaign for longer warranties.

I must thank our moderators for not telling us off for posting so many off-topic comments.

Perhaps it isn’t all down to consumers, maybe the marketing and PR people have foisted unrealistic expectations on everyone but, in any event, I don’t see anyone being forced to buy cheap products. I don’t see anyone being prevented from researching and finding out what it is that they actually required.

In the end, the vast bulk of people seem to buy as cheap as possible with the features they think they need and will perhaps spring a little bit more for a brand that they know and/or trust.

Who’s to blame?

I really do not know the answer but, from my perspective, it strikes me that the buck stops at the end of the line.

K.

“Well I suppose everyone loves a bargain but at what cost?”

Exactly Beryl.

My issue is that, for the vast bulk of the time in our industry, that eventual cost is hidden from view in a good many cases and, to my mind, that prevents people from making an informed buying decision.

Let me expand on that a little and address some of the so-called “design issues”.

You say all you want is a machine that does the job and that’s fine, that’s what most people want.

Now, here’s the but and, it’s a very big BUT…

What people also want is low energy use. In order to achieve that, due to the laws of physics which you cannot get around, you need to use less water, to do that you need to lengthen the wash time. As a by-product you get a higher sensitivity to detergent dosages and correct program use becomes more imperative than ever as there’s less tolerance.

Both lead to complaints about poor wash results and longer program times.

That makes people use fast washes, that don’t clean properly.

That leads to items not being cleaned correctly and thrown out.

In the same breath people want larger and larger load capacities, largely unrequited in my own opinion but it’s what people want. That means larger tubs, less space for movement, less space for components and more sensitivity to under and over loading. But people still ram pack them full putting massive strain on bearings and also leading to poor wash results as things in the middle don’t get washed at all then when the machines do spin, if they will spin loaded up like that, they can do all sorts of silly things like abort, leak and so on.

These things are created because that’s what people said that they wanted but in a number of instances you will see these problems, more often than I’d like. All the while owners will declare that all these problems are a design flaw and that the machines should just work the way that the owner wants them to work.

I completely understand what people are saying and I appreciate their point of view but in most design choices there is always a compromise that has to be had to achieve it.

What people often do not seem to understand is that, just like my Prius versus Ferrari analogy I often trot out, you can have economy or you can have performance but you cannot have both, you have to understand and accept the compromise.

The difference with the likes of cars, mobile phones, PCs and some others and the more mundane items like appliances, furniture and so on is that one is under a massive level of scrutiny from multiple sources, heavily tested and reviewed and the other is not. Largely because, nobody is really all that interested until they have a problem.

K.

“I must thank our moderators for not telling us off for posting so many off-topic comments.”

Indeed, but it is an interesting and largely pleasant conversation that hopefully sheds light on some things.

I know where you are going with the warranty thing wavechange but I just can’t see it happening. Or, if it did it’d just get costed into the equation and you’d pay for it anyway. What’s worse, an extended warranty you pay for as you go or if you want it or, one you pay for upfront with no option?

Then you would get what I see on a semi-regular basis which is people bemoaning that things aren’t covered by warranty and fighting tooth and nail to avoid paying for issues that they’ve caused.

Now, you’re perfectly reasonable on that front in this conversation but I can assure you, lots of people are not.

For example this Samsung thing, I have a theory that it may be caused by condensation as I’ve seen this before where you get the seemingly random instances with no obvious explanation. Where that happens you have to start looking beyond mechanical or electrical issues.

What can happen in fridges, frost free is worse as it relies almost entirely on good airflow, is vents being blocked by packing the machines full or, putting in large volumes of fresh food. Vegetables and fruit are the worst as they “sweat” moisture.

That moisture builds up and ice forms and can block air flow. More ice and ultimate failure of some sort.

This is not hugely uncommon.

Especially so on US FF because people load them up as they are cavernous and often put things in the fridge that, ideally, should not really be in there, even Stephen Fry sussed that out. It’s actually counter productive in some cases with certain food types.

When that happens then really, it’s not actually a warranty issue is it? In practice most manufacturers will accept and repair in warranty, few will bother arguing about it although the odd one will do so especially in more extreme cases.

I’ve no issue with longer warranties but there are a number of issues that are faced when they are offered which, without knowledge of how they might pan out, can be very difficult to judge how to pitch them, the cost associated, the terms and so on. It is though yet another can of worms I’m afraid within which there are no easy answers.

K.

Ah, yes. The Samsung fridge-freezer problem. We should apply our minds to that problem. I think you are absolutely right that we should be thinking more broadly than just about mechanical issues. I wonder if the problem is precipitated by users accidentally leaving the door ajar, allowing ice to build up rapidly on the evaporator and making it difficult for the automatic defrosting system to cope. Many UK kitchens are humid places, which will not help. Perhaps the problem arises from a combination of the issues that you and I have suggested.

I can see various practical and inexpensive solutions for this sort of minor abuse that could result in major problems. Vents can be made larger and/or positioned so they are less likely to block up. Boxes can be provided for storage of vegetables so that they don’t lose moisture too fast. An alarm can be provided to warn of the door being left ajar (I made an inexpensive one for my mother’s upright freezer over 40 years ago), or the door designed so that it cannot be left ajar.

There are so many inexpensive and elegant solutions to human failings and it is great to see manufacturers come up with simple solutions to problems. No longer do we see rear fog lights on days after the fog has gone, because turning off the lights turns off the fog lights too (or there may be an alternative solution).

I’m sorry if I have not been very polite, Kenneth, but what concerns me most in our discussions is that you seem to be telling us that there are no easy answers. Maybe my ideas are not practical, but at least I am trying.

What advice would you give to consumers wanting to buy products such as washing machines and fridge-freezers if they are more interested in reliability and overall cost of ownership rather than the price ticket?

I am finding it extremely difficult to accept the premise that white goods are increasingly being produced with sealed units that cannot be repaired and must be replaced. If this is true, then they should at least have the back up of a longer warrantee period otherwise SoGA should be extended to 10 years. If manufacturers have now found ways to exonerate themselves from potential ‘misuse’ by consumers by producing goods which can no longer be repaired, which effectively is what they are doing, then surely there must a strong case for introducing a longer warrantee period to convince consumers of the products reliability.

Not all machines can it be said have been misused however, some people go to great lengths to maintain them [as I try to,] but as new machines being produced are modified to suit environmental and consumer demands as Kenneth suggests, their increasing complexity often makes it more difficult to understand the mechanics of the myriad of programmes now available, increasing the potential to ‘misuse.’ Consumers need to be assured of a replacement in the event of a fault without having to endure longstanding disputes that often happen when things go wrong.

I am still at a loss to understand why a machine with a minor fault for example needs
to be discarded, or is this another way to make consumers pay. When you add on the call out chargers to the work involved, this can amount to quite a tidy sum if you are not technologically competent.

Beryl. you’ve touched on something that, as an infrequent user of the washing machine, (Mrs. R is the expert) I find an issue. It is just too complicated. Ours is a mid-priced Bosch with so many features not used. 15 programmes, 5 spin speeds, 4 others used in combination – Speed perfect, Eco Perfect, Reduced ironing, Aqua plus. Perhaps I’m on my own, but do we need all these to wash clothes? I’d have to consult the manual before each wash or, as Mrs R does, uses a very limited number and one spin speed. They may or may not add to the complexity of build – and consequent reliability. The tumble drier is similarly endowed. Dishwasher to a lesser extent – we use 4 out of 6 programmes. The point I would make is I’d like to see more basic machines that do their job well, are built to last and can be repaired. I would also like to see manufacturers required to produce repair manuals so those more adept could do appropriate fault finding and repairs themselves. No problem warning us that they take no liability for misuse but we are not all witless incompetents. Many no doubt still have Haines manuals for cars – just as risky if you get it wrong.

“I can see various practical and inexpensive solutions for this sort of minor abuse that could result in major problems”

Ah you see though, you’re trying to think on how to add things to stop minor problems when the manufacturer or retailer is thinking the polar opposite in that, every component you fit is a cost and a potential liability as an additional point of failure as well as yet another spare part to carry, which also involves costs.

People want cheap so, that’s what they engineer.

That does not mean good or the best solution, it means as cheap as possible.

Your way of thinking does not apply here, not even remotely. And many (most) will be utterly disinterested in solutions unless it saves money.

Look at it like this, if you weld tubs rather than making them serviceable (just by way of an example, apply to almost any part) then you have one part number instead of at least six or seven. That’s at least five less bin locations that are now free, less cost, less complicated.

You save on the bolts cost but, not only that you save on the weight for your WEEE declaration as well so you shave off a few cents here and there.

Now, you may think that’s not really relevant or the cost is negligible but put it into context with what I told you all earlier, this is a volume game. If you save €1 a box and you’re making 100,000 boxes a year that’s a big saving. If your getting paid bonus on what you save, well there’s how the €1 will get saved and stuff the customer.

