/ 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

Kenneth, one area that still seems to lack agreement revolves around “no evidence of any form of an inherent defect”. In my interpretaion of “durability” and goods lasting functionally for a “reasonable time”, it is not necessary to prove that a fault existed at the time of manufacture – simply that the product life was unacceptably short (in the eyes of an “impartial” person.
It depend upon how you interpret “inherent fault”. I am thinking, as said before, of, for example,
– a defective design – for example a component that is overstressed by being badly specified, a cable route that is prone to abrasion
– a latent defect in a component, such as a cracked casting.
Maybe there are better examples, but such “faults” as these may only cause malfunction out of guarantee, be difficult to prove were inhehent at manufacture, but nevertheless lead to an unacceptably-short functional life of the product. The consumer should not be expected to carry the cost of a manufacturer’s problem. This interpretation of durability is where I would like to see clarity – Which? promises they are looking at this.
I may misinterpret the meaning, but to me the customer does need protection when, through no fault of theirs, a product does not meet reasonable expectations.

Quite right Malcolm but then you’re back to that spiral of defining what is or is not reasonable in terms of life and durability.

My experience with large appliances and some others would tend to point to more wear and tear type faults as opposed to defects from manufacture. Most manufacturing defects tend to present in a relatively short space of time, very, very few take months and almost never years to manifest.

Yet again you get into this “he said, she said” debate about how long any particular item should last which, as we have already explored at length, is not an easy one to come up with answers for by any measure.

K.

Malcolm – One of the most obvious examples of poor design is lack of proper strain relief on power and other cables used on portable appliances. There are various ways of ensuring that a cable does not fracture and it is fairly uncommon to see a problem these days, thanks to manufacturers recognising the problem and dealing with it. I have just replaced the mains lead on my Philips iron for the second time due to wear of the outer cover of the cable but the strain relief where the cable enters the iron is excellent and affords excellent protection.

Apple have not done so well with their laptop chargers. The earlier ones were fine but when models Magsafe magnetic connectors were introduced, they lacked strain relief and many complained about premature failure, sometimes accompanied by burning of the cable where it entered the magnetic plug. The problem was obvious to me when I first saw someone using a laptop with one of these connectors, but I have managed to avoid failure by recognising the problem and being careful to minimise bending of the cable at the vulnerable point. Apple no doubt spent a lot on developing an excellent magnetic power connector but let themselves down with such a basic design failing. Not surprisingly, the later version of the Magsafe connector does provide minimal strain relief for the cable, though they could have done better. It would be interesting to know if the lack of strain relief on the original design constitutes a design fault.

I am even more aware of examples of damage to cables caused by careless users. Who decides whether there is a design fault? Commonsense suggests that this should be done by someone independent of both the consumer and manufacturer and take into account both likely usage and any instructions provided with the product.

Kenneth, “you’re back to that spiral of defining what is or is not reasonable in terms of life “. This is one of the key issues, but avoiding it will get us nowhere. To start, would you expect a Bosch washing machine used normally in a 4 person household to fail just after its 2 year warranty expeired, without any misuse?

That is the very reason I believe that the SoGA avoids it though, you can’t define it.

How can you define something that is by its very nature undefinable?

For your example I can’t say, every instance would rest on any number of factors. Frequency of use, detergents used, other additives used, load size and so on so it cannot be defined, it really just isn’t so simple.

If you ask me to guess I’d just use cold hard facts that we do know.

I know that the average wash level per person per year is 117.

I pretty much know that the BSH lower range product is designed to approx 2-2500 cycles or thereabouts. Top end machines usually sold under the Siemens branding, some anyway, were designed for over double that.

So, 117 x 4 = 468 washes per year as an average.

x2 = 936

Which puts it roughly at it’s mid life point give or take. So after four years you’re into bonus time and if you get there with no issues, you’re ahead.

Chances of it seeing seven years with that level of use, slim. Possible of course but, slim.

Also please bear in mind that doesn’t make any allowance for component failure even allowing for all other factors. Even things like, two members of the family play rugby can affect the use massively or, one is a chef as an example.

The time that any machine lasts is not really relevant in most instances and to be honest, a factor I usually largely ignore as it is so variable.

K.

This debate reminds me of 1984 by Orwell. Regarding the Sale of Goods Act, we can believe that it is for our protection yet we are told that the purpose is to ensure that we have precious few rights.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

I don’t think so at all.

You could equally argue that the creation of some Draconian legislation that hindered the free market economy would likewise create and imbalanced and possibly Dystopian state, certainly in a commercial sense. I am sure all can agree that is no answer.

I believe that the former Soviet Union tried that, to run a bit with your Orwellian notion, they drove Ladas. They really weren’t very good, nor was much of anything else.

All I can ask is that you appreciate the complexity and nuance in this topic, that all too often things are not what they may appear to when placed under scrutiny and that it doesn’t just apply to one group of people or another so it has to be universally acceptable.

My personal opinion is that products should have more clear indication of life expectancy, that would at least be a start in so much as at least making people more aware of what they were paying for.

Currently there is none at all and when even the likes of Which? are recommending products that can be rendered beyond economical repair due to something trapped in the tank at even a few weeks old that turns out to be sealed, as Andy and I pointed out, we really do have a problem don’t we?

You have unserviceable products with no information about them being sold at knockdown prices, But you know what, it’s all good, no problem here.

That I am not saying, not even for a minute but I know this industry better than most and I’ve explored all the things you’re doing and ultimately I’m trying to save you a lot of time and wasted effort chasing rainbows.

K.

“My personal opinion is that products should have more clear indication of life expectancy, that would at least be a start in so much as at least making people more aware of what they were paying for.”

Agreed, but the clearest indication would be an appropriate manufacturer’s warranty. After all, you have told us that the Sale of Goods Act is not there to help regarding durability.

“Currently there is none at all and when even the likes of Which? are recommending products that can be rendered beyond economical repair due to something trapped in the tank at even a few weeks old that turns out to be sealed, as Andy and I pointed out, we really do have a problem don’t we?”

Then please help the consumer and the reputation of the trade by raising awareness that such products are not fit for their purpose and cannot be serviced.

I wouldn’t agree fully, in part perhaps.

The best notion, to my mind at least, is to provide the information to make the buyer make an informed decision. Should they choose not to do so then that’s nobody’s concern but their own.

How to deliver that information is the real debate.

I try to help the trade and public with this almost ever day but that doesn’t mean to say that goods are not fit for purpose, of course they are. To argue otherwise is, in my opinion a bit of a mug’s game.

Take the example of Malcolm’s Bosch above.

It washes clothes. That’s the purpose. Therefore, logically it is fit for purpose.

If you get a coin, a nail or whatever else trapped in it and it needs a new tank in month three, that’s not covered by warranty and it’s not the fault of the product. It’s never became not fit for purpose in a legal sense at all. It’s just broken down.

The point being that, due to cost engineering to meet price expectation from the retailer and customer the manufacturer is forced into that and, in any event, irrespective of the length of the warranty that issue is not covered anyway. Any additional warranty makes no odds at all.

You can argue the morality till the cows come home but, from a legal and technical standing, that’s a tough gig as they say.

K.

To keep to the salient points of the debate:

It would not be difficult for Trading Standards to appoint an independent non biased fully qualified
engineer(s) to determine an inherent design fault on any appliance.

An inferior cheap w/machine with a plastic sealed unit tub/drum should be declared as not fit for purpose and as having an inherent design flaw if it is not repairable, is not of a durable nature, e.g. is not made to last beyond a period of 2 years, is not hard wearing, irrespective of its cost.

Anyone involved in the selling of such a product without informing a consumer of the potential risks involved in purchasing such goods is guilty of selling by duplicitous means and should be held to account.

I am being icky Beryl but….

“It would not be difficult for Trading Standards to appoint an independent non biased fully qualified
engineer(s) to determine an inherent design fault on any appliance.”

Who pays for that as I don’t want my tax money wasted on that?

“An inferior cheap w/machine with a plastic sealed unit tub/drum should be declared as not fit for purpose and as having an inherent design flaw if it is not repairable, is not of a durable nature, e.g. is not made to last beyond a period of 2 years, is not hard wearing, irrespective of its cost.”

It is fit for the purpose it was intended.

Perhaps I would concur that it was not intended to last as long as many people might wish but, it is most certainly fit for purpose as defined in law.

“Anyone involved in the selling of such a product without informing a consumer of the potential risks involved in purchasing such goods is guilty of selling by duplicitous means and should be held to account.”

A point I’ve made many times, virtually nobody ever asks or when explained, often cares.

K.

I would support what Beryl has proposed concerning inspection of faulty goods by an independent engineer, at least where there is evidence of a frequent fault. I think it would be very good expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

Why should your view on the matter be more important than ours? 🙁

“Why should your view on the matter be more important than ours? :-(”

Sorry, I didn’t realise I had said that, can you please point it out for me?

K.

I did not claim that you had said this, Kenneth. It was an inference from your frequent disagreement with many points made by me and other participants in this Conversation.

My apologies, that read to me as a statement of fact.

It isn’t that I disagree, I agree with a lot of what’s been said. I just don’t think that there’s an easy way to solve a lot of the things that you have issue with and, on some points, there are factual inaccuracies. This is not surprising as it is a complex subject to tackle with any number of rabbit holes to jump down.

K.

This is a ridiculous spectacle. The forum is provided by Which?. Which? [owned by the Consumer Association ..the clue is in the title ] should be the organisation which when reviewing machines should also be providing details of likely repair costs or design decisions that may be expensive.

It does not.

Furthermore it has around 800,000 people who could be asked in detail to say what washer they own and when if and why it breaks down or is repaired.

It does not do this.

I really cannot understand why we blather here about more and better information when some/most of us are members of an organisation set-up for empowering consumers. Campaigning on Laws is one thing but deliberately ignoring the very source of long term information that is uniquely available seems bizarre.

I believe that there are too many variables for this to produce useful information, DT. If everyone surveyed had a technical understanding of our appliances and never did anything to abuse them then we might produce worthwhile information, but it would apply to obsolete models. It is not going to help anyone to know what model they should have bought several years ago. If only manufacturers produced products of consistent quality then we could buy with confidence, but I don’t believe they do. Which? product testing frequently has the same brand in ‘Best Buy’ and ‘Don’t Buy’ categories. Product recalls over safety issues feature a range of brands.

Which? carries out numerous investigations and informs consumers about problems that we might not otherwise be aware of. It is helpful to be forewarned about common ways of exploiting the public, but unless companies, trade bodies and other organisations take some action, the problems are likely to remain. Which? does pursue selected issues and has achieved considerable successes but I’m sure that we all have different priorities about which issues are the most important to pursue.

It is well established that retailers are telling consumers that they have no responsibility for goods that are outside the manufacturer’s warranty period. Many of us have experienced this and most recently, Which? reported the problem in the January magazine. Which? contacted the various retailers and published their responses, but will there be any follow up? I expect that the problem will continue and be reported on again, either by Which? or another organisation. We have not been told that the retailers that Which? has picked on have been fined or been subject to any form of disciplinary action.

Here are a couple of suggestions of how Which? could help consumers. Using the considerable evidence that retailers are setting out to deceive their customers, Which? could pursue this with Trading Standards, so that action can be taken.

Rather than paying actors to pretend that they have a faulty product (not a technique I approve of) Which? could use members who genuinely have a problem with faulty goods outside the warranty period and follow up what happens in these cases. If the retailer declines support, use independent experts to determine whether or not the consumer had a valid case. Then report all the findings in an impartial way that is fair to both the consumers and the retailers. We will then be in a much better position to understand whether or not consumers are being fairly treated.

dieseltaylor, this is not only in Which?’s court. There is a worldwide network of consumers’ associations, and particular to our products, those in Europe. All will have information and the means to collate customer problems and resolutions, perticularly with domestic appliances that seem to feature heavily in reviews. Which? also are keen on campaigning on particular issues. Patrick assures me they are watching this conversation and will reply. They may banish some misconceptions (I am interested in whether my interpretation of SoGA is totally flawed). Hopefully they will appreciate the principle that consumers need better protection when goods prove not to meet reasonable expectations and look at how a solution might be found. The easy solution would be guarantees that better match reasonable life – an uphill struggle I suspect but maybe best dealt with by the major retailers. JLP have lead this in a limited way.

To give you some indication of how good the PR people really are Malcolm, yesterday I read a report from Which?’s US counterpart giving it the beans about this new German manufacturer that was entering the US market with a raft of new products that were great. All coming from this stable, a German brand with a history spanning back 130 years, blah, blah, blah.

It’s Blomberg.

Beko own Blomberg and have done for some while now, all that they are is just a Beko in a different dress with a new badge on them. The component share is almost 100% behind the fascia.

Yet you will pay more for them.

In Europe Beko use Grundig in the same way, as a premium brand.

Now if nobody is begin informed of this or, you could argue, misinformed even by the press then what chance has the end user unless they happen to speak to a retailer that actually knows his stuff?

i more or less told you all, although nobody picked up on it, that in the best buys that the Bosch and Siemens use *exactly* the ams wash tub and yet have wildly different price points. Same bearings, same drum etc just a different name printed on the front.