So the compromise might not even be the fault of the brand as such, but some mid level manager that wants a nice Christmas pay out. Just think, 10% of the one year saving, €10,000 in someone’s Christmas stocking.

Understanding how things work in this industry is something that most people cannot wrap their heads around, including a number of people that are in it.

K.

Malcolm,

This is why all clothing or washable fabrics should have a garment care label on them.

People ignore them almost universally and then blame the machines for damage. I hear this almost every other day. More in summer as people use their super duper mega high spin to dry off light garments and they get tiny holes all over them, the fabric cannot stand the stress and disintegrates.

Not helped when some are mislabelled as they are made in less than ideal conditions and available at a Primark near you. All the way up to John Lewis and higher I have seen examples of mislabelled clothing.

I kid you not, there are occasions where some of the places that make garments stick whatever label on as they either don’t know or run out of the ones they need.

Yet another can of worms.

But on modern machines you ignore clothing labels and wash instructions at your peril as if you muck it up, you will ruin items.

Many new mixed fabrics cannot be washed using cotton cycles or you’ll wreck them, especially designer stuff that use all manners of weird things. It always tickles me when you walk into a home with a BMW in the drive to be met with a wash load that’s worth more than the washing machine you’re there to repair. You cannot help but think that, somehow, people often have their priorities slightly mixed up.

But most of the programs are there and, must be, for the machines to comply with the HLCC instructions for washing.

Whether items are labelled correctly, people use the correct program or correct detergents is not the washing machine makers problem beyond defending pointless claims when people get it wrong.

K.

Kenneth, you make a valid point (of course) but I’m not sure it quite addressed my issue. I wonder how many people actually use all their programmes, and how many, for example, split all their washing up into the particular washing regime each garment needs. (wavechange – how many programmes on your Philips?).That seems to me to need an awful lot of separate washes, each reducing the machine’s life. I am no washing expert (nor do I want to be) but I’ll bet (10p) most people do not use many of their machines facilities. If I’m right, then let’s face that fact and make more simpler machines that last (bad for manufacturers though). If I’m wrong perhaps Which? will remove this comment to save me from ridicule!

Kenneth

Almost everything we have suggested is met with a negative and you are saying that we – the consumers – need to understand how the industry works. Much of my research work has been funded by large UK/US companies, either directly or via international projects jointly supported by the EU and industry. I have met the narrow-minded approach of some companies, in particular the demand that everything should be achieved by yesterday. Once this had been overcome, we made real progress.

Companies need our money, so a bit of commonsense and compromise is needed. Let’s push for these ten year warranties – or nearest offer. If you have any positive suggestions I would be pleased to hear them, but please don’t tell us that change is too difficult to achieve.

I am not being negative at all or, I hope not. What I’m trying to do is to demonstrate how it can be that what many think is such a simple thing, just isn’t.

The wash programs are dictated by the HLCC council and used globally.

Garment manufacturers across the world use these. It is a set of internationally recognised standards.

Now, if people choose to ignore those or not to learn them what would you suggest that the garment industry, detergent or the home laundry industry do about that?

Meanwhile you have the whole fashion industry selling the latest and greatest who real don’t give a monkey’s about how people are to get stuff clean or care for their wares after they are purchased. The problem largely isn’t in their face as, by the time that the clothes are past their best you are often a ways down the track and it’s extremely doubtful that anyone here has repeatedly tried to claim a garment was unfit for purpose as it didn’t last.

No, all they need do is put on a care label and it’s usually only by chance that someone picks up that the wrong one is on it when that happens as, hardly anyone pays any notice whatsoever to them.

And this is why I can almost guarantee that most washes anyone does will be incorrect in some way or another. Once you get too far out of bed with where you’re supposed to be, you get problems.

Invariably the machine will get the blame.

So long as people want to buy anything other than simple cotton clothing, you will require all these programs to allow people to, if they are of a mind to do so, wash their clothes correctly.

Or you can make a machine as Indesit did with the Moon that’s oh so simple. That ended badly for them and they’ve dropped that as they had “issues”.

But I hope you see what I mean, what people almost always try to do when this is discussed is to dumb it down and, you just cannot do that. You have interactions between clothing industries, detergent industries, appliance makers, retailers and so on at the top level of it all alone never mind digging into the topic still deeper.

Sorry to appear perhaps negative but, no warranty will even look at solving those kinds of issues.

K.

Malcolm – My Philips machine has 10 programme settings, two of which add a pre-wash and two can be used for rinsing. There is also an eco-button whose function has long been forgotten and a speed control that can be varied from uselessly low speed up to a magnificent 800 rpm. At one time I used to set this on low speed and turn it up when the drain pump had emptied most of the water to prevent the motor trying to reach full speed when the drum was half full of water. I am not so considerate these days. I use two of the wash cycles regularly and two infrequently. About once a year I use the 95C setting to clean the machine but washing once a week at 60C (real temperature and not just something to do with EU performance ratings) keeps the innards free of smelly slime.

Intuitively, having multiple programmes will detract from reliability, but I wonder if this is true in practice. On my machine with a simple electromechanical programmer, it goes through all the stages sequentially anyway, so it should not make a difference. Kenneth or Andy will be able to provide the answer for modern machines.

Kenneth points out the hazards of washing clothes on the wrong settings but I have a good idea of what I can get away with and the spin speed is not even fast enough to create any decent wrinkles. I cannot get excited about high spin speeds because they seem to be mainly a marketing ploy and it is easy to show with an optical tachometer that the claimed spin speed is attained only for a short period. Additionally, high spin speeds put much more stress on bearings etc.

Kenneth – I cannot make any useful contribution regarding to the problems of fabric damage, etc. If this is causing damage to machines and manufacturers’ instructions are being disregarded then I think the retailers and manufacturers have a good case to reject claims. I do, however, believe that manufacturers should do their best to make machines tolerant of some abuse, particularly if there is little cost involved.

What concerns me is that manufacturers seem to be building machines that are less durable than in the past, more difficult to repair, and more costly to repair. Much of my practical experience of domestic products relates to electronics and I believe it is inexcusable to turn out expensive circuit boards that are prone to failure due to underspecified components.

I’ve said it all before. Make manufacturers responsible for the cost of repairs for 10 years or some respectable period and dodgy circuit boards, sealed tubs and poor quality mechanical components will have to become a thing of the past. From what you have told us about the Which? ‘Best Buys’ it seems that some of the well known manufacturers might be risking losing their reputation for quality products.

“I’ve said it all before. Make manufacturers responsible for the cost of repairs for 10 years or some respectable period and dodgy circuit boards, sealed tubs and poor quality mechanical components will have to become a thing of the past.”

And I keep telling you…

This already exists should you choose to pay for it.

If you don’t, well, you don’t.

To try to force all to go down that road removes consumer choice and will increase the cost of all products massively. That might be fine for you, but it will certainly not suit everyone and would probably in fact be a very bad thing for some.

The machines are about as tolerant as they can be bearing in mind the programs and parameters are determined by the HLCC council so, if you want that changed, you need to change the entire fabrics industry and the detergent manufacturers, worldwide. Good luck with that.

What you think is inexcusable pretty much is and I would largely not disagree with that sentiment. Sadly, the reality is that cost is king. What would appear common sense will take a back seat to that.

K.

Well if consumer choice means cheap and unreliable machines that are likely to be uneconomical to repair after a short life I think we could do without it.

Hopefully the EU will tackle the problem.

I think our discussions are at an end. I wish you well and hope that you will become a champion of consumer rights and reject what industry is doing. Thank you for the information you have provided us with, Kenneth.

“Well if consumer choice means cheap and unreliable machines that are likely to be uneconomical to repair after a short life I think we could do without it.”

Agreed.

There is nothing attractive in that at all for anyone really other than, for many buyers, low initially priced goods. But they sell in huge volumes all the same.

What I was forced to realise some years ago was that in order to change that, you need to change the opinion of people at large and that is a very hard thing to achieve.

“Hopefully the EU will tackle the problem.”

Somehow I doubt that, the EU has got bigger issues to attend to.

“I think our discussions are at an end. I wish you well and hope that you will become a champion of consumer rights and reject what industry is doing. Thank you for the information you have provided us with, Kenneth.”

I have no interest in being some kind of champion at all, the sole reason for responding was to make that point.

I do not mind and to a degree enjoy allowing people to see things in a different light and to perhaps understand why things are the way that they are. I don’t even mind offering help and advice as much as is practical to do.

I have even tried, in my own small way to change things as best I can but what can be done is limited in many respects.

Perhaps one day people will wake up to the situation, the waste and the cost to them directly but while it’s all wrapped up in a bow, all the bad stuff hidden from view and it doesn’t cost much on the surface, I very much doubt it.

All I can do as well as others, like Andy, is try to educate and help people as best we can. If people want to listen of course, if they don’t, they don’t.

K.

Kenneth – I have been looking at the John Lewis website and see that they sell inexpensive Beko washing machines – the brand you warned us to avoid. Their buying guide does not give any indication that cheap machines might not be a good investment. The model with most customers’ reviews has a rating of 4.4 out of 5 and costs just £299 with a 2 year guarantee. One option might be to buy this machine and when it breaks down, to seek help from JL, mentioning the Sale of Goods Act if necessary. I know how hard it can be to get other retailers to honour their legal duty, so a safer option might be to pay for a 5 year JL Service Plan for £129. Peace of mind for 5 years, for half the cost of a better machine. Then replace the machine with another cheap one when it breaks down after the 5 year cover has ended.

Maybe there is some merit in buying cheap products after all. 🙁

Incidentally, I have no connection with either company mentioned.

I am afraid that is the way a lot of people appear to think.

The thing is when you look at the SoGA the way that you are, you are trying to use it as an extension to warranty which it is not. Any retailer worth their salt knows the SoGA inside out and back ways front as they’ll have had them quoted to them many times by many a Wikipedia lawyer.

All you can do is to get a repair (maybe) if you can *prove* that the fault existed at point of sale after the initial six months or, for some, even prove that a fault with the product existed at all.

That all makes it hard for the owner and they get mixed messages from people such as yourself who will crusade to the end of the Earth to get something you feel entitled to, the media who often get this wrong and retailers and manufacturers who will more often than not be legally correct.

For a lot of people that’s too hard.

I don’t think I specifically mentioned Beko, I can’t recall, but from what I understand they now use sealed tanks in all models. The only saving grace there is that spare parts for Beko are usually not badly priced on the whole.

Cooking is reasonable value overall.

Refrigeration is okay for the price.

Just don’t expect the performance or durability that you would get from better machines in any of the categories.

We’ve looked at ways to solve this as has government and there are no easy answers in any of it. When you start to pick at the issues it’s like an onion, you just keep finding more and more as you go.

I don’t think it ideal by any stretch either but it is the world that we apparently live in where a lot of people just seem to want cheap throwaway products, even if that ends up costing more.

K.

If buying cheap unrepairable goods are becoming a consumers preference, there will be no longer any need for spare parts. This is bad news for the service and repair industry. It could be argued sealed unit goods should be classified as a design flaw but I refuse to be drawn into another debate about that.

Time to hedge your bets folks and buy some shares in scrap metal or recycling! It’s one way of recouping your losses in what amounts to a very flawed consumer targeted market.

Wavechange said

“It is fairly well known that cheap products of any sort can be a disappointment and certainly not a bargain. A bit of honest marketing pointing out some of the pitfalls that you and Andy have mentioned could help.”

I think it’s fair to say that myself and Ken have been writing (probably far too lengthy 😉 ) articles for the last 14 years in our own ways and on our separate sites trying to advise people about the real pros and cons of cheap appliances verses high quality (of which there are extremely few).

I think it’s reached a worse stage though now, because many of the manufacturers sell pretty expensive models, rammed with features, which are restricted in repairablity and longevity. This considerably muddies the waters so that it’s now harder than ever to use the maxim of cheap = rubbish, pay more and get better quality, you get what you pay for and so on. Which is why being a Which? member is such a clever and sensible thing to do 🙂

Ultimately, as Ken said earlier, and as I started out saying (in 2000) the public is ultimately to blame, and I share some of Ken’s sympathy about manufacturers trying to survive and prosper when they believe they will lose sales if they are just £10 more expensive than a competitor.

Which? provide an essential service but they do tend to work in much broader strokes than I would prefer.

Andy

One issue here seems to be overlooked. When a product that is out of guarantee develops a fault, not due to wear and tear or misuse, that stops it functioning correctly, or safely, in an unreasonably short time, SoGA requires that fault to be put right. This remedy is the retailer’s responsibility in law, because it is they with whom the customer has agreed a contract when purchasing the goods. The retailer does not have the choice of declining to make the remedy simply because they decide they don’t want to pay for it. It is for the retailer to have suitable legal arrangements with their supplier to recompense them, or for them to fund such claims out of the profit they make from customers.
Of course there are people who misuse the system, and faults that will not be covered, but these arguments can’t be used to avoid dealing with legitimate claims properly.
That is my understanding of the protection SoGA gives the consumer. Maybe legally I am incorrect – perhaps Which? can help. But consumers need their rights to be protected when things go unreasonably wrong.

I agree, Malcolm. A frequent problem is that a model has been discontinued. I have not much experience of this scenario but sometimes the owner is offered a modest discount on a current product. My view is that spares should be held for a reasonable period.

Now there’s a topic you really can make a difference to.

There are products out there that have no support outside of warranty for spares at all. It is another way to cut costs.

One example is Swan, I believe sold through GUS.

K.

It’s crazy in’t it? That’s a perfect example of what I said earlier in that customers do not know what sacrifices and completely counter-productive measures are being taken in order to reduce prices. Most are happily accepting all the cheap prices (many not even thinking they are cheap at all) but with no idea that it’s likely to cost them more in the long run because they will have to keep replacing large appliances far too regularly.

As you point out there are brands which are made extremely well (though none perfect) with 10 year guarantees but they cost around £1,000 which in reality is not expensive compared to historical prices in the 60s and 70s but compared with the flood of cheap stuff appear to be “extortionately” expensive.

(Brands of washing machines)

Something to bear in mind. There is a view that manufacturers need to supply new products regularly for their businesses to be profitable. This is most apparent in, for example:
TVs – new models and features regularly appear to tempt you
Phones – the new features – do you need them or is it peer pressure?
Cameras – best get the latest one.
Cars – new models make yours look out of date – still goes well though
I suspect the washing machine and dishwasher market would be pricier if many did not fail in a relatively few years and be replaced.
I personally don’t buy in this way – one of my cars is 20 years old, a phone is 7, a laptop 7 – but others like to keep up with new things. Their choice.
I would welcome extended guarantees as part of the initial price to avoid any hassle if a problem arises, and to be reassured that it’s likely to be a more reliable product than some others. But I would expect to pay for that. Unfortunately I see no sign of long guarantees on the horizon. In the meantime we can still buy brands amd models that are shown to be more reliable, but are likely to cost more, than others, but we will then deserve support if a problem arises.

I don’t care if manufacturers want me to buy the latest version of their wares. I rarely replace anything that is working well unless there is a benefit in doing so.

Car manufacturers brought us anti-corrosion warranties and these are now more or less standard. That was obviously related to improvement in build quality. My first car had to have new front wings after three years whereas my previous one had no sign of corrosion when I sold it after ten years. Few car manufacturers still offer only a one year warranty.

Since the 90s I have replaced my laptop every three years on average, simply because of the worthwhile advance in technology.

I’m not sure how much longer my 1982 washing machine will go on for, but I will be looking for one with a five or ten year warranty.

Having extended guarantees as part of the initial price means that the consumer can should be able to get their product repaired or replaced with the minimum hassle, just like most of us do with goods that are less than a year old.

If all manufacturers have to provide ten year cover then any that try to push up the price excessively will lose custom to those that are fairer. Genuine competition, peace of mind for customers and hopefully not too much cost to the manufacturers – as long as they up their build quality.

“TVs – new models and features regularly appear to tempt you
Phones – the new features – do you need them or is it peer pressure?
Cameras – best get the latest one.
Cars – new models make yours look out of date – still goes well though”

Ha ha! I think you missed the best one:

Windows operating systems: termination of support for.

Also, we should not be tempted to upgrade until others have tried them out first – especially Vista and Windows 8, neither of which I’d touch with a bargepole!

Whitegoodshelp wrote: “The only answer is to force manufacturers to make reasonably reliable products, which of course will increase prices, and so force consumers to pay a proper price for a decent product. That’s all most want. Ask consumers if they prefer cheap unreliable unrepairable appliances or ones that cost more but last longer and can be easily repaired and they will almost all prefer the latter. When you bring in the environmental damage caused by all these scrap appliances it’s hard to justify not doing it.”

I am not alone in having suggested that it would be useful to have an assessment of repairability in Which? reports, though I understand that this could be difficult to do. Until appliances are marketed as repairable and we have assurance that spares will continue to be available, how do we know that investing in a more expensive appliance will be good value for money?

I wonder what percentage of people will have a go at repairing appliances when the break down. I do and I know some others who do. Sometimes it is easier than pursuing my rights under the Sale of Goods Act and the only cost-effective option for older goods.

To comment on my own comment…..

One of the problems with DIY repairs is that specialist information can be needed to interpret fault codes that can appear on any computer controlled products from washing machines to cars. Any product with a display panel is potentially capable of explaining the fault in plain English (or a choice of different languages). I would be interested to know if an appliance manufacturers make information about error codes available to members of the public.