And the exalted JL, well they just use rebadged Electrolux Group machines and a couple of F&Ps from what I’ve seen. Same specs, same parts as some of the lowly Zanussi machines and yet they get a best buy for the same box as it has a slightly longer warranty, two years as opposed to one, but it costs a bit more so you are paying for that warranty.

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors there and whilst you might find this confusing, it also is in the trade as well.

I can assure you though that JL is not as rosy white as you may think from what I have seen and my experience.

K.

I agree with Kenneth here. I used to repair TVs and other consumer electronics as a hobby. I did not charge anything for anything other than the cost of parts and simply enjoyed the challenge of diagnosing and repairing faults. I soon learned that different brands often shared exactly the same circuit boards and the main differences were in brand name, case design and other cosmetic features. The effect of brand name on price and perceived quality was amazing. Obviously little has changed. 🙁

What I have never been able to establish is whether those who pay a higher price for a better respected brand get better support as a consumer. I suspect that the better respected brand might do more to protect its reputation.

wavechange and malcolm r.

I have been a Consumer Association member for over 20 years and have been engaging with them on many levels. I also am now a member of the US Consumer Reports organisation, and the Consumerist, and have looked at the French , Australians, and Indian consumer charities via their web-offerings do in their countries.

I regard testing products as a fundamental and an original part of the Consumer Associations remit. If they do not do it what other organisation will? I fully realise the extent of Which?’s reach but my fear is that it is losing site of its USP.

We now have the on-line reviews showing which toasters have replaceable parts which is a major step-forward compared to years past. This, plus the fact that there is now a readers review page means that we have the beginnings of a functional system. I believe if there was a pro-forma guidance for adding readers comments we might be able to elicit customers usage to add some substance to the reader comments.

An alternative is to yield the purchasers reviews on performance and longevity to the likes of Amazon and other on-line shops. Unfortunately these sites are wide open to manipulation by comments. I find it unsettling that a consumer organisation should not be active if getting the substantial membership posting on their own site.

I concur that usage is a more meaningful way of gauging performance and time is not necessarily very relevant. My new Canon camera, bought in October, has taken 20,000 plus photos and this may be of interest if there is a MTBF built in. I suspect in the subscriber universe there are probably 100plus owners which would provide a good statistical basis for noting anomalies.

For devices like toasters and washing machines etc without built in usage counters people can multiply out there normal usage by time. I know we use our toaster on average daily at least once so it has done around 60,000 cycles at a cost of two replacement element sets and a timer.

A rough figure shows total sunk costs of £200 and therefore 0.33p per cycle excluding electricity.

Yeah, we’ve looked at that Malcolm.

Amazon are a brilliant example to use. Just look at the reviews on there but look to the extremes, the one and five star reviews and you will see that many if not most one star are complaints about delivery not being fast enough etc. In other words, trivial things that are nothing to do with the product.

Five star reviews draw suspicion for exactly the reason you state, they are open to abuse in part. Amazon do what they can within reason but they can’t moderate them all.

If you look about you find much the same pattern, even on forums. You get the negative reviews from people that are hacked off for whatever reason, normally copied and pasted everywhere possible to cause malicious harm then a few “Me too” posts. Then you get the alternative product creep, “ah but I had an XXXX one and it was brilliant” from people that never said a peep before.

In among all of that, which ones are real and which are planted by social marketing companies?

Life as a potential buyer of almost anything these days is really, really difficult as you try to unpick what’s real and what’s not. Or indeed, what’s true and what isn’t.

K.

I find these reviews useful, even though they must be used with caution. Sometimes they include useful information that has not been provided by the official sources.

I trust Ken you were talking of my post re Amazon reviews.!! : )

The advantage for Which? would be real names and a limitation on who could post and when ….. as in I joined up for £1 and immediately posted a series of rubbishing articles,,,,. Perhaps a year and a proper DD in place for the full amount.

I have made an error in suggesting Which? did provide details of spare part availability for toasters – it appears to be a random process where it appears for some and nor for others in the specifications details. It does not specifically say when there are no replaceable parts in the specifications.

Furthermore in the review section replacement parts are never mentioned. Though you may have immensely useful “Cons” remarks like the toaster does not automatically toast and you have to turn the timer!!!!!!

One issue seems to have coloured part of this conversation – a complaint that when a customer has a valid claim out of guarantee, there is a reluctance by a retailer to honour their responsibilities because of the cost they cannot recoup. I find this very surprising. Retailers should have contractual relationships with their supplier or the manufacturer to help them if they have been sold a deficient product that proves to lack reasonable durability. Alternatively, maybe they could buy protection against such problems – why expect their customers to buy expensive warranties to pay for someone else’s failure. If the retailers don’t have contractual, or legal protection with their suppliers (akin to SoGA) then perhaps it is a deficiency they need to address through their trade association.
When in manufacturing if we had an unsatisfactory product or component that gave our customer a problem, we and our supplier remedied it in a fair way to all – but then we all hoped for repeat business.
Just because a problem that needs dealing with is not easy does not justify ignoring it.

I wouldn’t disagree with that.

I would point out however that I have never seen a successful claim made under the 6/5 year rule in my time. Not a single instance I’ve been involved in has proven to be valid.

I also think that you may well hold little knowledge of the supplier/retailer relationship as it is not as you allude. At least, not in the industry I am involved in and contracts are virtually unheard of other than with large retailers and even then, it’s usually mostly about volume sales to get a price point on supply in my experience.

If they buy protection, which is insurance regardless of what wrapper and bow you put around it, then there’s a cost. That cost will get added to the ticket price and we’re back to that conversation again.

But the whole argument hinges on the allusion that it is the manufacturer or retailer that is to blame for any ills which is patently untrue, they are not.

The SoGA applies, in part at least, to commercial contracts in exactly the same way as it does to end users so far as I recall. In that there is no test of durability there either therefore, while this is frustrating to end users it is just as frustrating if not more so to retailers. This is in part the reason that I am fully aware of some elements here as I needed to be.

Repeat business in this industry is and, has, been for a long while almost a forgotten notion of yesteryear. Customers these days seem to be completely mercenary simply switching to whoever has the best deal on the day or offers the most bang for the buck as it were or the style that fits. Whilst this is not true of all it would appear to be the general trend.

To try to breed brand loyalty is extremely hard.

In all honesty I don’t blame people for that because when you see trusted companies such as Hotpoint, Hoover, Zanussi and many others being swallowed up by huge multi-nationals that trade what I consider inferior product on the back of a trusted name, is it any wonder that trust is undermined?

That information is freely available if you look, sadly most people don’t and don’t care.

If Jaguar bought BMW or vice versa you could guarantee everyone on planet Earth would know.

If either made a car that only had a lifespan of 100,000 miles but cost 30% of the original price, everyone would know.

So to go to ignoring the problem sure. What problem are we ignoring?

K.

Currently, Currys are selling washing machines at prices from £170 to £1700. Nobody would be that surprised if the cheapest model failed after three years [it’s in the price] but once you get up to the £300-400 range, where there is the most choice, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect seven years+ life from the product with any non-fair wear-&-tear and non-abuse faults rectified by the manufacturer via the retailer.

Prompted by John’s post, I have been looking at the cheapest machine offered by Currys. It scores well in the reviews, but perhaps purchasers are might not have very high expectations. I expect the low spin speed of 1000 rpm will do a lot to reduce stress and wear on the bearings and other components. (I am very happy with my 800 rpm machine, in which the bearings have survived 30 years of use.)

If this machine is total rubbish then it would be reasonable to expect frequent failures within the guarantee period of one year. If Currys or any other well known retailer was declining to offer repairs on machines less than a year old (for reasons other than abuse) perhaps this would be common knowledge.

Kenneth has given us estimates of the number of cycles that washing machines can be expected to last. Then why cannot we have guarantees based on a number of cycles?

Sadly not John.

Those machines will be produced in China by Midea, Little Swan or someone, perhaps Vestel in Turkey and will have a design life of 600-1000 cycles normally. They may well last a little longer than that but that’s what they’re really designed for, light use.

Put that into a family situation where its’ under heavy load then you can expect a failure through wear and tear (not a design flaw importantly) within a relatively short space of time.

But work it back a bit, take off the VAT, transport, margins, warranty costs and so on and for your £170 you’re maybe and, I do mean *maybe* getting about £50-80 of actual machine.

K.

Kenneth, I totally agree with this comment. The consumer needs to realise you get nothing for nothing and be prepared for the consequences. To help people choose a machine best suited to their needs, it would be helpful if manufacturers were to give an expected design life – either by hours in the case of those permanently operating, like fridge-freezers, or cycles for such as tumble driers, dishwashers and washing machines. Easy devices to install at manufacture.
When my family of 4 R Minors were all at home our washing machine ran around 9 times a week, tumble drier most days in the winter, and the dishwasher every day (as it still does). They were all run-of-the-mill brands – Zanussi, Creda, Bosch (but later Miele) – and they gave us an acceptably long life. So decent products were (and hopefully still are available) unless we were extremely lucky. So I hope this problem is not enormous – we just need to concentrate on the unlucky customers.
We must remember that, alrhough off this conversation, adequate consumer protection is required for all products they buy – not just white goods.

According to the product details for the cheapest washing machine offered by Currys, it is ‘Ideal for small families, couples and students alike…’ That is not giving any real indication that it is suitable only for light use. As has been pointed out, use can vary considerably. As a single person, I use my machine about three times a week and never less than twice. Looking at the buying advice offered by Currys, I cannot see any hints that a budget price machine might not be reliable.

When I have bought HP printers in the past, the website has provided information about the maximum recommended of pages per month for the various models. In my view, washing machines should be sold on the basis of the estimated life in cycles, which would help consumers choose a suitable model for their planned usage.

As I have said so many times in these Conversations, if we buy a car we are generally given a warranty that lasts for several years or a fixed amount of use, measured by the mileage covered. The system seems to work well and cars are a good deal more complex than a washing machine.

I think we have seen some scaremongering to encourage us to spend more and like Malcolm I have generally been happy with the durability of products I have purchased.

“I think we have seen some scaremongering to encourage us to spend more and like Malcolm I have generally been happy with the durability of products I have purchased.”

Not at all.

I have zero interest in what anyone that reads this buys, I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about is that people buy appropriately and with knowledge of what they are paying for because that would make everyone’s life easier. Couple that with what you can reasonable expect from a product and complaints would fall through the floor.

I do agree that a lot of the marketing, as demonstrated, is at best a little hopeful perhaps even slightly misleading but if people believe that a cheap product like that will last given what’s sat around about it in store then there’s really not a lot of hope. Simple common sense would ring alarm bells I would have thought.

Marketing again though.

There’s this underlying air of some form or conspiracy here however and I’d like to dispel that myth a little as there’s no call to ring Mulder and Scully just yet.

It is hard enough for a retailer to get staff to do what they are supposed to do let alone get them to do what you would like them to. For them, especially in a large retail environment, it’s just a job.

Sure, they may well have product knowledge in terms of spin speed, energy ratings, what connections are on a TV but to assume that they could even hope to try to dupe people is, in my option, farcical. Having experience, as I have said, staff often cause more problems that they solve because the world isn’t perfect and not everyone’s an expert in whatever field.

Would they have a clue that the Indesit, Ariston and Hotpoint tanks and refrigeration platforms are all the same, not a chance.

Would thy know that most of the US fridge freezers at a certain price point other than Beko, LG and Samsung are all pretty much all made by Whirlpool, no chance. Would they know the difference between decent hinges on an integrated fridge and cheap Chinese copies that will self destruct at about two years, no.

Would they now that you could buy exactly the same machine, with different aesthetics for hundreds of pounds more, no.

To expect them on top of all that to be expert in some sort of avoidance tactics over consumer rights… well, I’ll let you work that one out shall I?

Buyers can win but, only if they put the effort in.

K.

Kenneth, you say “What I do care about is that people buy appropriately and with knowledge of what they are paying for” as do we all – well, at least me and I’m sure a lot of others. It is getting hold of that information – you go on to list examples. To me, this is exactly the role of a Consumers Association – to find out information anf facts about products so that consumers are well-informed. They can only then make considered decisions. That is why I am a member of the Consumers Association. I am not convinced they are doing enough of this background work to inform us properly. Testing is only part of the issue.

Unless you are informed of the pitfalls that you are about to encounter when challenging your legal entitlement as a consumer the task can prove to be extremely difficult and a lot of people just give up. Large multi nationals train and appoint staff to use a variety of tactics, including distortion of the truth to intimidate and harass a consumer with a genuine complaint. For example, when I challenged Panasonic about the faulty sound system on my TV their reply was “A batch was sent out to retailers with a sound problem but this was not considered to be a fault.” To which I replied “If there is a problem with the sound then the TV is faulty.” It took quite a while to convince her that the problem was indeed a fault.

Recently an elderly friend had a spare key cut to ensure entry to her home in the event of her having the misfortune to lock herself out. When this eventually happened the spare key failed to open the door resulting in her having to pay a locksmith £84 for his services. The store that cut the key gave her such a hard time when she complained that she just gave up and refused their £10 offer of recompense. I advised her that under the Sale of Goods & Services Act she was entitled to claim for compensation for the out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of their bad workmanship as the key was not fit for purpose, but she was unable to again face up to the wrath of the storekeeper and so just gave up.

If only she had been made aware of her rights under SoGA the outcome may have been different. The locksmith she used was affiliated to the store and stood to lose business if he went against them so refused to help or advise her. A classic example of exploitation where one trader will support another at the expense of the consumer.