Wavechange: I should have mentioned earlier the TV I purchased from JL was top of the range with a design fault which is the main reason I persisted in order to to obtain value for what I paid, so the more expensive models are not necessarily totally exempt from defect.

Beryl – I don’t know much about the relationship between cost and the frequency of design faults in household items, but I have certainly seen design faults in expensive products. Like many people, I tend to avoid buying products that are new on the market because it is well known that new products can have problems. I hope that the manufacturer has had time to attend to these by the time I make a purchase.

My sole experience with JL was a disaster, but on the basis of their longer warranties and positive comments here, I am prepared to give them another go.

Gazza says:
30 May 2014

Samsung American Fridge Freezer RS 21 basic model, The temperature on the Freezer keeps fluctuating From 14 to 25 degrees. Then after a while will revert back to normal.
Any Ideas Please!

Malcolm wrote: “wavechange, I don’t have a preferred option – I support both longer warranties and redress based on consumer rights when it is justified. But we need to be realistic about what we could achieve. It should not be necessary to go to court to use SoGA – it simply spells out retailers’ legal obligations. It is general, so not easy to apply, but Which? could help by giving reasonable lifetimes for products and promoting the use of SoGA for when other remedies fail.”

Thanks for clarifying your view, Malcolm. Regarding being realistic, I think we have to ask for more than what we are prepared to compromise on. But I genuinely believe that on environmental grounds, most domestic appliances should come with a ten year warranty, even if it takes a few years to get there.

I suggest that we push for Which? to give us an idea of how long fridges and freezers should last, since they are in continuous use. With something like a washing machine it is difficult because single people like may use their machine twice or three times a week and look after it carefully, whereas busy parents of a large family may use theirs the same number of times a day and not be as careful as they should.

Wavechange wrote: “I suggest that we push for Which? to give us an idea of how long fridges and freezers should last.”

As I mentioned last week though, if they only use data from their members about how long these appliances *are* lasting, then the advice would be useful only to judge how long ours has lasted against the average. What’s needed is – how long *should* appliances last, which is completely different, and something Which? could presumably only guess at from the data they collate.

Any data on how long appliances *are* lasting can only be a reflection of the status quo, and not an ideal to aspire to.

If it was declared that all white goods appliances should be designed to last for a minimum of 10 years (If only for environmental reasons), and during that time they should be able to be maintained and repaired at reasonable costs, I can’t see too many people arguing with that? Prices would increase though!

I honestly believe there’s room for cheap stuff that people can choose to gamble on, middle of the road stuff that people can invest more in and expect longer life, and top premium quality stuff that the rich – and people prepared to invest money into where they can expect an even better experience and longevity.

I strongly suspect that part of the problem is that the middle option has gradually receded over the last decade leaving us with a large percentage of pretty expensive appliances which are middle price range but not necessarily giving the extra longevity and quality we deserve or expect.

“I strongly suspect that part of the problem is that the middle option has gradually receded over the last decade leaving us with a large percentage of pretty expensive appliances which are middle price range but not necessarily giving the extra longevity and quality we deserve or expect.”

It’s known as market polarisation Andy. 😉

To dumb it down as simply as I can, when times are tough people migrate up or down depending on their view. Those that can afford will invest in better products, those that cannot may be unsure of employment etc, will save money and move down with a “that’ll do” attitude, especially so in heavily commoditised sectors such as appliances but increasingly on more aspirational products such as consumer electronics and PCs as well I’ve noticed. You can see it in cars as well if you look closely to an extent.

That leaves those brands in the mid market scratching their heads wondering what to do.

Normally that will be to move down because moving up is a considerably greater challenge on many fronts and tends to represent a smaller market.

In turn that cheapens the product as costs are reduced to meet price expectations.

K.

Whitegoodshelp

Thank you very much for your response to my suggestion that Which? could give us an idea how long fridges and freezers might be expected to last. I chose these products because they run continuously, whereas anything like a washing machine would be difficult to predict because of variable use, extent of loading and other factors. I quite agree that data from Which? members might not be representative of the general population, but perhaps that information could be included in the magazine intended for Which? members. Which? is actively promoting members’ involvement in many ways, and this is one of them. Some contributors point to information collected via websites available to the general public. I certainly do not trust these.

“If it was declared that all white goods appliances should be designed to last for a minimum of 10 years (If only for environmental reasons), and during that time they should be able to be maintained and repaired at reasonable costs, I can’t see too many people arguing with that? Prices would increase though!”

I accept that prices would have to rise and also that manufacturers would have to do more to protect themselves from unreasonable and fraudulent claims. What we need is a wide enough choice of products to encourage competition, so that consumers are not being overcharged just because they are protected by a decent warranty.

“I honestly believe there’s room for cheap stuff that people can choose to gamble on, middle of the road stuff that people can invest more in and expect longer life, and top premium quality stuff that the rich – and people prepared to invest money into where they can expect an even better experience and longevity.”

Perhaps, but would secondhand goods not be a better alternative from an environmental point of view? It works well with cars. Or hire purchase, provided that interest rates are fair for those who do not want to buy secondhand, even if there is some form of insurance warranty.

“I strongly suspect that part of the problem is that the middle option has gradually receded over the last decade leaving us with a large percentage of pretty expensive appliances which are middle price range but not necessarily giving the extra longevity and quality we deserve or expect.”

This is what I fear. I prefer to avoid cheap goods but if I pay more and end up with a machine that cannot be economically repaired in a few years’ time I would feel very disappointed. I suspect that it would be easier to get support from the retailer if a two year old cheap machine failed than if a more expensive machine failed when it was four or five years old. That’s just a guess, of course.

Looking at the problems, the only way forward seems to be to for consumers to push for longer warranties that will give peace of mind to the consumer, providing of course that they don’t abuse their purchase. I accept that it is not practical at present to offer every washing machine with a ten year warranty but is it too much to ask for a minimum of three years and more choice of models with longer cover?

“Perhaps, but would secondhand goods not be a better alternative from an environmental point of view? It works well with cars. Or hire purchase, provided that interest rates are fair for those who do not want to buy secondhand, even if there is some form of insurance warranty.”

This has been looked at. Not much hasn’t been in fairness.

Second hand is better but, spares pricing and restrictive practices on servicing information prevent that in part. The value of the goods more so.

The customer has an option, buy an old machinate that’s been refurbished for £150 or a new one with a year’s warranty, perhaps even two for £200-250. Nine out of ten will go for option B, even when we know option A is often the better bet.

Leasing is a nightmare, like rental.

As the goods are not actually “owned” you tend to find that the level of care afforded in a good many cases is, will we say, not great to be kind. so you need to compensate of that as well as the initial large investment and so on.

Leasing was looked at by DEFRA by a bunch of retailers and manufacturers and on investigation it transpires that lease companies were not really interested as the value too low, the scope for default too high and so the prices were too great due to the risk level. I was involved in that with some names mentioned in this thread, by proxy in part though.

More, when you offer long warranties you see the same effect in part, people treat the products with some disdain and don’t take care of them as they presume that the warranty will cover any damage or fault.

Obviously that doesn’t apply to all owners by any stretch but there is tangible evidence to support this and, in light of that, the costs have to rise to compensate or, the warranty has to be reduced to limit exposure.

Think on it like rental cars. People often treat them badly because it’s not their problem. Same thing really.

I am sorry, but that’s the commercial reality.

K.

I am very pleased to see the input from wgh and Ken Watt bringing the inside knowledge of the electrical trade to the Conversation.

Firstly in respect of the fridges I have seen kitchens where the fridge is not provided with any air gaps or has some obstruction meaning airflow is not as required. I am therefore never really surprised to find some peoples kit suffers.

The overall conversation does circle around a problem of decent information being available. Which? is in the position to set-up and run a realistic long term use database, However you will see from this thread its current offering – a Readers Reviews section could be better:
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/kitchen/reviews/microwaves/next-red-800w/customer-views/

Which? could and should be publishing information such as sealed drum cost etc etc and this information could be derived from the professionals, and also from detailed records of Which? owners of the devices. I am quite happy to list all the electrical models I own with batch numbers etc. and give an annual up-date on their survival – or otherwise, and usage amount.

I have been one of the 35,000 Which? members who answer surveys on all manner of subjects including brand reliability and I wince at some of the naive questions asked. Naive in the sense they avoid asking the logical question for any real analysis. Frequency of use is a question almost never asked which I think can be very relevant.

For example : Do you own a camcorder tick Brand. Has you had a problem with it in the past year?
I answer No. But then I have not used it. Is their an option to say I have not used it in the last year? No.

It is a fact that Which? chooses certain criteria and then recommends which in the time of a paper based communication made sense. Now with the Web the underlying performance of every tested machine could be available. From last year we know that Which? did not test for 60C washes and yet recommends machines without any caveats about them failing to be able to wash hygienically clean. Furthermore the very act of selling a washing machine with a 60C setting it singularly fails to meet is surely misrepresentation and something Which? should be acting on.

Having a polite pop at Samsung seems rather to be missing the bigger issues open to Which?

“All you can do is to get a repair (maybe) if you can *prove* that the fault existed at point of sale”.
Kenneth, the potential that also needs to be used from SoGA is “durability” , which is different from a pre-existing fault. It is a specific requirement of SoGA and requires that the product lasts for a reasonable length of time. Failure can be due to poor design, poor choice of component, poor manufacturing quality, for the machine in question. Consumers (and retailers) will need guidance on “reasonable” lifetime without functional fault, and reminding that they have this right. It will be related to cost, it will be related to the product type, but I repeat what I have said before – consumers have a right to be helped when they buy a product that does not last a reasonable time. It will not always be easy to demonstrate you have a legitimate claim. But if, for example, a fridge-freezer simply stops working after 2 years, and is out of warranty, (as in a previous conversation) then I think the consumer has a pretty strong case.

Hi Malcolm,

This is where you get into what is ideal and what is perhaps practical.

The SoGA states that goods should last for a “reasonable” time only, there is no test of durability within the SoGA whatsoever.

What you may think reasonable as opposed to a retailer, manufacturer or even your neighbour could be wildly different.

The SoGA also does not protect you from normal run of the mill breakdowns or wear and tear and this is where personally I see most confusion. If a compressor fails in your fridge example well, it’s just a failure and tough luck really. That’s the way that most will view it I’m afraid.

These are primarily mass produced mechanical devices and they will all ultimately fail. All that is in any doubt is when they will fail and what the cost is to repair or replace.

The purpose of the manufacturer warranty or indeed an extended warranty is to insulate the owner from further cost from the likes of a breakdown, a component fails basically and this is offered over and above your statutory rights that are contained within the SoGA, Sale of Goods and Service Act and so on. Or, it could be argued, to give peace of mind in the quality of the product or even used merely as a sales tool.

Which leads you back to what I pointed out earlier, that durability within reason would only be established in a court in front of an impartial judge in each individual case and that could prove a huge amount of hassle as well as an extremely difficult case to make for most.

I’m not saying I like the system but it is what we have.

If you read the Which? guide to the SoGA you will find that all this is there and I often point people toward that very guide when there is a dispute as it sets out what is and is not true really rather well, better than many.

If you look at your fridge example and, let’s use these Samsung things, if you’re a judge looking at this then you have at the higher end of the scale, most similar products retailing at about £2000-2500 but you can go to well over £10,000 for a US fridge freezer rather easily. What that demonstrates is that these Samsung machines sit at the very bottom of the pile and it is therefore not really reasonable to expect them to be as fault free, durable or as well performing as those costing at least more than double if not many times the price paid for these units.

For these machines, if you get over eight years you’re doing well and living on borrowed time in my opinion.

Then take into account depreciation and rescission where the RS21 series under fire here are at least four to five years old now, they are worth next to nothing in monetary terms. In fact, to get rid of them is actually a cost.

I often see disputes where, after several years, people expect that they will get given a brand new machine for free or a full refund and that’s not realistic let alone reasonable.

So Samsung repairing completely free of charge is actually pretty fair within the confines set out.

I appreciate that a lot of people that bought these products probably assumed that they were buying a quality item that would give them many years of service from a well known brand name but, at the price point it’s all too likely that too much was expected. Looking at the industry as a whole and in context would tend to bear that out.

It sort of goes back to my hotel rooms and square pegs in round holes, you can have any standard that you want, any quality of service that you desire, if you have the means and are willing to pay for it.

If not, then I am afraid that, largely, caveat emptor will apply.

K.

Kenneth: You are confusing the issue again. Expensive or cheap, where a design fault has been admitted [or proven] and established it makes no difference. Consumers should be entitled to equal rights when a design fault occurs at the point of manufacture, irrespective of how much they paid for it.

K, SoGA takes precedence over any guarantee. “A compressor breaks down – tough luck” – not if it happens too soon in the life of the appliance. “People expect a full refund after several years” – some might, but not all and no argument for denying consumer rights which in many cases will require a full or partial contribution to a repair (or replacement).
The key issue we return to is “reasonable life” which is what an “Impartial person” would agree to. Clearly SoGA cannot give lifetimes for every product – because it covers anything a consumer might buy. A judge will not have the expertise to decide this – he will rely on “expert” opinion. And we don’t want this to get to court. So what we – consumers and retailers – need is guidance from an impartial organisation as to what life a consumer might expect under reasonable use from a goods. Consumers Associations might be the best to start publishing information as to what an “impartial” view of reasonable lifetime might be, related of course to cost. We need to start somewhere to stop consumers from being hampered in getting what they paid for. In the absence of decent guarantees, and expensive extended warranties, we need to make some progress. Just complaining it is too difficult is not acceptable.
Lovely if all manufacturers gave guarantees that reflected the life their products ought to achieve though!

No Beryl I think you may be taking my comments a little wrongly, I don’t disagree with that at all.

An owner claiming there is a design fault and proving that one exists are two entirely different things though.

I often find myself wondering how a person can claim design flaw when they have no knowledge to be able to do so or is it just because they say so? That isn’t a reasonable argument to make to anyone hence the need to prove the case and why I suspect that elements of the SoGA, SoGaSA, DSR etc are what they are.

In this I have no stake, it matters not to me one jot what people do as I am more than familiar with the legislation as are most reputable traders. All traders have to do is operate within that framework and to be reasonable whilst treating customers as fairly as possible within reason but, that does cut both ways.

In my own business I employ staff that have good product knowledge and we invest a lot of time into that in order to offer support up front, it saves a lot of hassle in my opinion for us and customers but many do not do so. Where asked, we also advise and can refuse to sell inappropriately when that is deemed the best course of action. Not all companies act like that and I accept that but, there are a number that do hold specialised knowledge and will help people, finding them at times in the fray of big brands and so on I would agree can be challenging.

My take is that many of the issues I see could be solved by simply buying or selling the appropriate product in the first instance that the user actually requires to suit their individual needs.

Again to use this topic, if you asked me for a US side by side that would last ten years plus in normal family life I’d be starting at GE units, Samsung, Beko and LG wouldn’t even get a mention without a large caveat on reliability and longevity. Large retailers and online sellers will often not have the staff with the product knowledge to tell you that, if they even get the chance as the a big concern mooted to me recently was that mid-market machines are begin ignore online as people simply put in the load capacity, spin and so on that they want and pick the cheapest option on the list.

If that’s the sum total of effort that’s put in, is it any wonder there are as many poor quality goods out there?

Then, when it turns out that it’s not as durable or trouble free as the buyer assumed everyone gets blamed and it is often expected that someone else will foot the bill.

K.

An individual purchaser cannot be expected to have the expertise to judge whether a particular product is good, or bad. Generally they will go on price, if they are honest with themselves, or rely on opinions from testing organisations such as Which? Some would rely upon a retailer’s recommendation. Having made a choice they now need support if the product does not meet reaistic expectations. In many cases this might be a very small proportion of a decent product from a decent manufacturer that needs remedying. Not a big deal to be fairly dealt with. We need to avoid blowing this issue up into thinking the majority of products, and consumers, are a problem. I don’t see it like that.

There is no denial of rights at all Malcolm, perish the thought.

What I’ve pushed for repeatedly is to have product lifespan clearly published on the energy label. That allows people to get a better grip of what they are buying in my opinion and give a good indication to the quality.

But as I have said, any machine can breakdown, that doesn’t mean it’s a design flaw, it’s just unfortunate that’s all.

Lifespan will be dictated by use largely and the level of care, precluding any breakdowns of course but it’d be really hard for the CA or anyone really to offer much guidance there without knowing the rough design life as it could vary massively.

For example take wavechange and his circumstances where I’m assuming that a new washing machine would be subject to very low use and, given the chap’s nature and so on it will probably be well looked after. Put a bog standard Beko into that situation and it might run for 10 years or more.

Put the same machine into a family situation where it gets overloaded, bad cheap detergents used, no maintenance at all and it will do well to see a second birthday.

That’s a fairly reasonable assessment. Perhaps slightly exaggerated to make the point.

Claiming that the second example is a breach of the SoGA as the bearings collapse in month 18 is not reasonable.

K.

“We need to avoid blowing this issue up into thinking the majority of products, and consumers, are a problem. I don’t see it like that.”

Agreed.

K.

Kenneth: I understand only too well where you are coming from and have received much enlightenment from your perspective but the issue of the main topic remains exactly the same which is one of a design flaw which I know, having had firsthand experience, is a possibility with any appliance irrespective of how much a consumer paid for it. That is a very simple fact and I don’t consider it to be at all complex.