It is good to hear that you were not left with a faulty TV, Beryl. You should not have had to go to the manufacturer, but I have found this a worthwhile approach when I have either failed to get support from a retailer or it is obvious that there is a manufacturing problem.

I am not so sure about the problem with your friend’s door key. It would seem fair to test keys that have been cut and ask for a replacement if there is a fault, rather than assuming that they will work when needed.

Wavechange……I agree in hindsight she should have checked the key worked prior to her needing it. She is quite elderly and as it was a local independent store she trusted, she assumed the key would work. I did point out to her that trust is not a popular word in business circles today and there is a need for caution without too much suspicion.

I have been checking Argos website for w/machines and most come with an average extra warrantee cost of around the £90 mark. As already pointed out in the Conversation consumers are now expected to pay for their own warrantee, adding to the cost. This is misleading to consumers who may not be fully conversant with their SoGA rights……………and then there is an added £9.99 for removal and disposal of the old machine, I assume also to be ‘optional.’ Manufacturers it could be said are abrogating their responsibility to provide aftercare for their products, the onus always being passed on to the consumer.

There is nothing new about consumers being asked to pay for warranties on appliances. I remember when (maybe late 80s) when Which? started advising us to avoid them because they are an expensive way of buying peace of mind and may not provide the cover expected. I believe they are better value for money nowadays and the terms and conditions seem straightforward. It must be many years since a shop assistant has badgered me to buy an extended warranty. Car salesmen seem to have taken over in pushing expensive add-ons to generate commission.

Beryl – I am quite shocked you should think this key-cutting exercise is a SoGA issue. I had three keys cut from the same master at the same time and one does not work but I take a view that as I am the one who can check it works then it is up to me to do so. Arguing for some consequential loss after the event would seem strange.

What this does reveal perhaps is that perhaps buyers should be aware that keys are fiddly things to copy – but then every time I have keys cut the vendor has always said check them. One cannot but feel the probability that they are trained to say it and your friend did not bother so the fault is totally hers.

That she was offered £10 compensation and refused it just shows how topsy-turvy the system is..

Ken wrote, “My experience with large appliances and some others would tend to point to more wear and tear type faults as opposed to defects from manufacture. Most manufacturing defects tend to present in a relatively short space of time, very, very few take months and almost never years to manifest”

Wear and tear is still a perfectly valid claim if the wear and tear has happened unreasonably quickly – especially causing serious consequences due to poor build quality or design. Wear and tear faults can still be a manufacturing defect. If a part isn’t made of sufficient quality or durability it will wear out far too quickly.

That’s my understanding too, wgh. It particularly concerns me that the failure of a minor component can result in scrapping of a product.

Prices of appliances need to increase substantially to solve almost all of these problems. There’s no solution without big cost increases. That can never happen in a free market unless EU forces all manufacturers to increase the quality of all their products so that no one has an unfair advantage by reducing quality to undercut competitors on price.

There’s no way that’s going to happen though unless for the environmental damage reasons. It won’t happen for any other reason because it suits and profits too many people and companies for products to not last very long and frequently need replacing. Even the government makes billions in extra VAT, and it all generates many extra jobs. The only things that really loose out are the repairers, the customers, and the environment.

My view is that we should require manufacturers to offer good warranties free from unfair terms. If the manufacturer is responsible for the cost of repairs during the warranty period, this should reverse the trend to produce large appliances that are uneconomical to repair. If all manufacturers are subject to the same rules then competition is retained and any that tries to exploit the consumer unfairly could lose business to its competitors.

The Sale of Goods Act is unfit for its purpose, and manufacturing methods that have made goods harder to repair have simply added to the problem.

wgh, as I remarked earlier, manufacturers need to produce large volumes to keep prices low, so longer lives would impact on this. As you also point out, the government would lose out on vat. So there is a dilemma in how to keep economies flourishing. However against this are the booming sales of consumer goods into the developing countries.
I don’t think longer-life goods are taboo to manufacturers. Look at how the car and motorcycle market was improved when Japaness manufacturers entered the market. And the extended life when better quality steel and finishes were used to prevent body and sub-frame rot. We recently exchanged a 24 year old Honda for some decoratiing. Everything still worked – even the pop-up headlights and electric aerial. The only component failure we had was the alternator – last year; and we had that repaired.

wavechange, you write ” The Sale of Goods Act is unfit for its purpose”. No, it isn’t – legislation is necessary to spell out the principles of consumers’ rights. What is lacking is the means of helping consumers make use of the legislation (as a last resort) and guide retailers in what is fair (as a first resort). This is where consumer groups should be helping by providing the information necessary on which to base “reasonable” judgements.
I wouldn’t rely on manufacturers producing fair warranties – they will need input from other interested parties to ensure they are fair to all.
However, my view remains that we need legal back up for when all else fails, together with guarantees that reflect what should be minimum acceptable functional lives. Who can pursue this other than the EU? I shiver.

I’m merely drawing attention to the need for legislation that gives all consumers the protection they need, Malcolm. That’s everyone and not just those of us who believe we have some understanding of our rights and have the confidence and time to pursue problems we encounter.

My view is that the EU will provide the best chance of introducing legislation that is fair to consumers and to manufacturers/retailers. I suspect that the environmental impact of mountains of scrap washing machines etc. will be more of a driver than consumer protection, and I certainly don’t object to that.

I don’t believe everything that Kenneth has told us but I am not going to question his statement regarding lack of successful cases of claims making use of the Sale of Goods Act.

I do understand where you are coming from here wavechange but I do think that you lack some experience on the other side of the fence as it were. People are well protected as things stand when dealing with reputable companies, perhaps not as much as some may like but, protected all the same.

As Malcolm says and I agree, the SoGA is very much fit for purpose but you have to keep in mind that it is a baseline, not something that is to aspire to. It is the bare minimum protection that you should be afforded in any transaction pretty much.

But it is not intended for the purpose that I think you want it to be, Square peg, round hole.

My take is that the SoGA is intended to protect people from unscrupulous traders and for the most part it succeeds in that. Traders that flaunt the law are going to flaunt it anyway, wouldn’t matter how tough the regulation is or was made, as has been proved in other areas such as Gas Safe where people will “take a chance” on the cheap quote from the guy down the local to get a boiler installed.

Even there the HSE/Gas Safe rely heavily on other gas engineers to police it, they just enforce where they can.

In just the same way, loads of people buy cheap junk traded as Bush (Argos), Russell Hobbs (Asda), Swan (GUS), Logik (Argos) and loads of others that have virtually no out of warranty support or spare parts available. In one case there, none at all. They may as well have bought it down at the local pub from the shifty looking guy in the corner in my opinion.

This information is all out there be it through Which?, Andy’s site or my own.

For almost all products you can find similar these days.

But as the old saying goes about horses and water.

What really gets me is the stints I do on the phones, the last time in one week of doing that I had an elderly lady in tears as she couldn’t get a part for an eighteen month old dishwasher. Another young mother who couldn’t get a door seal for a two year old washer.

That is just plain wrong but, there’s nothing at all illegal about it. I think there should be or, people should at least be made aware of this before buying but, as things stand there is no requirement and these all fit the criteria of the SoGA as it stands.

So you are not alone in seeing the need for change but I’ve explored this for years looking at it every which way and that is how I have come to understand why it is how it is, even when I don’t fully agree with some things or are even on occasion disgusted by some practices.

Recently there was a kick off in France over this where they actually got a car that was written off after six years due to non-availaibilty of spare parts. That’s how throw away our culture has become.

K.

Kenneth – I would argue that a reputable manufacturer should ensure that essential spares remain available for major appliances for at least ten years. The use of the same parts in different models and for different brands. You will know (but others may not) that it is sometimes possible to use similar parts from another model. I have seen service engineers do this, and using a drain pump for another model has allowed me to extend the life of my washing machine by over 20 years instead of scrap it.

If you are sometimes disgusted by what manufacturers get up to, there is plenty of opportunity to challenge this and you have inside knowledge that most of us lack.

Argue all you like, it will not change fact. 😉

Yes, in the past this was possible but, with increasing demand for lower energy requirements leading to an increased use of electronics and electronic fault reporting it is becoming increasingly more difficult if even possible. This largely due to consumer and legislative demands.

There are good reasons why parts may become unavailable and they are fairly unarguable in many cases, Such as the original supplier of a part goes bust, there is not enough demand to produce a particular part and so on and, that’s all fine and understandable to most people when explained in a rational and reasonable manner.

What is inexcusable however is a deliberate policy to not supply spares and after sales support in order to cut costs still further.

I have looked and, I’ve posed the question and there is no protection against this in the precious SoGA nor any in any other area of legislation. Nor have I seen Which? or anyone else other than myself and Andy say much about it.

So let me ask you, how does that sit with your defence of consumer rights?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a pop at all, what I’m trying to do is to allow or get yourself and others to understand that in some cases the wood may be hidden by the trees.

If a manufacturer or retailer doesn’t want any liability other than, maybe, a partial token repayment they could simply tell you that the parts were No Longer Available (NLA), job done. There is not a single solitary thing that you or anyone else can do about it.

Equally and, just as frustrating, is that if a brand (it matters not one iota who) buys in a component and the supplier ceases to exist and a replacement cannot be found they find themselves in exactly the same position. There is not a single solitary thing that they can do about it either.

We see product that spares are NLA for after eighteen months. Sometimes less.

It is far from uncommon to see many spares NLA after five years for some brands.

So much for the whole seven year life notion let alone ten years.

Yet you seem focussed on longer warranties and the defence of consumer rights yet, in my view, completely missing the much wider and more important issues in some respects. You need to understand why that these things are the way that they are and address the relevant issues. To me what you and others go on about is basically treating the symptoms, not the disease.

In either of the above cases the only remedy available to the retailer or brand is to say something along the lines of, “here’s £40 compensation, very sorry that part isn’t available, cheerio”. I’ve done that because I’ve been forced to do it, not because I wanted to. But there’s no other solution that is reasonable and I completely understand that the owner thinks it poor, as do I but what can you do?

How do you filter the genuine from the disingenuous reasons for non-availability?

To flick back to Andy’s proposition about making the manufacturer responsible under the SoGA, this is where that notion completely falls apart.

A lot of these types or product are specified by larger retailers and by some brands, granted. But if you make the actual manufacturer responsible well, that could be a company in China or Turkey in all likelihood who frankly won’t give a monkey about your little problem. And, they will probably be exempt from penally through the EU as well given that they are not member states. The goods may well not fully comply but really, who’s going to start a trade war over a busted fridge?

Even if they comply on paper, do they actually? As has been shown on numerous occasions, the energy label claims are, ahem, a bit dicey at times. Would I trust any claim without evidence, probably not.

Like “official” MPG figures, many are probably wishful thinking at best in the real world.

To illustrate one point, the other day I deleted parts for the RS Series fridges under discussion here, the reason, they’re obsolete. Yet there is call here to repair them for free. The irony of that is not lost on me but many will be blissfully unaware of it.

As I keep telling you all, what on the surface might to you appear to be simple just isn’t as simple as you might imagine. In fact, it is probably far more complex than you could ever imagine.

Most reputable businesses will do their level best to avoid all of this but even the very best can fall foul on occasion, I can attest to that. This is unfortunate for sure but, nonetheless unavoidable at times.

Some however would appear to care little.

This to allow you to understand that from the perspective of consumer rights and more from an environmental perspective that perhaps the focus of attention is being placed in the wrong area/s.

Banging on about longer warranties or consumer rights will not solve these issues. I do apologise if that offends (or any) and it is sincerely is not intended to but I’m sure you can appreciate that many of us within the industry are just as frustrated at times as consumers are.

I do hope you can understand that this is a vast, seething melting pot in which there are no simple solutions. As much as you may seek them or wish for them to exist, they do not.

K.

Ken – It is so refreshing to have decent information so that the topic is actually useful in expanding beyond the purely consumer angle. I do wish that this occurred more often and some subjects examined far more deeply.

It may be that the final outcome is the same as the original recommendation but many of us would be better informed and also confident of some intellectual rigour being brought to bear. There are at least two or more topics were readers and Which? seem to disagree but there is no means other than Conversations discuss them.

Kenneth

“Yet you seem focussed on longer warranties and the defence of consumer rights yet, in my view, completely missing the much wider and more important issues in some respects. You need to understand why that these things are the way that they are and address the relevant issues.”

Yes I am focused. If someone tells me that something can’t be done, I often see that as a challenge. My feelings parallel what John has already said: “The more I hear “it can’t be done” or this difficulty, or that consequence, stands in the way, the more I feel that firm action is justified and that the protection of consumers must carry greater weight than the pleadings of manufacturers and retailers.”

I don’t know why you are spending considerable time on this single Conversation, Kenneth. You have warned us repeatedly about the perils of buying budget washing machines. You have warned us that the durability of mid-range machines is declining and that they could become uneconomical to repair, particularly thanks to modern construction techniques. You have warned us that parts may not remain available for any length of time, even for models made by ‘reputable’ manufacturers. You have told us that extended warranties are available but conveniently forgotten to mention that if parts are not available, the warranty will not help much. You have told us that the Sale of Goods Act will not provide the consumer with the protection that Which? and Trading Standards promote.