In the case of the Samsung fridge freezers the design fault became apparent by Which? following consumer complaints. Once a design fault has been established a manufacturer has a duty to their customers to come clean and admit it. If a retailer has prior knowledge of this, everything they display for sale with this design fault should come with a ‘sold as seen’ label or ‘damaged goods’ with an appropriate price, or be made accountable. If the design fault does not become apparent until after the warrantee has expired, a reputable manufacturer will compensate otherwise he/she stands to damage his/her reputation. That is the whole purpose behind consumer groups, to expose these non compliant traders and if they consider themselves to be beyond the law, then consumers, once suitably informed, can avoid them and take their custom elsewhere when the natural laws of supply and demand will prevail.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Which?, with considerable authority, published a list of product lifecycle reasonable expectations classified by brand [not individual models] with, say, all Samsung fridge/freezers given a four-year forecast [based on their research and members’ experiences], and e.g. LG given ten years [on the same basis]? That would put the cat among the penguins I think and pep things up a bit. This could be a dynamic list updated regularly as new information became available.

I am not quite sure you are referring to JW when you talk of lifecycle. I assume you mean before that model is replaced in the sales line-up rather than expected life span.

Either way this differs perhaps from how long should parts be available.

My Dualit toaster I can get all the spare parts after two decades, however some of the modern Dualits are made in China to a price and are deemed unrepairable when they inevitably the elements wear out. Incidentally though never mentioned in Which? there is an equally venerable [1945] toaster manufacturer based in Surrey called Rutland Rowlett

I know that a toaster a simple product but you can see the dangers of attributing a characteristic across a brand when in fact there are several market segments for each manufacturer. This is one of the reasons that ConsumerReports in the US [ father to our Consumer Association] do not allow any linking of their name to a particular product in case it puts a halo around not so good kit.

Which? charges £7500 for a six month period that advertisers can link any Best Buy product to the Which logo. I think I prefer the Consumer Report method tp avoid any halo effect.

Thanks for picking me up on that point DT. I did in fact mean to say “lifespan”, being a period from new over which a product continues to perform reliably as specified, this being determined by testing, research and user experiences according to a consistent standard of typical use in conformity with the manufacturer’s recommendations. I agree there is a problem looking across a manufacturer’s range of products and to some extent the initial price has to be factored into the assessment of a reasonable life expectation. Having eschewed the Which? test results and recommendations we just bought a new Tesco brand kettle; it cost less than the others on sale there but we don’t have any great expectations on its life in our home since we shall probably replace it one day for cosmetic reasons. If my “product lifecycle reasonable expectations” database notion ever saw the light of day it would probably collapse under the weight of its own complexity and hair-splitting definition arguments, . . . so best drop that idea I think.

Yes John, I believe that your analysis is quite correct, it is far too complex.

As pointed out by DT and myself, it all boils down to two basic factors in large part, how well the product is made and with what frequency it is used. Then you have to factor in the type of use with a number of products, installation and so on, not just whitegoods. Of course there are bits in every product line that will break if the use is not quite right, excessive etc.

To automatically assume that this is the result of a design issue or such is a folly without evidence to demonstrate that is indeed the case.

I have done some sourcing of products and, what we do is go on information that we can get from factory in regard to design life parameters, they will largely all have these figures either in terms of hours of use or cycles etc. You often need to push a little to get them and, how accurate they are can, on occasion be cast into doubt. On the whole however they will generally prove to be reasonably accurate but there is mitigation to an extent with the above comments in mind.

So usually, the big trade secret is, that a fault that reoccurs in over 10-12% over the course of a set period, usually six or twelve months would contractually represent an “epidemic failure” or, a design issue. Less than that, it’s just a breakdown issue.

Now, to determine that you need data and the data points that are really required are not just as many may think. The volume of failures is irrelevant unless you know the number of units in the field for a starting point.

Without that, you might as well shoot at the moon as claim a design defect or, even poor reliability as you just ruled out.

If you have say, five hundred people with the same or a similar problem but you’ve sold ten thousand units, that’s half percent problem. Not even worth bothering looking into in some cases, the cost to do so outweighs any benefit.

But if you sold a hundred and twenty people have the problem that’s a whole different ball game.

Surveying a small cross section of users, for example, merely Which? readers, gives a skewed answer for two reasons. One the sample size may be too small to be statistically viable across a huge number of products but more than that, two, Which? readers tend to be more caring of the products that they buy, research more and so on. Therefore in the eyes of a brand, especially a pan-European or global brand, that’s just a blip that may well not even register.

Sure they may well pay it lip service and whatnot but I doubt it’ll cause too many sleepless nights.

The chances of manufacturers giving such information to Which? or pretty much anyone else is less than zero. Even I cannot reveal who gave me what information on what products as it is done so on the understanding of strict confidence that I would never break. I have a reputation to maintain on that front.

Just another reason or two and some information to support your conclusion. The data required is not available and, even if it were, it’s huge.

K.

Ken, “a fault that reoccurs in over 10-12% over the course of a set period, usually six or twelve months would contractually represent an “epidemic failure” or, a design issue. Less than that, it’s just a breakdown issue.”
I think what is called “just a breakdown issue” is something others would call a fault if it happens within the reasonable functional life of the product (hours run, cycles or time). Might be a component fault, an assembly issue – but something many would regard as down to the manufacturer, not the user. This is perhaps one area where differences of opinion occur.

Hi Beryl,

I left this unit after I had answered below with more of an explanation of what would constitute an epidemic failure in the industry.

What you see is a number of reports in relation to a common fault so, logically, you might think this is a design flaw and that’s fine and you are more than entitled to do so.

What I see is a common problem with no information to frame that with any degree of certainty of being a design flaw at all.

I don’t know how many of these units that Samsung sold, I haven’t a clue. Therefore, logically, to determine the frequency of faulty units is nigh on impossible and to state that this is categorically a design issue is not really possible. The evidence is not available to be able to do so with any real degree of certainty.

To start berating anyone for any reason whatsoever you need to be sure of your ground and have the rock solid evidence to support that position.

Let’s say you set up Beryl’s Cup Cakes Company tomorrow.

After a while the BCCC gets a few gripes that people felt ill after eating your cupcakes.

This gets posted on a few cake lovers forums and, lo and behold a load of people start to say something like, “You know what, I didn’t feel that great the day after I ate Beryl’s cup cakes”. The conclusion will be that the BCCC cakes are making people ill.

The fact that there might have been a dose of the cold going about, some went out on the town and had a little too much and so on becomes irrelevant. It’s all your fault, you poisoned everyone, the internet says so.

But goodness, the local BBC radio station got a hold of this sensational story and panned your cupcakes on air, you caused mayhem, made people lose money through illness and being unable to work, put children’s lives at risk and so and and so on.

Then the national stations pick it up.

Then you’re claiming benefits. Or flipping burgers down at the local McDonalds.

To steal from Malcolm Gladwell, you get to a tipping point where there is no way back whether the story was true or not, regardless of where the actual blame lies. If there was even a problem with the cakes in the first place, which there probably wasn’t, I would lay odds you could whip up a brilliant cup cake if you were so inclined so please excuse my frivolity on the topic.

All through that, where was the evidence that says your cakes poisoned a single soul?

In large part in the way a lot of these things go, the actual evidence is not there to support the notion or, the facts are just not there.

In the case of these Samsung machines, no recall has been issued. Is it just possible, maybe even remotely that it’s just a common fault, perhaps coincidence and not a design issue?

I can’t say for sure, I don’t have the data to do so.

What I can say is that it’s a common failure. I can’t say for sure why.

Samsung agreed to repair FOC, probably to try to protect their reputation and I expect that cost them a great deal of money to try to repair that damage.

K.

My apologies Malcolm, I was perhaps not as clear as I should have been but in my defence, I knew what I was prattling on about. 😉

This is an industry standard.

It will most often be applied not only to finished product (which is what you buy) but also to components that are produced by outside contractors that supply components.

But again, if you don’t know what the expected life is, would that be an unfortunate failure, down to use or something else? To be able to claim anything at all you need the facts and hard data.

Like Beryl’s cakes in part, if you walked into a court with no evidence that the component failed due to a manufacturing defect or the cakes caused the poisoning, you’d get short shrift from a judge. No evidence to support the case, case kicked into touch.

Or the company under attack produces numbers that makes you look a fool at the first hurdle.

They can trot out someone like me that would take many arguments apart in a heartbeat.

It isn’t a case of a difference of opinion for me, I only report the facts and look at things in a completely unemotional and pragmatic manner trying to determine how any one “thing” might pan out in reality. I completely respect all the views and I understand many of them even when I feel that they may be somewhat out of keeping with how things work or opinion that makes no sense to me on some levels.

I have a huge amount of sympathy with people that don’t get the industry so please do not misunderstand but I’d much rather see people fight a battle that they have a hope of winning than wasting time and possibly money on one that they have no hope with.

I am trying to help you all, not the opposite.

K.

No washing machine – however cheap – should be being manufactured and sold that cannot last even a couple of years washing for a normal family. Accepting that in today’s environmentally damaged world is insane.