I may be totally wrong, but the message seems to be for us to buy expensive machines. Anyone contemplating buying a Miele machine deserves to be warned about possible repair costs. I understand that a replacement motor would cost as much as two cheap machines. Perhaps you could give us more accurate information about the cost of spares for the more expensive machines and tell us what happens to expensive machines when parts are no longer available.

“Banging on about longer warranties or consumer rights will not solve these issues. I do apologise if that offends (or any) and it is sincerely is not intended to but I’m sure you can appreciate that many of us within the industry are just as frustrated at times as consumers are.”

I am not offended and what you have told us helps illustrate why we need to solve these issues. Please let me continue to bang on.

I have given some thought to the problem of coins trapped in a ‘sealed tank’. The majority of coins are magnetic, so a neodymium magnet might prevent them being thrown around by the movement of the drum and causing serious damage. That might be worth a try if the alternative is to scrap the machine. I like novel approaches. When my washing machine was about 11 years old I replaced the drain pump and soon after I found that the plastic impeller had been destroyed by a coin that I had carelessly left in a pocket. Rather than going through the same exercise again I constructed a new impeller from brass and made a ‘filter’ at the inlet to protect it from foreign objects. That was 20 years ago. I don’t like to be beaten.

“I do hope you can understand that this is a vast, seething melting pot in which there are no simple solutions. As much as you may seek them or wish for them to exist, they do not.”

I will bear that in mind.

“I don’t know why you are spending considerable time on this single Conversation”

In order to dispel some myths and to try to bring a little balance and, if I didn’t do it who would? It seems that there isn’t exactly a queue of willing participants, in part likely because a conversation as open as this can cause more harm to your business than good.

In any event, otherwise you’d have a one-sided conversation that would inevitably reach a conclusion that was incorrect or incomplete. If you then went to government or suchlike with some sort of notion off the back of such a conversation to change things it’d burn in a crashing ball of flame pretty swiftly as others tore it apart.

“I may be totally wrong, but the message seems to be for us to buy expensive machines”

No, not at all. I’ve told you that you can have whatever you like, so long as you want to pay for it (repeatedly). Much like my hotel room analogy, you have the freedom of choice in a free market economy.

If you don’t then, you don’t. Just be prepared to accept the compromises from each choice.

What I have repeatedly tried to illustrate, as has Andy and as would most anyone else in the industry, is that the entire market has been driven downwards. There are quality products out there but they are now relegated to being niche products in large part as there is no huge demand for them

Without a demand for higher quality from consumers manufacturers won’t make better quality and, therefore, more expensive products. They will make what people want and they can sell, which is low cost reduced quality products.

As low cost products become more prevalent then higher level market products are forced to reduce costs in order to compete, retaining a viable business and thus a downward spiral, often called a “race to the bottom of the market” begins.

Until people demand better quality or, better quality is forced through legislation then the status quo will remain in force. Or, the downward trend will simply continue.

“Perhaps you could give us more accurate information about the cost of spares for the more expensive machines and tell us what happens to expensive machines when parts are no longer available”

Presumably in reference to Miele specifically. Covered previously.

I don’t much agree with the business model but it appears to work of them and I cannot comment on something I have not enough information on to do so with any authority. I can comment that, from what I see in spare parts, the spares are difficult to acquire and extraordinarily expensive when you can get them. Service information is unavailable.

K.

“Until people demand better quality or, better quality is forced through legislation then the status quo will remain in force. Or, the downward trend will simply continue.”

As I have said before, decent manufacturers’ warranties will lead to improved quality because manufacturers would have to pay for repairs and the consequences of poor durability and difficulties in servicing would quickly erode profits. I do appreciate that longer warranties are available if you pay for them but I was delighted when Which? publicised the fact that they are best avoided. After all, they are provided by companies in business to make money, so that – on average – consumers will lose out. If decent warranties were included in the price of most or all machines, it would be easier for consumers to make price comparisons and ensure that there was genuine competition. At present the machines with long warranties seem to be overpriced, presumably taking advantage of consumers who are happy to pay for such products.

In addition to pushing for decent warranties we need to do something about the problem of lack of spare parts and the consumer being offered a derisory payment because their appliance has failed and spares are no longer available. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme protects our savings, so perhaps you could propose something similar at the next meeting of your trade body.

You have blamed consumers for forcing prices down. That is not my view and it might help if the whole industry crashed and burned. I would be interested in one of the new Phoenix range with a decent warranty, and I am prepared to pay a fair price. 🙂

At one time, banks and building societies would introduce new accounts without informing loyal savers that their money was now earning little interest. While writing this post I have received a letter from Santander telling me that the interest rate has declined and I should consider moving my savings. Consumer pressure has resulted in fairer treatment.

‘That’s how it is’ has to become ‘that’s how it was’.

Kenneth wrote, “What I have repeatedly tried to illustrate, as has Andy.. is that the entire market has been driven downwards. There are quality products out there but they are now relegated to being niche products in large part as there is no huge demand for them. Without a demand for higher quality from consumers manufacturers won’t make better quality and, therefore, more expensive products. They will make what people want and they can sell, which is low cost reduced quality products.”
___

I think this just about sums it up. Myself and Kenneth do agree on many things and have both spent the last 14 years or so writing and advising very similar things. We have just enough disagreements to keep debates long running and interesting 😉 and where I disagree is that consumers accepting lower and lower prices should not necessarily expect that the life span of them should be so severely and dramatically shortened. There are countless examples of products where prices have fallen year on year and turned from very expensive to very cheap but more reliable, without becoming liabilities and having shorter and shorter lifespans.

I also don;t accept that just because manufacturers design them for a short life that this means when they don;t last it’s OK. If they are designed for a short life consumers should be told! However, I know Kenneth agrees with that last bit too.

Regarding the SOGA. I’ve never said manufacturers should be responsible instead of retailers. I say they should somehow share some accountability – even if only to the retailer. Kenneth may or may not be right in saying there’s no way to make manufacturers accountable – I honestly don’t know.

All I can say is the current situation is that retailers are soley responsible – but it’s the manufactures who dictate whether any compliance takes place because unless they do a free repair or agree to a replacement the retailers (wrongly) throw their hands in the air and says sorry it’s out of guarantee, the manufacturer says there’s nothing they can do so that’s that!

I can’t imagine many retailers (especially small independents) after being told by a manufacturer that they will not repair or replace a product would go on to instruct the manufacturer to repair it and send them the bill after the manufacturer has refused to comply. So it seems to me that the compliance with (VALID) SOGA claims is decided and dictated by manufacturers who have no obligation. This is the crux of the problem with retailers not complying and advising erroneously that there’s nothing can be done as pointed out by Which? in their report and investigation.

Retailers rely on the manufacturers to repair or replace out of goodwill, which the commonly refuse to do because they are not responsible in any way legally – even though it is them who have made a rubbish product or deliberately designed it to be completely unrepairable or have decided not to stock any spares for it.

In summary, manufacturers are completely responsible for all the problems, poor quality, unrepairability, making spares obsolete, design faults, inherent faults, lack of durability. It may well be these issues stem from them striving to survive as best they can in an overly competitive market where people mostly want cheap but when things break the SOGA only the manufacturer normally carries out the repairs or supplies the replacement.

If the manufacturer’s cannot be made to comply, the only option is to pressure retailers much more and force them to suffer financially and hope they change their behaviour about who’s product they sell. However, as Ken keeps saying. It’s extremely complex.

“At present the machines with long warranties seem to be overpriced, presumably taking advantage of consumers who are happy to pay for such products.”

And, as I keep telling you, if you force all the rest to offer the same they will end up at a similar price point.

Thus reducing consumer choice and increasing overall pricing.

You can have your cake or you can eat your cake, you can’t have it and eat it. Just do not expect to get it for free and quality may vary depending on what you are willing to pay for your cake in the first place and should sir require a table then the cake will be more expensive. 😉

“You have blamed consumers for forcing prices down.”

If not consumers then who?

People buy them, they have a choice to buy better and/or smarter, statistically they don’t.

But how is that the fault of anyone really? Retailers and manufacturers for catering to people’s requirements is a problem? People demanding lower prices? Retailers for wanting to shave a few quid off the price to beat out the competition? People for flocking the cheapest possible option? Manufacturers for cutting costs?

Overall there is no one single “magic bullet” of an answer as it is far too complex for that, as I have said, there is some blame to be laid with almost every party involved.

K.

In a way though Kenneth, it’s not necessarily people demanding lower prices that has driven this whole fiasco over the last 30 years (at least with white goods). I think it’s too much competition. There are way too many people making appliances.

We had a nice period in the 70s when things were very stable in the UK. Hoover and Hotpoint were British made, decent quality, decent price and infinitely repairable. Everyone was happy. Then came the cheaper Candy and Indesit etc. They tempted people away from Hoover and Hotpoint with cheaper prices but lower quality. Sadly, enough people bought them to force Hoover and Hotpoint to reduce prices, which reduced quality.

A price war broke out resulting in many casualties but no deaths. Any company going bust was just bought out by rivals and continued to compete. Too much competition in a market where losers just continue to compete but just owned by a rival company results in an inevitable spiral down in quality until most manufacturers are selling rubbish compared to what they were selling before.

Customers don’t demand cheaper prices, but they are big suckers for cheaper prices, which results in the same thing 🙂

A few thoughts arising from the foregoing chain of comments . . . .

That spare parts are running out [NLA – no longer available] after two or three years is disgraceful. I had no idea before Ken told us that it was bad as that. This completely puts the kibosh on extended warranties.

I cannot accept that a manufacturer’s declaration of NLA voids a retailer’s responsibilities under the SoGA.

As I have suggested elsewhere in this Conversation, people are not necessarily looking for cheap goods, but in many cases they are either being told that such products are reliable, or they are not being told that they aren’t . . . so they buy them. And many people are spending rather a lot of money on white goods and still being seriously short-changed.

As has been said, lots of used appliances are being disposed of at recycling centres, or taken away when a new applinace is purchased. Sometimes only one part has failed yet the whole unit is jettisoned and scrapped. Is it not time there was a secondary trade in the recovery and reconditioning of working components – especially if spare parts are NLA?

Worldwide, there is little real competition and it is thinning.

In large part due to the astounding volumes that require to be produced to maintain the pricing levels we see today. You need to have global or pan-regional volume in order to compete.

You have…

Whirlpool
Electrolux
Haier
Indesit Company
BSH Group
Arcelik (Beko)
Vestel
Candy Hoover
Gorenje

All at the top and now we have solid talk of Indesit and Lux merging.

All the rest are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things really. Either they are niche or localised.

Yes there are more brands than ever but fewer actual producers. Almost all, even the above, buy finished product from others. The above will account for almost all brands most people would generally know bar the odd exception.

K.

I fully agree that the manufacturers should take responsibility for the goods they make, wgh. They are in control of product quality. In my experience, consumer support from retailers has been sadly lacking, so perhaps it is time to take the responsibility from them. With the growth of internet sales I think there is a fair chance that electrical retail shops will become showrooms that enable the public to inspect goods, ask questions and place orders.

“In summary, manufacturers are completely responsible for all the problems, poor quality, unrepairability, making spares obsolete, design faults, inherent faults, lack of durability.”

Given the responsibility for dealing with the problems they have created should help them tackle problems of their own making. Service engineers and retailers don’t deserve the abuse they get over goods that cannot be economically repaired.

With my first car, the front wings rusted through in three years. Modern cars often survive for ten or fifteen years with little or no sign of corrosion of the bodywork. The overall reliability of cars has greatly improved and warranties are quite generous in view of the complexity of the product. I can accept that tackling the problems will be difficult but the fact that the motor industry has tackled difficult problems suggests there is light at the end of the tunnel. (Incidentally, I have no connection with the motor industry and on other Conversations I have soundly criticised manufacturers for denying us spare wheels and the widespread problem of unreliable electronics in warning light systems, which can lead to premature scrapping of vehicles.)

Perhaps this is a hopeless request, but I would find it interesting to know which of the manufacturers you have listed above make products under the Bosch, AEG, LG, Samsung and Zanussi labels [and where, as well].

Sadly John second hand parts are largely unworkable. It works to some degree but the massive number used across the products makes in very difficult.

We carried out an experiment with DEFRA a couple of years ago and the results were astonishing, even to me.

What we did was to take in a good few thousand returns from a number of retailers that they picked up when delivering new machines.

Of those we got in, about 25-30% had no fault at all in so much as it was a blocked filter or they just worked.

About another 30% or so were repaired for spare parts costing less than £10.

The rest were truly scrap or beyond economic repair.

So there is most certainly an element of waste there that is completely unnecessary. I n part I think because people are frightened of the potential cost to repair or, the cost to find out that it is beyond repair so, they just scrap it.

K.

Much of that information can be found on the website I run John but I am unsure about the linking policy here and I do not want this to appear as advertising as it is not.

But if you Google: about the appliance industry manufacturer information

You should find a fairly comprehensive list.

K.

Yes, I thought you’d say that Ken. Nevertheless, it seems about 50-60% of wasted white goods have some recoverable components. Something for the EU and the recycling advocates to chew on there as an extension of the WEEE obligations.

We pushed for what they call IPR, Individual Producer Responsibility.

What that means is that each brand would be accountable for dealing with its own waste.

It was completely bombed by the industry at large. I will allow you to decide why.

But do trust me when I tell you that this is the tip of a very large and highly political iceberg.

K.

Kenneth wrote, “Worldwide, there is little real competition and it is thinning”

Yes “real” competition, but there are more brands than ever. Hoover and Candy compete with each other as do Hotpoint and Indesit, yet they are the same companies. If Indesit and Candy (or even Hoover and Hotpoint) had disappeared there would be less competition and less of a price war. Of course if competition dropped too much we would have monopoly concerns but we currently have virtual monopolies anyway disguised as competition.

You have not said who ‘we’ are but if you believe in something you should not give up. If politicians are paying too much attention to industry, this deserves to be exposed.

There must be some companies that have genuine commitment to environmental issues beyond what they claim.

Ken wrote, “I know that the average wash level per person per year is 117… the BSH lower range product is designed to approx 2-2500 cycles or thereabouts.

So after four years you’re into bonus time .. Chances of it seeing seven years with that level of use, slim. Possible of course but, slim.”

The problem I have with this argument is that it’s totally irrelevant how long the product is designed to last for unless the customer is told, which they certainly are not. The only thing that matters is if these times are reasonable as stipulated in the SOGA bearing in mind of course all the circumstances.

If most people think a washing machine should last longer than 4 years before it’s completely worn out and beyond repair (which I’ll wager they do – and envorionmentally they certainly should), then when they buy such a machine and it doesn’t last, that’s when they look to the SOGA.

The fact that secretly, the manufacturers never intended it to last longer than 4 years by design if anything should give greater credence to our claims.

Now if when a customer bought a washing machine they could see that it was only designed to last 2,500 wash cycles, they can do the math, and make a perfectly informed choice. If they choose to spend less they know what to expect and have no SOGA claim. If they don;t think it’s acceptable they can choose to pay more for one which claims to be designed for 10,0000 wash cycles or whatever is appropriate for their needs.

I agree wgh, and it is not difficult to build in a cycle counter so that the owner and service engineer can monitor use.

This leaves the problem of damage caused by product abuse, but a lot of abuse can be prevented by good product design. Mobile phones often contain moisture detectors to provide evidence of moisture damage. Fair enough, but I reckon it would be better to devote efforts to designing phones that resist such damage.

Yes Andy but look at the numbers and they don’t bear that out.

The average household in the UK and much of the rest of the “Western nations” is about 2.3 per home.

In that the same machine will last seven to eight years which is, by your very own definition, perfectly acceptable.

The same machine used heavier is not by yours and many other’s definition.

Can you see the conflict there?

In reality homes with more than four people are a minority these days therefore, from a manufacturer perspective, to over engineer is a waste of resources and unnecessary cost that consumers clearly do not want to pay for.

For the manufacturer though, statistically, the chances of a product entering a high use environment is actually only about 20-25%. So 75% of people are happy enough and the rest it’s just chance on how long it lasts.

How often have you seen someone comment that a top end machine is over engineered and that’s not equipped? Not very often I’d wager but, it does happen on occasion.

But how often do you see complaints that low end rubbish is hugely under engineered, poor quality, not fit for purpose and so on?

Whilst I have no hard evidence to make the case, I’m pretty convinced that people often talk themselves into jumping one way or the other. Well I do actually have some hard evidence but I can’t share it without making it look like some sort of advertising in part but over the years I’ve carried out some experiments on this front and the results are quite amazing really.

What I have deduced seems to happen is that people convince themselves that a lower ticket price item will do for them and saves them the higher up front cost. Even when supplied with the relevant information.

Counter to that there are some people who, even when advised that they don’t really need the robustness of a heavy duty item buy one anyway. Granted, that’s safer in many respects.

People do some weird stuff.

K.

The retail price of appliances has been raised many times in this Conversation with a prevalent view that people are always on the look-out for a cheaper model and won’t pay more for a good one. I notice in the kitchens around where I live, great big American-style fridge freezers, monster range cookers, and a complete set of high-end laundry equipment, and this is not an affluent area. I don’t detect much consumer resistance to spending money in the kitchen, but obviously people want to get full value from it, to have years of trouble-free service from their appliances, and a fair response – not a contest – if [not when!] something goes wrong. Clearly there are many households where budget constraints affect their choice of white goods, but they also – and more specially – need a fair trading environment and good consumer protection. No-frills appliances should still achieve a reasonable performance duration and retailers should certainly make clear any limitations on the life-expectancy and operating conditions so that buyers can beware.

John, I recall going to see my first ever Admiral American fridge freezer some twenty odd years ago.

Back then it was a chap that owned a zoo that had it and it cost him £3300 plus shipping from the USA.

His dishwasher was a proper German Bauknecht that cost over £700, I only recall that as I was a service agent at the time and I’d not seen one previously in the field.

People spend half that and less today on a full compliment of kitchen appliances including both and quite possibly a range style cooker besides.

That old Admiral by the way, was still running almost two decades on. I’d love to see one of these Samsungs do that as it would be a miracle of almost Biblical proportions.

K.

Exactly, Ken.

I’ve been looking on the Tesco website at appliances listed by “best sellers”. Avoiding the cheapest and considering mid-range products typically chosen by ordinary families, if people are having to pay around £1500-2000 on a fridge/freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, and cooker [free-standing, no hood] they want things that will last and be covered if they don’t . . . or perhaps you think that’s not much?!

A little context.

Just look at the British Gas service plan, there are many similar to choose from.

Five products, approximately £20 per month.

£240 per year.

Okay BG make money on that but the cost to deliver in-home warranty service is immense.

Or you buy, put the money in an account that you would have spent on a warranty and repair or replace as you see fit. Or, spend it on whatever you like and take your chances, which is what most people appear to do.

Personally I advise people to do the former and I have never bought, nor I don’t think I would ever, invest in an extended warranty.

But it’s a numbers game, if you don’t have any problems then you’ve got cheaper products and a great deal quite probably. If not and you get trouble then the warranty may have been a wise investment. The better the products in the first place, the less likelihood that you would need the additional cover.

Manufacturers do more or less the same calculations and, if they add an extra warranty then it’s built into the product cost or, they know that the failure rate is liable to be lower allowing them to offer a better warranty at minimal extra cost making a better built product more attractive.

Insurers work in much the same way and adjust premiums dependent on the product, just like car insurance and so on only with the risk in this case being the frequency of failure coupled with any repair or replacement cost.

Everything is costed out to the Nth degree.

K.

Kenneth – “Manufacturers do more or less the same calculations and, if they add an extra warranty then it’s built into the product cost or, they know that the failure rate is liable to be lower allowing them to offer a better warranty at minimal extra cost making a better built product more attractive.”

That is what I am looking for provided the warranty is for a reasonable period and the price is not inflated.

I have just seen the Miele advertising about products built to last 20 years. If the company is so confident about the quality of their products then perhaps they should provide a 20 year warranty. Perhaps their engineers have not worked out that intense use of a product does not necessarily provide an accurate estimate of product life. As I see it, the company has damaged its reputation, as Hoover did over the free flights promotion. I have a great deal of respect for Gerald Ratner, who offered an honest appraisal of one of his company’s products. He deserves an award for honesty in marketing.

Wavechange wrote, “I have just seen the Miele advertising about products built to last 20 years. If the company is so confident about the quality of their products then perhaps they should provide a 20 year warranty.”

Miele have just been told to stop advertising that by the Advertising Standards Authority – twice. Two complaints have been upheld, one about their vacuum cleaners and one about their dishwashers. The ASA said until Miele provide proof that their products are likely to last 20 years the have to stop using it in adverts

“The ASA considered the claim “Tested to last 20 years” would be interpreted by consumers to mean that it was very likely that Miele’s dishwashers would still be working in 20 years time.

We understood that the test reports on which the claim was based were accelerated laboratory tests. In the absence of the test reports it was not possible to scrutinise the substantiation for the claim. We therefore considered Miele had not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim “Tested to last 20 years” and concluded that the ad breached the Code.”

Thanks wgh. I saw brief reference to this recently but did not follow it up at the time.

One example of why accelerated testing is not a good indicator of longevity is that certain plastics deteriorate with age due to loss of plasticiser and for other reasons. I don’t know if you have encountered this issue in washing machines. If the manufacturer rather than the retailer is made responsible for warranty repairs I expect that they would take care over choice of materials.

I treat most advertising with the same contempt I have for totally positive product reviews.

wavechange, this link might be interesting:
http://www.miele-sustainability.com/international/en/sustainability-2013/4709.htm
an extract from which is:
“Today, Miele is the only manufacturer in the industry that tests all appliances for 20 years product life.
Such foresightedness is welcome to the environmentally aware customers. A longer product life means less waste. The advanced energy efficiency, program updates to reduce consumption during the use phase and smart grid technology guarantee that a Miele appliance purchased today will offer above-average to excellent consumption levels even ten years from when it is first used.
In addition, components and materials have to comply with strict standards to ensure that the use of the products is still economically viable and ecologically sustainable, even after many years. All calculations are based on an average everyday usage by a family of four for 20 years.”

My understanding is this is based on spares being available for 20 years after a model is discontinued. On a MieleUSA site 3 models of washing machines were tested for 4995 cycles without failure – claimed as 20 yr life. Current guarantees range from 2 years to 10 years (on specific appliances – I wonder how these differ? Maybe the extra cost funds the longer warranty rather than cheaper ones being less-well built?)

If all this is genuinely typical of Miele products, the question comes down to the initial cost of the appliance, the cost of replacing parts in that 20 years, and whether this is better than throwing away a number of alternative purchases. Customer choice.

Incidentally I have no brief for Miele and only possess two appliances of theirs – a dishwasher with a 10 year warranty (the previous one lasted 13 years) and a 20 year old vacuum cleaner (needed a new catch last year – cost under £5).

Clearly there is a need for a review and update of SoGA legislation, now 32 years old and outdated, in order to keep abreast of innovation and the changes taking place in the white goods market as a whole, which was alluded to in a Govt Paper ‘titled Supply of Goods – Impact Assessment which you can find at http://www.govt.uk/therepairorreplacementoffaultygoods and which clearly indicates the need for new legislation.

Kenneth and his service colleagues have been and are currently engaged in a very dysfunctional market system which has no doubt influenced their negative approach and their inclination to accept the ‘inevitable.’ This inevitability is not really an option for some and the pressure to bring about the necessary changes will persist until a resolution is found.

The most positive thing to come out of this debate is the knowledge accrued about what is happening, in a sense, in a covert way in a very flawed market system where information is not being conveyed to the public in general which, in turn, is depriving people of their choice entitlement and of the potential risks and consequences to follow.

More transparency is needed. ‘Where Ignorance is bliss’ is a statement which could prove very costly and not to be recommended I feel.

I think we should credit many consumers with the common sense to make considered decisions when making purchases – we are not all subscribing to the notion of a “race to the bottom”, but want value for money.
We have learned a lot from this conversation and a start would be for more information to be made available when purchasing. Such as
– the minimum design life of an appliance – in hours or cycles
– the repairability of an appliance
– a guaranteed time for the availability of spares
– like the banks, who is the ultimate manufacturer of various brands.
We could then begin to buy machines fit for the purpose we require.
I want to see fair guarantee that reflect a reasonable working life, given the price. We have always said that a guarantee should be fair to both parties – exclude abuse and normal wear and tear, in later life it may be a partial contribution – and if a guarantee call out proves to be down to the owner, not the supplier, then it is chargeable.
I also want to see appropriate legislation maintained to ensure that the retailer maintains their obligation toi the customer. It is they who make a profit from the sale. If they choose to deal with dodgy products then they need to accept the consequences.
I do not subscribe to the view that this is so complex it cannot be solved – of course it can, but it requires a will on all sides. At the moment the only party that suffers when something goes wrong seems to be the customer – a very one-sided arrangement.
Time for Consumers Association to get to grips with this. I thought my subscription paid for more than just a magazine?

Well said, Malcolm . . . but what a magazine!! – no celebrities, no crossword puzzles or cartoon strips, no recipes or knitting patterns, no horoscopes, and – best of all – not available on news-stands.

Seriously, I support everything you have written above.

I do believe that you’ve largely “got” what I’ve been on about Malcolm.

At least if those measures were largely in place people could at least know what they were buying and what they could or should expect.

The way things are, that is not the case in my view.

That also places the power with the consumer to choose what *they* need or feel that they require. The marketplace would almost certainly sort itself out after that, probably without the need for additional legislation or red tape.

I say that as such has been demonstrated in the huge move to large capacity or lower energy, I would imagine (hope) that the longest living or best warranty would likely follow a similar trajectory.

I like elegant solutions that are simple, easy to understand and which cut through complexity. I’m not saying that the above would cure all ills but, it’d be a fine start and certainly address many common issues.

I never said it couldn’t be solved. I just didn’t say that the solutions would be easy. 😉

Andy and I have been banging this drum for years and, largely, our cries have fallen on deaf ears from the press, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. The only time this ever comes up is when there’s some big kick off and then we get into the same old tired debates.

What I and I suspect Andy want to know as I am sure some of you do as well is, who is going to do what about it?

K.

JW – I have been a great supporter of Which? and its articles and testing over the years but I think it has lost its way slightly over the last few years. I cannot recall if you were party to the thread last year on the washing machines that did not wash at 60C when required however since the article there have been many washing machine reviews which seem to indicate that Which? has not changed its testing regime AND it certainly is not mentioning the inability to reach 60C.