The extended warranty companies will have, presumably, extensive knowledge of the reliability or otherwise of some groups and models of consumer goods. If that were made available it could help formulate what to buy and what to expect by discerning purchasers. I wonder if they would share that information with, say, Which? It might also help frame expectations as to what a reasonable life could be.
I must say that with all the white goods I have bought over the years I have never had a problem. But if buying a cheap, and likely short-lived, appliance, (e.g. a washing machine) you have to think about the inconvenience when it goes wrong. How do you decide whether to repair it or not (a £60 call out charge probably – is it worth it?), will the repair last, and then the time taken to decide what to buy instead, where from, asnd how long will it take. Meanwhile the laundry piles up.

They do. You will not get access to it though and neither will anyone else I expect, that is very sensitive information.

You have sort of hit on one of the big problems I have seen over the years there though Malcolm and one that has gotten progressively worse over time, especially of late.

What happens is that people do not wake up of a morning and thing, “You know what, let’s go and buy a new washing machine today” or any other appliance. No, it’s what’s available *NOW*!

In large part the only time appliance purchases are planned are as a part of moving home or a new kitchen. Outside of that almost every single one sold is a distress purchase that is made only when it is absolutely necessary. And, in most cases speed is of the essence which doesn’t allow for a lot of time to investigate what is being bought.

A good many people will end up down at the local Currys etc or shopping online to see what’s available as quickly as possible, will fit the space and the budget along with offering the most whizz bang for the money.

If you walk into (or click onto) a pile ’em high, flog ’em cheap shop and ask mere cursory or no questions at all, expect to walk away with that the best “spiv” as some call it or bonus is on that week. The salesperson is not likely to care all that much as they probably won’t be there if you come back. But that’s if you get any advice at all.

Talking to people I get the impression that they don’t ask as they don’t want the spiel about an extended warranty, but do want the bargain prices in the sheds.

So, what most people seem to do these days is just opt for a machine that fits the criteria and don’t even bother to find out if it will do what they want.

You can imagine the process… Is it the right price, check. Is it silver (or whatever), check. Does it have an ice maker and water, check. Do I know the brand name, check. Job done, deliver that one.

Now I ask, where in that process does the retailer or the manufacturer hold any responsibility?

Please don’t misunderstand as some appear to have, I am not for a moment trying to say that a manufacturer shouldn’t be responsible for a proven design flaw, especially where any danger is posed. Nor am I saying for a moment that people do not have basic rights either in any way, shape or form.

What I am saying is that, on a great many occasions, people’s choices are ill thought out and that, I an afraid, is entirely something that’s on the buyer.

This is getting worse as more and more sales move to an online footing where no advice at all is sought or often given, all you have is the multiple choice I spoke of earlier. The trick here, in my opinion, isn’t to protect people from shoddy goods as, there really aren’t that many as such if you account for price and purpose, but more to protect people from themselves thinking that they can get a Rolls Royce for the price of a Mini.

But again, a bunch of white boxes, all the same shape, all the same size, all do the same thing and should be the same quality? But you can get one for a fifth or less the price of a really good one with all the same features, that’ll do.

Now for the example I used earlier using wavechange as my subject (sorry wavechange, no harm intended just a bit of fun to illustrate the points) he’s gotten a brilliant bargain, bargain of the century really, £200 for ten years worth of washing, fantastic. Four point five review for Beko, brilliant.

For the poor Mrs Jones that has the same but gave it hammer and it broke and was effectively scrap at eighteen months old, not a bargain at all. Mrs Jones may well have even bought that model due to wavechange’s four point five review.

What do you think Mrs Jones is going to do?

Some Mrs Jone’s will call to get it fixed, get stung… sorry, get put on a service plan and have it fixed, move on.

Some Mrs Jone’s, I suspect more, will just scrap it and buy another, that they can get delivered tomorrow as it’s in stock and affordable etc. You end up playing what I call brand bingo, you just go round the houses at the same price point trying not to make the same error again.

Believe this or believe it not but we in the trade, especially those that do have some morals, utterly abhor this sort of practice but unless people choose to do something about it for themselves, there’s really not a lot that can be done by us.

K.

We already know, more or less, what we are going to buy if any of our major appliances conks out prematurelyand we keep abreast of the market. Thankfully, John Lewis still have a large range of different models on display and we usually have a browse when in the store since we do tend to renew white goods before they get clapped out. The fridge/freezer would be the appliance with the most urgent replacement timescale although we could cope for a little while with an older back-up fridge; we have enjoyed great reliability from fridges and freezers and have usually replaced well before expiry in order to benefit from product improvements, especially energy efficiency and perforance.

You are firmly in a very small minority there John.

I applaud your way of thinking completely however to some degree.

I wouldn’t get too excited about energy savings though, it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be with some putting a, will we say, more positive spin on things than may be the actuality.

I won’t give examples, I’l let you work it out for yourself but give you a good nudge in the right direction. Look for the ones that don’t use percentages for comparison and look at what they are being compared against.

On laundry product, is that number by load or by kilo? What program? What tariff?

Crucially, is this comparison against a similar *modern* product or some blast from the past?

Often you will find that the headline numbers are more wishful thinking than reality when you really start to dig into it.

Even at that, some have been caught cheating on energy use claims, red handed.

PR and marketing people, gotta love ’em. According to them the world is a happy clappy place where their product will make everything alright, you needn’t have to worry about. Keep in mind though that is is their job is to sell you the dream or, just the stuff they’re tasked to sell this week to make a wage.

Which? and others do a lot to try to burst that bubble but I fear that many still fall for the marketing blurb.

K.

In most cases I think we would be comparing the performance of a new model against what it would replace. I agree with you on being wary of energy efficiency promises – it largely depends on how you use the appliance. But, for example, I would expect a new fridge [which has to be on continuously] to have superior insulation and thermostatic control and therefore make significant energy savings over a ten year old model; whether the upfront replacement implications could be justified in strict economic and environmental terms is another matter. However, a new model might look better which, much as I might personally waver, is an important consideration in our household!

For washing machines and dishwashers, I feel that technical performance is a more important consideration than running costs because these are almost entirely related to whether you cram the thing full of sheets/crockery twice a week or do little and often, and then also it depends on which programme you use.

Matt Stevens. It is surprising how many people have been stirred into action by this conversation – I count around 112. All with interesting and useful contributions on what is clearly a subject that needs attention. Will Which? give it that attention and start to do something to improve the protection consumers deserve – by lobbying for improved guarantees, collating information to make the Sale of Goods Act more usable, and by improving test reports to cover durability, repairability and availability of spares. Clearly consumers need more help to make better decisions, particularly when buying white goods.

WHich? has say 600,000 members so one might hope that if a sufficiently simple to use system was installed members would upload details of what they owned as a sort of inventory in the “cloud”. Add that they can add usage, repairs – parts,labour, and costs – and Which? would have information of great value.

If members had 50 Samsung fridges, same model, with the same fault – 100% of the population then you can be pretty certain its a fault. If its 50 out of 5000 …. maybe. And of course other than electronics and electricals it applies to cars. So when a service advisory has to be issued then members can be contacted.

Benefit to members for the future purchases, an inventory , and properly robust figures. Life-time costs may be useful for the age old problem of cheap and short life or long term reliability. Which? has the members and the money to be able to do this.

Kenneth

Your input has helped us have a fascinating and wide reaching discussion about consumer protection and faulty goods.

My interest in this subject stems from when I bought a Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder from Rumbelows in 1970 and I received less than satisfactory treatment by a member of the shop staff when I encountered a problem during the guarantee period.

As a school kid I developed an interest in electronics and when I was not studying and working, I spent my time building, repairing and designing electronic circuits. Sometimes I used to go to the library and look at copies of the periodical Radio and TV Servicing, which had circuit diagrams and other helpful information for faultfinding. For each model covered, there was a summary of common problems. Through reading the monthly magazines available at the time I learned that domestic products were often quite well designed but in order to cut the cost of production, lower specification components were substituted and this was the basis of certain models having common problems. One of my friends and fellow electronic enthusiasts took a job as a TV engineer on the basis of his experience as a hobbyist and told me a lot about design faults in TVs. To this day I have never been sure whether – as many claim – products are designed to fail prematurely to boost sales or this is just a consequence of penny pinching. I have certainly found numerous examples of failure where using components that would literally cost pennies more could have prevented a failure of the product. As a student I worked for a small instrument and electronics company where I learned that products designed for non-domestic use made use of properly specified components. Likewise, much of the equipment I had in my university research labs was built to a much better specification than I had seen in domestic products.

I used to read my uncle’s copies of Which? magazine and years later – when I could afford to – I took out my own subscription. Sometimes I learn some fascinating and unexpected information from the magazine or from Which? Conversation. One relevant example is that the 60C setting on a washing machine no longer relates to temperature but to cleaning performance.