This is shaming and I find very embarrassing as a member. You can see from the Allergy UK site that from whatever cause allergies are increasing and that washing allergens etc from clothes is important. Washing at heat and drying are important areas for control.
http://www.allergyuk.org/allergy-statistics/allergy-statistics

Secondly health professionals have carried out research into disease and washing and again heat and drying can be very important. I commend this site to you for general reading
http://www.hsc.edu.kw/vpo/Health_Safety_and_Environment/Journal%20Articles/Effectiveness%20of%20Low-Temperature%20Domestic%20Laundry.pdf

There is a much longer article detailing what is needed to clear moulds, allergens etc at:
http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/
in particular:
http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/effectiveness-laundering-processes-used-domestic-home-settings-2013

Which? occupies a special area in the consumer world but it has to be more thorough in its testing when it concerns matters of health. Whilst we are all in favour of lower temperatures and energy saving we must not be blind to the trade-offs involved when it comes to claiming 60C washes for machines that barely reach 50C or in one case 43C

Perhaps it is time to explore my hypothesis that the Sale of Goods Act is fit for its purpose.

After six months, the customer can be expected to provide evidence that a fault was present at the time of purchase. I am not familiar with consumers being asked to do this within the common one year guarantee period, but it would be interesting to know if it is commonplace for retailers to ask for this.

This does not appear to give the customer any protection if the manufacturer has used substandard components such as poor quality bearings, weak hinges and electronic components that run so hot that they would burn your fingers if you touched them. On the basis that the product worked when it was new, there was no fault present at the time of purchase. I would argue that the product was not of satisfactory quality.

If I seek the advice of an expert to provide evidence that a product is not of satisfactory quality, whose advice would be acceptable? Who pays for the report if it indicates that there is a genuine problem?

If I am told that parts are not available for a three year old machine but offered £40, do I have to accept this? If I discover that my machine is beyond economic repair because it would require replacement of a sealed tank assembly, is there nothing I can do other than try to find out how to avoid this problem in future?

There is too much uncertainty and the current legislation does not seem to be doing enough to protect consumers. Uncertainty could be removed by introducing decent manufacturers’ warranties.

If, in SoGA, “Durability” as a requirement of “Quality” works in the way I interpret it, then providing a “reasonable life” can be agreed there is no need to prove a pre-existing fault and it would cover defective (short-life) or badly specified components. I would be surprised if it was not meant to work in this way, otherwise the unsuspecting customer has no worthwhile protection – but have pleaded for an expert view on its legal interpretation. I can see no easy way, other than a reasonable retailer-customer relationship, to apply this other than the hassle of the small claims court. “Reasonable life” needs information for the consumer and retailer to make a judgement. Hopefully help from consumer associations.
I think we’ve thrashed this to death by now. We need the input from the experts, don’t we?

Have a look at the document that Beryl has provided a link for. It is easy to find even though there is a problem with the link. It is published by the Department of Business Innovation & Skills and seems to support Kenneth’s views and not the interpretation we have gained through information provided to consumers.

When I started using Which? Conversation I hoped that we would benefit from expert input on a regular basis. I have remained involved because we can have useful discussions of topics that interest me and many of our contributors are making useful input. If only the Which? Legal Team would make some input we could save a lot of time and useless speculation.

Sadly, this is one of the things I have attempted to explain.

What government and others have found is that, pretty much, confusion reigns. Although the laws are fairly clear to the legal profession, for the rest of us, not so much. Hence I had to spend the time I did researching this to death as, it appeared to me, that even some solicitors can get confused and in both directions try to exploit the ambiguity. The media just seems to often get its proverbial knickers in a twist and appears to ill explain things, not explain in enough detail or just get it plain old wrong. Probably because it isn’t simple enough.

This lulls people (again both) into a false sense of security or entitlement and this is where I personally see issues. Note: with businesses as much as consumers.

I see retailers that do not understand that they have obligations to their customers and what they are. They will usually know they have some sort of obligation but they don’t understand what it is or the extent. Very often their impression is what they read, see or hear in the media just as much as consumers. Where possible I have tried to educate those I encounter and that will listen.

Consumers meanwhile will often assume that they have more or are entitled to more than is actually mandated in the legislation. Again, you can try to educate as best you can your understanding and experience but, that’s the limit of what I can do.

All the while there are no hard and fast rules as such, my understanding being that virtually each case has to be looked it on an individual basis so far as I can tell and, I can find no evidence to support otherwise.

As you can imagine, this is not good for anyone. And, as noted in the BIS report among many others, does lead to “unpleasant” and often unnecessary conversations between parties.

In response there is the Consumer Bill of Rights in progress to try to clarify the processes to both business and consumer but, reading through that (which isn’t fun) would seem to remedy a number of points but leave others open to interpretation. However that is merely my take based on what I have seen thus far, until the dust settles and it passes into law, if it passes, then it’s difficult to assess as it could still get revised.

All I can do is report how I see these things working in the real world, in practice and within the sphere in which I operate. How they are applied in my own industry is of greater importance to me on a personal level rather than a theoretical debate around what is right, wrong or indifferent.

How they are applied in other product areas or categories I can suss out for myself but, I am not an expert outside my own sphere and would not profess to be so. Nor am I a legal person as such, I just need this knowledge to operate and assist others.

Other people’s interpretation or opinion may differ from my own.

K.

As the Conversation has now evolved into legal issues, if you have not already located it there is more reading [quite a lot] appertaining to Govt. proposals under the new draft Consumer Rights Bill to be found at http://www.govt.uk/publications/supply-of-goods-repair-or-replacement-of-faulty-goods.
A consultation on enhancing consumer confidence by clarifying……………..etc.

It highlights many of the points raised in the debate and clarifies Govt. proposals under the Consumer Rights Directive.

Kenneth – Please forgive me for continuing to debate what is right and wrong. This is an issue which many contributors on many Conversations are interested in. If our consumer laws do not give fair protection to all parties they need to be updated or replaced.

Like Malcolm and many others, I look for value for money when I buy appliances. That means finding a product that does its job well and is likely to be durable. It is now common knowledge that many modern products are not built with longevity or repairability in mind and thanks to this discussions I have learned that sealed tubs are another factor contributing to the mountain of relatively new appliances that are beyond economical repair.

The average consumer will know nothing about the build quality of an appliance beyond what they can see in the showroom or read about in reviews. A Which? subscriber can learn that one Samsung washing machine costing £500 scores very highly but one costing £850 is a Which? ‘Don’t Buy’, but that is not helping the consumer to know which is likely to still be working in five or ten years time. I hope the more expensive model is more durable but maybe not if it is not a very good guide to performance. I should say that I don’t have blind faith in Which? testing but very much value their independence from manufacturers and retailers.

I don’t believe that the Sale of Goods Act was ever fit for its purpose but how is it going to protect consumers from companies that deliberately manufacture goods with substandard products. It is reasonable to expect better quality from more expensive goods but even the cheapest appliances on sale should function reasonably well and survive for a few years without requiring repair.

I would like to see legislation that is fair, and that includes deterring dishonest consumers from attempting to obtain repairs and replacement of goods that they have damaged by abuse.

According to what the government tells us about the Consumer Rights Bill:

“Core Consumer Rights will be:

– Right to get what you pay for

– Right that goods and digital content are fit for purpose and services are provided with reasonable care and skill

– Right to have faults in what you buy put right free of charge, or to be provided with a refund or replacement”

I have yet to see anything that will provide the consumer with support if their washing machine is beyond economical repair through no fault of their own soon after the warranty has expired.

The SOGA protects against all these, where it falls down is that you have to really fight to get the protection. It’s far too hard to get compensation so most people don’t get it.

If the SOGA really worked, we would not have a constant stream of appliances killing and injuring people and having safety notices through design faults caused (IMHO) by a loss of focus on quality and obsession with cutting costs (it’s no coincidence that the majority of the dangerous faults come from products not renowned for being high quality). We would not have the largest mountains of scrap appliances and products in the history of mankind. We would not have appliances that cannot reasonably be repaired by design. And so on.

Some might argue the SOGA was never intended to prevent all of the above. I would have thought it was intended to force/encourage retailers to sell better quality products. It has completely failed in that!

Sadly we live in an era where the economy NEEDS products to not last long, and not be repairable or at least for people to prefer to buy a nice shiny new one but with white goods people mostly hate replacing them and want to keep them as long as possible.

We all saw what happened in 2007 after the economy went into a severe crash. The minute people stop buying things they don’t really need our economy crashes with severe consequences and we have mass unemployment. If we really forced all manufacturers to only produce high quality products which lasted for 20 years I can guarantee the economy would crash.

So the trick is to strive for a a good balance between products lasting a reasonable time so that people are happy enough to replace them with the need to protect the environment from being swamped with unnecessary scrap and the need for manufacturers to keep selling us products we don’t need.

It is okay by me to debate the topic.

“I have yet to see anything that will provide the consumer with support if their washing machine is beyond economical repair through no fault of their own soon after the warranty has expired.”

Nor are you ever likely to see that in my opinion.

My interpretation and, that of most people I have spoken to on this, is that the SoGA and probably the new bill affords you limited protection from your perspective for, as it stands, a “reasonable” period after purchase. That is open to interpretation and does appear to cause some confusion as, in law in this instance “reasonable” is determined in a timespan of days, weeks and on the odd occasion some months, often defined as “a few” or two to three. Not years.

The way things are retailers would also often appear to offer better protection that is required in some instances.

The new bill would clarify this for all but in the process of doing so my understanding is that it may, in some instances, mean that the customers of some businesses get less, not more. As I said, be careful what you wish for.

But until that’s all done and dusted, who knows how it will pan out.

What you will never, ever see I shouldn’t think is some form of warranty extension in law as it would be hugely confusing and extremely difficult to implement as you would almost have to go category by category or even product by product. It would be far too onerous on businesses to do that I expect therefore unreasonable to expect.

Keep in mind that any legislation that is over-arching like the SoGA or the CBoR has to apply to all, not just appliances.

What the legislation also cannot really mandate for, in my take at least, is breakdowns.

My understanding is that if the goods are accepted, i.e. they are more than a few days/weeks/months old then they are deemed as having been legally accepted by the buyer and are deemed to be “fit for purpose” then anything beyond that is at the owners risk pretty much.

Of course there was the change in the whole burden of proof thing a while back so, up until a product is six months old you are afforded much more protection than perviously but, once that period expires there is little in the way of what they call a “remedy” or, at least that you have a definitive legal right to.

You then get into the the old chestnut of durability and that’s a moving target that one.

That is all based around what is deemed to be “reasonable” and, as has been acknowledged in many publications, one person’s “reasonable” will more often than not be the same as another persons. With appliances, this is one area that seems to generate a lot of hassle.

What you often see is opinion and, it is just that, opinion, from end users that they think it is “reasonable” that a product should last X or Y number of years regardless of how it is used or, how much it is used. But the industry does not work like that, you cannot define the timespan that a machine will be functional because you need to account for the variables involved, this thereby making every case unique in some regard.

The reality is that the products are tested in terms of cycle count or hours of use, this determines how long you can “reasonably” expect the product to last.

However like cars and other primarily mechanical devices components can fail and it is, in my experience, generally considered unreasonable to expect that this cannot happen in such devices.

So if you went down the path of legislating some sort of right to a form of cover for that it probably would get kicked into touch as being unreasonable and would place financial risk and burden onto the seller.

The manufacturer warranty which is in addition to your rights negates the need in part or, normally at least in the event of component failure in most cases. Once that expires though, in the absence of proof that there was an inherent defect from point of purchase, there is no recourse legally that I can see and, in any event, the .

Then there is an option open to insure or have a service plan in place, in much the same way as cars and many other products. I agree with Which?, these are costly and will not usually offer good value but, that is only my personal view.

I recall a conversation I had a few years back when the story broke in the media about the 6/5 year thing and retailers were like headless chickens when some mistakenly believed that overnight, people had the right to a free extended warranty. It went along the lines of yes, but if this is the case then every company that offers extended warranties, service plans or such are out of business, do you really think that would happen? The same holds true today. If you introduced what you want the bulk of retailers or, a good number of them as well as many others would be out of business overnight.

At least then you wouldn’t have a problem with claiming under your rights as, you’d have nobody to claim.

I’m sorry I’m winging it here with trying to explain and I hope you get what I’m bumbling on about and see why that any expectation of free repairs or replacement etc outside of warranty are probably not going to happen and would likely be viewed as unrealistic.

K.

wavechange – I was discussing this thread with a friend and he wondered whether accidental damage in household insurance might cover cases where an objected penetrated into the drum necessitating replacement. A fair point it seems.

Secondly we discussed “part that fail” in relation to Black & Decker strimmers and specifically the spool covers that also control the speed of the spool unwinding. I have had one for decades and never have replaced the spool cover . His machine slightly newer has needed three, one of the replacements lasted two months. At a fiver a time not hugely expensive and hardly likely to generate any consumer action. Though plenty of on-line comment.

Reverting to my idea that subscribers build a database I have no doubt it would speedily prove that this part has been designed in an unfortunate manner.

” I was discussing this thread with a friend and he wondered whether accidental damage in household insurance might cover cases where an objected penetrated into the drum necessitating replacement. A fair point it seems.”

It normally does, yes.

Many people seem not to realise this as it is considered to be accidental damage.

Whether it’s worth it depending on policy excess and risk of increased premium is open to debate though and dependent on the value of the machine. No free lunch as usual.

K.

wavechange, in principle, I think, consumer rights are already covered in this way, but what the list you give fails to mention explicitly is that a product should function properly for a reasonable length of time. This will need, as has been discussed, a good deal of work to make it useful, but to my mind is the area where unlucky, or ill-informed, consumers lose out at present. Unless, by some miracle, we get guarantees that are “fit for purpose” as well.:)

“I have yet to see anything that will provide the consumer with support if their washing machine is beyond economical repair through no fault of their own soon after the warranty has expired.”

Nor are you ever likely to see that in my opinion.

My interpretation and, that of most people I have spoken to on this, is that the SoGA and probably the new bill affords you limited protection from your perspective for, as it stands, a “reasonable” period after purchase. That is open to interpretation and does appear to cause some confusion as, in law in this instance “reasonable” is determined in a timespan of days, weeks and on the odd occasion some months, often defined as “a few” or two to three. Not years
___

This is completely wrong IMO and the opinion of my contacts at Trading Standards and Which? amongst others. Who are all the people you discuss it with Kenneth – manufacturers and retailers? 🙂

If a washing machine is beyond economical repair just after the guarantee has expired I can guarantee it will fall under not lasting a reasonable time except for in specific circumstances.

Again I quote a Which? article

“A Which? member bought an “expensive” coffee machine and after 30 months it broke down suffering a serious fault. This is 18 months out of guarantee. However, Which? advised him that an expensive coffee machine should be expected to last more than 2 and a half years so he was entitled to have it repaired free of charge by the retailer who had sold him a product which was not of satisfactory quality.”

So if in that case the coffee machine was unrepairable I would say they’d be entitled to a refund less an appropriate amount for the length of time they’d had use of the product.

“This is completely wrong IMO and the opinion of my contacts at Trading Standards and Which? amongst others. Who are all the people you discuss it with Kenneth – manufacturers and retailers? :)”

No.

Two barristers.

The OFT.

Two Scottish solicitors.

Trading Standards.

One multi-national legal firm.

I like to garner opinion from multiple sources, not just one. Of course the above in addition to industry.

K.

wgh, “if SoGA really worked” is the key – because it is rarely used (none of us like resorting to law). This legislation is, by its nature, very general in that it covers any product. What is needed are precedents in particular areas – white goods seems a good one. If SoGA were used to help resolve disputes – where Which?’s resources could be used – then we might find a better appreciation amongst both consumers and suppliers as to what was, and was not, acceptable.
I find an instinctive reaction to Kenneth’s view that once a prosduct is out of guarantee the consumer is on his own. I maintain that when we buy a product we should expect it to last a reasonable time anf if, in the normal course of events it does not, the consumer should receive an appropriate remedy. Ken reverts to life in years (I think I’ve understood you correctly Ken) but I think we’ve moved on from there to thinking in terms of cycles or hours used, depending on the appliance.

I do not disagree at all with the sentiment that people should be able to expect a “reasonable” life from any product, doesn’t much matter what it is.

The issue I don’t think is with that at all, even from business in general.

The issue is around what is a “reasonable” lifespan and what can be “reasonably” expected on both sides to solve any problems.

In Andy’s coffee machine example then yes, I can see the may well be merit in it, as in the machine at the price point could be reasonably expected to last longer than it perhaps did, this is fair enough. Especially so if we’re talking about the likes of a £1000+ Jura machine.

And, it’s great that it was resolved with a positive result.

But would a £50 coffee machine hold the same durability expectation, reasonably?

They do the same thing, make coffee. Perhaps not the same way, perhaps not to the same quality but they both perform the same basic function. But in respect to durability I think most people would concur that they are most likely worlds apart.

K.

No Ken, a £50 coffee machine would definitely not deserve the same expectations, and most people would probably not be too unhappy at 3 years for £50 as long as they had good use from it. If they only used it once a month though…. 🙂

The Which? example I quoted was from one of my articles on this topic, I’d like to just quote the rest of it to show that I don’t have an unreasonable attitude to this subject 🙂

This is what I wrote after quoting it –

“Had the fault been relatively minor the advice may have been different, likewise, if the coffee machine had been a relatively cheap one, or it had been used in an abnormally heavy way such as in a works canteen. We can’t take it for granted that any fault on any appliance at 2 and a half years should be repaired free of charge under the sale of goods act, but it’s useful to have real life examples like this as a yard stick because it can help us gauge our own circumstances.

When relating to washing machines or other white goods appliances it will depend on how much it cost, how it has been used, and what’s gone wrong. If you buy an expensive appliance (especially a brand which sells on a high quality image) which suffers an expensive breakdown after a few years you may be entitled to a free repair if you have used it normally and looked after it. I have heard of people winning cases when drum bearings have failed on washing machines almost 5 years old.

Conversely, if you paid £199 for a budget washer, and used it every day – twice a day – to wash for a family of 5 and it is exhausted and scrap after 3 years, it may well be that this is acceptable due to the cheapness of the appliance and the hard life it’s had. Even with such a short life it would have only cost £66 per year – £1.27 a week. I would think £1.27 a week to do 14 washes is pretty reasonable. So it’s necessary to try and look at the whole picture before deciding if you should be disgruntled or not.

It’s important to be aware that the sale of goods act does not say that an appliance or product should never break down, or even that it shouldn’t break down before a certain time period. It says they should last a reasonable time and be free from inherent faults. Relatively minor faults are not the issue in my opinion, it’s very expensive faults – especially those that aren’t economical to carry out. Sadly, too much is open to (mis)interpretation and most retailer’s staff still say there’s nothing they can do once it is out of guarantee, but this is completely untrue in many cases. They too often completely ignore their responsibilities under the sale of goods act.”

Sorry Kenneth, I didn’t mean to be confrontational 🙂 I just thought you quoted the reasonable time period to reject goods after purchasing, which is as you described – but you used it to answer a question about a product being unrepairable after potentially just 13 months. In such cases the reasonable time to reject is irrelevant, consumers would turn to the part regarding durability and lasting a reasonable time.

No one could possibly argue it is reasonable for a washing machine or other white goods appliance to be scrap just out of its guarantee and keep a straight face surely? 🙂

Unless the guarantee was 10 years (or maybe even 5) 🙂 But 12 months or even 2 years? NO.

Kenneth – One of the problems that the consumer faces is that they have no idea how long a product is likely to last. Anyone contemplating spending a couple of thousand pounds on a coffee maker really needs to know it is likely to last longer than the warranty period of two years. As you have pointed out on several occasions, there is the opportunity to pay for an extended warranty, but these are not usually good value for money. No doubt the intention is to work in partnership with the insurers to get us to spend as much as possible.

If manufacturers have a good idea of how many hours or cycles a product can be expected to last then for goodness sake share this with the customers, and provide a warranty for at least half this period.

You know it is very hard to offend me Andy. 😉

Thing is, look at just your bearing failures.

When I was in the field at first to see a bearing failure on a machine less than five years old was almost unthinkable.

Flip forward two decades and it is not even remotely uncommon nor is an eyebrow raised replacing them in the twelve month warranty let alone after a couple or three years on the cheap to mid-range machines.

To my mind all that does is demonstrate the drop in quality is quite staggering. But, on the flip side of that, they are relatively (inflation adjusted) much cheaper as well.

K.

“One of the problems that the consumer faces is that they have no idea how long a product is likely to last”

Exactly!

And the very thing I keep pushing for as I think that people should have and perhaps are even entitled to have or be given that information when buying.

K.

Andy (wgh) wrote: “No one could possibly argue it is reasonable for a washing machine or other white goods appliance to be scrap just out of its guarantee and keep a straight face surely? :)”

I think that is what Kenneth is telling us is the law.

I think I would rather invest in a poss stick and washing board than support Kenneth’s industry. 🙂

Kenneth wrote: “And the very thing I keep pushing for as I think that people should have and perhaps are even entitled to have or be given that information when buying.”

It would be interesting to know who is resisting this? I am generally opposed to ‘name and shame’ but from what you have told us, perhaps it’s time to consider this strategy.

Kinda.

It is the case that some get away with it, like the examples I shared that have pretty much no support out of warranty. I don’t think that’s right and I think that people should be better informed about what they are buying but, at the low end of the market especially, a lot of people seem to treat them like toasters and kettles, just chuck it out and get another.

The stats on what we took back seem to bear that out.

Whether or not they should have lasted longer is really a separate issue but it gets all thrown into the same mix.

But a lo-ball machine to last 600 cycles, not surprising. Put in family use, a year, maybe eighteen months tops and it’s a hunk-a-junk off to recycling in a good number of cases. The not so funny laugh is, that it’s through wear and tear. it’s reached the end of it’s expected operational life.

The morality of that you can debate forever and it is not at all surprising that people think it wrong, as do many even in the industry but, so long as people buy them, someone will make them and someone will sell them.

K.

“It would be interesting to know who is resisting this? I am generally opposed to ‘name and shame’ but from what you have told us, perhaps it’s time to consider this strategy.”

Well, without naming names…

If you look at the top end, I think most if not all proudly display this in one way or another.

If you find any beneath that let me know as I’ve never life cycle figures published.

I only know all this because of what I do as well as who I talk to and I cannot reveal the sources or, they won’t be sources any longer apart from the fact I would be breaking a confidence which, I am sorry but, I am not prepared to do. I’m sure that you will understand and appreciate that position.

K.

“One of the problems that the consumer faces is that they have no idea how long a product is likely to last”

For me, white goods and most other products shouldn’t even need a dictated or required lifespan. They should simply be made to good decent standards, and be repairable at reasonable prices for extended time periods.

When an appliance is scrapped at an unacceptably low age – it’s not because it isn’t repairable, it’s because the manufacturer has designed it so that the cost of repairing it is prohibitive, or has stopped stocking spares for it. All in the name of cheaper production.

A washing machine could easily last 20 years as long as spares are available and at reasonable cost and people can repair them. This is how it always was when I first started learning how to repair them in 1976. No washing machine was ever unrepairable until it got to at absolute minimum 10 – 15 years old and even then if it wasn’t a serious fault people didn’t hesitate to have it repaired.

The government needs to decide, are we a country where we want to constantly buy new products despite the environmental damage, or are we a country that wants to keep products running for reasonable periods of time.

The elephant in the room is lack of repairability. Fix that, and things can go back to the old days when plenty of people still bought new products but plenty kept their current ones running by having them repaired by local repairmen until they decided they fancied or deserved a new one.

Some points keep being reiterated.
Cost – I have always included cost as a factor when looking at reasonable lfe. I don’t think anyone disagrees. So the coffee machine issue referred to above would be determined partly by initial cost.
I don’t wholly subscribe to the view that consumers drive down cost. I believe manufacturers undercut each other for market share and the consumer unknowingly gets dragged along. If many knew the real consequences of reduced cost their common sense would tell them to avoid such products – or take them for what they are. Nor all, I grant you, but I credit many consumers with the ability to make rational decisions – providing they are given the information they need.
Information therefore is vital – this is where Consumers Associations could put pressure on to have relevant information published. We have it for electricity and water usage, for example – it’s not difficult, just needs the will.
Quality – “bearings used to last longer”. I doubt the additional cost of decent bearings is significant, and I believe that most consumers would pay a little extra if they knew the consequences of rubbish parts.
Life – how long it might last is important in making a decision – minimum or average design cycles or hours for example. Decent manufacturers will test designs on this basis.
A longer guarantee, or legal requirement, should not frighten manufacturers if they are honest about what they produce.
I hope we hear from Which? soon – time all this information was put to use. I wonder what submission Which? have made to the Government’s consultation on consumer protection? Have they published it, and does it include the vexed topic of “durability”? We should be told!

I very much agree Andy, but what is the way forward?

Many of us avoid buying cheap appliances because of the risk of premature failure but there seems to be a danger that poor quality components and lack of repairability is also affecting mid-range products and there is no decent warranty, we might be wasting our money in spending two or three times as much.

I am disappointed to hear that Miele will not supply parts for their (expensive) machines, presumably meaning that most servicing must be done by their agents – and possibly not at a sensible price. That is information that the customer should be told before they had over their money.

malcomr wrote, “Some points keep being reiterated”

You’re not wrong there, I’m hoping the moderators will close this down soon 🙂

“I don’t wholly subscribe to the view that consumers drive down cost. I believe manufacturers undercut each other for market share and the consumer unknowingly gets dragged along. If many knew the real consequences of reduced cost their common sense would tell them to avoid such products – or take them for what they are. ”

That’s exactly what I said the other day 🙂

Malcolm wrote: “Quality – “bearings used to last longer”. I doubt the additional cost of decent bearings is significant, and I believe that most consumers would pay a little extra if they knew the consequences of rubbish parts.”

I used to regularly authorise purchase of high quality bearings and seals for a variety of equipment in our research labs. Decent bearings are not expensive if you buy from a specialist. Go to the equipment manufacturer and you could be looking at five to ten times the price. Poor quality bearings and other components are a well known problem with cheap imported machinery. At one time the problem was confined to inexpensive products for domestic use but I have recently seen lawn tractors and other moderately expensive machinery of obviously poor build quality.