Armed with some technical knowledge, a basic understanding of consumer rights (thanks to Which?) I have been able to tackle some retailers and service engineers that have tried to treat me very unfairly. On the few occasions I have approached manufacturers for help, they have generally been quite helpful, especially considering their lack of legal responsibility for consumers’ problems. Earlier in our discussions, you thought that I might have something against manufacturers. I am certainly not fond of products with design faults, either as a result of cost cutting, carelessness or lack of adequate testing, and I have profound distrust of marketing, but I have great respect for clever and intuitive design.

So there we are. Other than as a consumer, I have never had any involvement with any companies that manufacture, sell or repair products, no involvement with trade bodies, no conflict of interest to declare. I have never taken any legal action against anyone or even sought legal advice other than sending the occasional email to Which? Essentially I am a consumer who has an interest in certain aspects of consumer rights and sometimes bore my friends and family discussing matters such as the Sale of Goods Act.

You have obviously have considerably more involvement and expertise than me and other consumers, Kenneth. Could you please give us a summary of your past and present involvement in the field? I’m sure it’s more interesting than the background to my interest in consumer affairs and it might help me and others to understand how your views have evolved.

Hi wavechange,

Thank you, the intent was to inspire some reasoned discussion and to allow people to understand a little better, I hope that has been accomplished.

I have deliberately avoided mentioning any company names that I work for or with as there are several both directly and indirectly within the industry and I advise on a range of industry related things for different bodies. The reason I have avoided it is that I do not want to appear to be prejudice or show a bias by attempting to use this for advertising purposes as, that is not the case at all.

I have been involved with the servicing of large and some small appliances since the mid eighties and I probably know more about the products and servicing them than any sane person should. I have also been involved in sales and most aspects of product sourcing and so on. Day to day, I am heavily involved in spare parts these days but started off as a field service engineer with experience in wet, hot and cold products including gas.

I therefore have a pretty good grasp of how manufacturers and retailers will largely operate in most areas of the industry.

I have lived through a number of recalls, some that dwarf the recent ones we’ve seen and I will look at thousands of service records per year, scores of problems that get escalated every year.

What I can say, in regard to your comments about manufacturers in general is that, in my experience I have never come across a manufacturer that didn’t try to help an owner to the best that they could, especially the big or reputable brands. They may well not come across well at times or act quickly and, people might not always get the answer or response that they want but, they will very rarely ignore people or refuse to assist without good call to do so.

My experience is that, if they can help then they will do so within reason.

It is very easy to blame the big bad manufacturer for all manner of ills but it is more often will turn out that such events hold little to no water or, even substance at all in fact. That is not to say that they do not err on occasion as they do, but it’s not appropriate to make that the default presumption without evidence in my opinion.

Sadly, many people do make that leap and to be blunt, the conversation usually goes South rapidly as reason gets overruled by emotive argument with no factual basis as a person argues their case over how their consumer rights are being violated and so on. Largely I find this counter productive as companies will brace for the worst and, if there is any chance of something going legal in any way at all, they will baton the hatches and do everything by the numbers. They have no option but to do so.

To date, I cannot recall a single instance where rights being set aside has been alleged I have ever been involved with or consulted on that has proved to be the case but, that’s only my experience within this industry, albeit a large number of cases over a number of years.

K.

Thank you Kenneth. I respect you for giving your name and avoiding promoting brands.

What started to ring alarm bells with me is that you have told us that everything is so difficult for the consumer who encounters problems. From my experience, this can be the case but sometimes it easy to get results. I felt that you might be discouraging us from even trying to pursue our rights. With a few Google searches I established your extensive involvement in commercial activities related to washing machines,etc. No doubt this is the reason you have been able to provide us with so much information but perhaps you are seeing the issues more from the commercial side, in the same way as I am looking at them from the point of view of a consumer.

I have passed on some of your useful information about sealed tubs etc. to a friend who buys cheaper white goods for his rental flats and houses, so thanks for that.

I am going to continue to pursue my rights where I believe I have an honest and fair claim and to try to raise interest in longer manufacturers’ guarantees/warranties, not least because this is likely to improve product quality for reasons I have explained.

No problem but, I buy stuff too you know. 😉

And, in the course of what I do, I must be able to understand the various points of view, it is an essential requirement.

One thing and, I believe I alluded to this earlier and it’s a perfect example…

Your friend who rents out homes with appliances, every single warranty is probably invalid.

It is treated as a commercial use where the product is on hire and, as you will no doubt know from almost any warranty, that is virtually always an exclusion. There are very good, sound reasons for this but just by way of a heads up, the manufacturer may be perfectly justified and well within their rights to reject any warranty claim.

I’m not saying that they will do so, if they find out of course but to claim that this sort of use is normal domestic could be viewed as technically being fraudulent. Equally making a claim in the circumstance and not declaring it would only serve to compound that.

Most landlords are blissfully unaware of this as are many other commercial properties.

K.

The warranty might be invalid in that situation but SoGA would still apply, would it not?

Yes, John it does.

If I recall and, it’s a few years since I came across that, there’s some sort of reduction in there, in practice as it moves to a commercial contract, which is different in some respects.

It wouldn’t practically matter though if the whole thing is based around a mistruth.

K.

Kenneth – My friend knows about the warranty situation. He tends to have a quick look if there is a problem and employs various engineers to sort out problems with appliances in his properties. He is honest even if he will not win any prizes for environmental responsibility. He was even going to scrap a machine with a gruesome mouldy door seal, but I persuaded him to replace it and explained how to deal with the problem and prevent it recurring.

Ah, that’s good then.

The number of spats people get into over that one is unreal!

K.

I have a retired friend who works for the same charity as me. He cuts grass for neighbours in his spare time. His mower developed a fault when it was less than a year old and he took it to an engineer rather than approaching the retailer because it was being used commercially, which invalidated the guarantee. That’s an old chap who does not use a computer and struggles with written English. Not all consumers are intent on cheating retailers.

Perhaps we should have a fair play campaign. Consumers should be fair with retailers and vice versa. Maybe the retailers should make the first move. If John Lewis staff don’t understand their legal obligations (that was an interesting and unexpected finding in a Which? undercover investigation), perhaps they could show willing by putting something about the Sale of Goods Act on their website.

I would never say or assume that all people are dishonest at all or even a majority, that would be a ludicrous notion.

The majority of people are absolutely fine.

But there is an element that is not and, sadly when you run a business you have to often play to or are forced through legislation to play to the lowest common denominator as it were. It is very sad that this is the case but often there is no option.

Just by way of a completely unrelated example but amusing all the same, a friend of mine used to work in the brewing industry and, on a weekly basis the chain he worked for got claims for holes in the pavement or car park in the premises causing people to fall over and get injured.

At huge cost they had to install extensive CCTV at over a hundred locations to prove that it was perhaps the “claimant” that might just have had too many sherbets that night and not anything to do with the odd loose slab or whatever.

The cost of that CCTV, the maintenance of it and the litigation just gets added to the food and drink costs and everyone suffers because some fools think it’s okay to try to extort cash from the business.

The vast majority, 99% or more, of customers are absolutely not a problem, honest good people. But that 1% that are not can cause absolute mayhem and prove costly to everyone else.

So no, not all consumers are out to cheat by any stretch but, those that do so are everyone’s problem, not just that of the business.

But thankfully in this thread, I am sure that the people reading this will equally understand that any business has to protect itself from spurious claims and so on and that is not limited to only insurance companies, banks etc but applies to virtually every business. Just as customers don’t want fleeced, neither do businesses.

K.

Fair enough. I think it is fairly well established that a minority of people set out to cheat many organisations and not just businesses. If 99% of customers are honest that’s good but not good enough.

If retailers played fair, maybe the Sale of Goods Act would provide fair protection for all consumers and not just those who know their rights and are prepared to push for them. I once took a product back to Currys and was told that they could not help because the guarantee had expired (recently). When I mentioned the Sale of Goods Act I was told that it did not apply to them. That’s one of my favourite tales.

That sounds like poorly trained staff more than anything.

In a large retailer with a high turnover of staff, I’m not really all that surprised. I find and, it is only what I have seen in my experience, is that staff in those sorts of establishments are taught to sell and often exposed to manufacturer sales training or, some may say propaganda. Beyond that, not a lot other than H&S training.

I have seen a number of times that causing more problems than it solves for the retailer as well because staff can say things that they really shouldn’t. As was obviously the case in your experience there.

K.

I’ve always believed that sales staff are deliberately kept in the dark about the SOGA, only managers are likely to know the true extent of consumer rights so they can battle with the one in a thousand consumers who won’t be fobbed off. Most will probably genuinely believe it when they tell customers nothing can be done because the product is now out of guarantee because that’s what they are told to say.

Wavechange: If you would care to read up on a second trade opinion to back up your hypotheses on washing machine expense and durability, might I suggest you Google ‘sealed units on washing machines’ and click on