Of course most sensible people would pay a little extra for better quality components. Sadly it often takes failure of only a single component to consign an expensive product to the scrap heap. In the case of domestic appliances the owner has to gamble on whether to risk that the appliance is repairable or cut their losses and buy new.

So far I have not been badly let down by any retailer or manufacturer – partly because I have been able to carry out many repairs with little effort or expense – but I’m happy to go to court if I feel I have a case.

“I very much agree Andy, but what is the way forward?”

We’ve covered too many topics to have a single way forward but the problems have been slowly created over the last 40 years. I have my own perspective because I started in my industry at 16 in 1976, when appliances were extremely well made and highly repairable (by today’s standards), but which were still not as good as the previous appliances from the 60s and 50s.

The only difference was that the reduction in quality and cheaper prices were a nice small step with relatively few downsides. It arguably needed to happen as products were over engineered due to an old die-hard mentality and lack of modern plastics and tooling.

Since then though it’s been a slow spiral to where we are now. Maybe we can never go back. No manufacturer is going to decide to make better products unless they believe enough people will pay the extra. In many industries there is a high demand for extreme high quality at premium prices, white goods have always been different, which is proven by the rarity of proper high quality appliances. If Miele had several competitors like they had in the 70s their prices would have to drop, though they’d obviously always be “expensive”.

All manufacturers make precisely the product they want to make. It’s inconceivable that they can’t make good products. If Hoover or Hotpoint decided to make a washing machine to rival Miele they could do it easily. It’s not hard to make high quality, you just do it. Hoover have been making front loading washing machines for at least 65 years. It’s inconceivable that they would be lasting no where near as long as they did 30 years ago unless that’s exactly what Hoover want to produce or at least feel forced by market forces into producing. I’m pretty sure there are many people working for Hoover who share my lament for the passing of the old days 🙂

So it’s not that manufacturers can’t make good stuff it’s because they don;t believe that can make good repairable stuff and survive. I think consumers had their chance to keep decent appliances in the past but followed the cheap trail to this dead end.

We will just have to keep up the pressure for consumer rights and to make people aware of what industry is up to.

I well remember my mother’s Electrolux WH31, which gave at least 25 years good service before being pensioned off – on my recommendation 🙁 – on the basis that spares might no longer be available. If I recall the only repair was a replacement water valve. Not all older products were trouble-free and my mother’s Hoovermatic twin-tub was regarded as new-fangled junk by my aunt, a proud owner of an ancient Servis machine with power wringer.

I have never understood why top loaders were not popular in the UK. When visiting relations in Canada it seemed like a better idea to not have to bend over to load and unload and the machine seemed more durable. Experts – I’m sure you know the answer to this question that has bugged me for years. Of course you would need a utility room as you would lose precious counter space.
Are they obtainable here?

Top-loading washing machines would certainly avoid the problem of ‘exploding’ doors, which has affected a variety of makes and models. This has been discussed in other Conversations.

They are hugely energy, water and detergent inefficient as a general rule Beryl. Most US ones are no longer sold in the EU due to that unless as semi-commercial.

Not very good wash results either usually and, that’s being kind.

Pluses are the ease of losing and fast wash along with them being desperately simple things, often to repair as well. But that’s about all you can say for them from a consumers point of view.

K.

Thanks for that guys. That was a while back so they may have since had a rethink and resigned more energy efficient ones hopefully without exploding doors Wavechange! I do recall the Which? Advert. Although energy is not such a problem in the US as in our neck of the woods the focus is still remains very much on the production of energy efficient goods globally I think.

………………..whoops redesigned sorry!

Kenneth wrote, “Other people’s interpretation or opinion may differ from my own.”

I hate when that happens 😉

Kenneth

In earlier discussions we have been told that Miele produces better engineered appliances than many manufacturers. As you can guess, I’m not happy that the company provides a standard warranty of only two years, even though five and ten year promotions are available. If their machines are designed to last 20 years then the best way to demonstrate confidence in a product is to offer a decent warranty. As you have pointed out, many faults are caused by the user and I see no reason why the user should get free repairs in these circumstances. I would, however, expect that any manufacturer of quality goods to make their products tolerant of minor abuse if this can be done at little or no cost.

It concerns me if Miele do not make parts readily available to anyone other than their agents. This is one of my main criticisms of Apple. Maybe the companies’ argument is that making parts generally available is that the company could be blamed for the results of poor workmanship. It is no longer a requirement to have a car serviced at a main dealer to preserve a warranty, provided that genuine or authorised parts are used. Perhaps there is something to learn from what the motor industry does – or has been forced to do by consumer pressure.

Much as I loathe Apple as a company, I have spent a lot on their products over more than two decades because their computers have given me great service and been incredibly reliable. (I’m well aware that others have not been so fortunate.) I can see considerable benefits of spending the extra money and it is fortunate that I my purchases have been trouble-free because Apple provide only a miserable one year warranty. On the other hand, the benefits of a Miele machine seem more related to reliability than performance. Bearing in mind that even expensive products do break down even if there are no design faults, it concerns me that I could pay a lot for a machine without reassurance that it will be reliable. Buying an extended warranty just seems to be a way of ensuring that cost of ownership is high.

For something like a washing machine that I will use no more than three times a week, I would previously have chosen a mid-range machine and hoped it would last ten or fifteen years. I have learned that even mid-range machines can easily become beyond economical repair thanks to design.

Thanks for warning us about the problems, but what is the most cost effective solution in your opinion?

Miele are not the only ones that play this game, they’re just a good example of it.

Many manufacturers can dream up all manners of excuses for this sort of practice but, the bottom line is that they have to pay for service somehow and, with upfront margins under increasing pressure that becomes more and more attractive. It essentially allows for a lower ticket price in store.

The way that many people will look at this, especially if you haven’t been involved in a business that runs this way, is that you pay over your however much and that’s it, you’re done.

The reality is that to provide spares and support on an ongoing basis costs money, staff, storage, premises and all that kind of thing and, to do that, you have to fund it. You either fund it from the sale or, you fund it from ongoing revenue streams such as spares, service provision, insurance and so on.

Long warranties are great and I get involved with those but, almost in equal measure they can be a curse. From a retailer or manufacturer perspective at least.

For the most part they are not an issue however there’s both an “and” as well as a “but” there.

Two demonstrable things happen.

A number people (note, not the majority) will *assume* that absolutely everything is covered, including abuse, misuse and so on and often you will hear the cry of Watchdog, TS, the SoGA and so on when a manufacturer or retailer informs the owner it’s not covered. It’s not nice and not having a warranty in force eliminates much of that nonsense.

There is also an element of problems created due to the above as well, it’s not a huge number but almost every single instance is just a complete pain to deal with, as because there is a warranty and people jump to that assumption the machines get treated with some disregard for care will we say.

The flip of this and the bit that’s bad for consumers, is that the easiest way out of that for all is to insure the product then a lot of that is paid for by an insurer which is, of course, ultimately being paid for by the owners. It’s just that the risk is spread a bit better.

It is also true that, where a warranty is in force for both parts and labour, that people are about three times as likely to place a service call. Where there is any financial penalty whatsoever the call rate drops off a cliff.

The reason that it’s so tight financially is that the margins on sales is very low. You will be lucky, on a bottom end machine and, it doesn’t matter what one, to be making perhaps £30 profit. That’s less than the cost to even make a single service call.

It is very rare, even on high end machines these days, to make a lot of profit at any point as the prices are and, have been under mammoth pressure for years.

As the profit gets sucked out then costs get cut and just one that they can cut is warranty liability and support costs.

To get cash back into that they have been known to create what I term mini-monopolies on service leaving owners with almost no choice on how service is done or by whom. You just have to pay whatever ransom is demanded or, pony up for a service plan.

Not many of us in the independent trade are all that keen on this business model as I’m sure you can understand.

There is an EU Block Exemption in force for the motor trade that took a lot of effort and time to get in place that entitles all independent motor repairers access to the information and specialist tools at the same cost as main dealers. This is not in place in any other industry that I am aware of but, it is my firm opinion that it should be.

People should have the freedom to choose what they buy and who services it. I see any restriction on servicing as a restraint of trade and, I have made this know to the OFT, DEFRA and anyone that will listen.

So you can see that your question isn’t perhaps as easy to answer as you might have thought.

What holds try for the most part is that, with some advice and buying a good product then looking after it will serve you far better that walking into a store or shopping online etc and effectively playing pin the tail on the donkey with brands and prices.

K.

Thanks for continuing to provide an insight into how the white goods industry operates. I simply cannot accept that consumers are to blame by pushing for cheap products and any company that plays this game deserves the consequences. I will continue to push for what I believe are reasonable consumer rights. What you and I regard as a design fault/flaw is clearly different, but I think we are agreed that products can fail for other reasons than poor quality.

Up to now my main grouse has been retailers for denying that consumers have any rights after a warranty has expired. I have also taken various large electrical retailers to task when I have witnessed sales staff telling outright lies to potential customers, for example to sell an extended warranty. I have sometimes despaired at manufacturers producing spoiling otherwise reasonable products by use of one or more poor quality parts, but equally I am an enthusiast of clever design when I see it. I have little experience of the quality of appliance servicing but have reasons to believe that there is good and bad.

I accept your point that Which? product reviews should take into account the repairability of washing machines, especially now that build techniques can easily mean that certain faults leave a machine beyond economical repair. It’s not just white goods where owners are faced with unexpected costs. With some cars it is necessary to remove the engine just to change the timing belt. I cannot envisage how this information can usefully be provided in a way that would be understood by subscribers. Nevertheless, repairability could certainly be a factor in choosing ‘Best Buys’.

wavechange, as I have posted elsewhere I have bought parts direct from Miele, and received excellent advice and help from them on how to fit them.

I tend to look at things in a different light and the appliance industry is, in some measure, a leader in certain practices. I suspect you will see similar in other industries in the not too distant future, such as IT.

Think on it this way, it is a largely stagnant market. There are no new markets for the producers to conquer, no hugely new or innovative technologies and even when there is some advance people generally care little.

People largely grudge spending money on appliances. They don’t see the need.

They all cook, cool, wash and dry and that’s all that people seem to be all that bothered about. They are largely regarded as merely a tool.

We pretty much reached market saturation in the early to mid-nineties.

For the most part, generally speaking, in the developed Western world, anyone that wants almost any appliance they like, so long as they can accommodate it, can have whatever they like and the majority of people can afford it. Not so many years ago that would probably not have been true.

The reason is that they have been massively devalued. Produced ever cheaper until we’ve reached the point where even the mid market machines have had the quality engineered out of them to meet price expectations.

Manufacturers and retailers can no longer support or, prop up if you like, extra services that were perhaps once just expected and have to look to other revenue streams to do that. Enter extended warranties, add-ons, filters, cleaners and all sorts of things to try to create extra revenue streams. For many it isn’t so much a deliberate policy to rip people off, it’s just to survive.

As that happens appliances are almost bound, logically, to become less reliable, they are largely mechanical in nature, if you start using ever cheaper inferior components then of course they will wear out faster. But note, that is they will wear out, it isn’t a design flaw at all in all but a scant few cases, they’re just worn out.

Wear and tear isn’t covered by any warranty or legislation.

What I think often happens in these sorts of conversation is that people get morality and legality mixed up as well as value for money and cost.

You can argue the morality of this forever, you can debate the morality of cheap poorly engineered product versus better or well engineered and more expensive. You can debate the value for money in each area.

The legality however is a wholly different thing and there’s nothing that’s really illegal here I can see.

Selling a cheap product that isn’t really very durable isn’t illegal at all. Not even slightly.

Perhaps it should be but, that’s a morality issue until it is made illegal.

K.

I do remember this, Malcolm, and plenty of apparent discrepancies turn up in Conversations. I made a mental note in case I need parts for my Miele vacuum cleaner. The company was very helpful in sending me parts (not internal parts) when the cleaner was less than a year old, when I was let down by the retailer.

One of my concerns is the cost of spares, even if they are available. According to prices that I have seen, a replacement motor for a Miele could cost as much as two cheap washing machines and that’s without labour.

If you look, you will find a number of examples of this at almost all pricing levels in the appliance industry as well as others. It is far from unprecedented.

In actuality, from the best buys I looked at above, all have restricted service information available in general to the repair trade, restricted spares parts supply or in some measure or another inflated spares pricing. In any combination or in all.

I’m sure that Which? can do the research in order to establish that for themselves.

In addition the bulk will also attempt to sell you onto and extended warranty if you call for service, if you even speak to the manufacturer at all as you might find yourself talking to an extended warranty provider. They might not make that very clear, unless you press the point. And, they might tell you that you could face a large repair bill but, not to worry, for £12 (to about £30) per month with no large upfront fee they will cover it all for you so long as you sign up.

Again, not illegal.

Immoral, you decide. But, not by any means illegal.

High cost of spare parts, restricted service information and so on often removes any choice that you might have had and that might even encourage (force) you to go down that road. Like I said, mini-monopolies, there is no competition if you do not allow anyone to compete let alone on a level playing field.

What irks me is not that this happens as, it is after all a free market but that people are unaware of what is happening. If you have all the information and you choose to sign up to this then that’s just fine and dandy in my book but, not if you are not aware or worse, lulled into a false sense of security. Keep in mind that as noted by the OFT that the mar