Wavechange, one of the original Which? Convo community members, argues it’s time to demand that products come with lengthy warranties and to put the onus on manufacturers to build products that last.
When we buy new goods we expect them to work properly and to be trouble-free. Unfortunately, most of us will have had problems with washing machines, TVs, computers or phones failing prematurely.
It can be annoying and inconvenient to return faulty goods, but it’s a lot easier to return them while they are still within their warranty period. If a product develops a fault once the warranty expires it’s much harder to get support.
Returning faulty goods
Of course, outside the warranty period, consumers have legal protection for faulty goods for six years (five in Scotland) under the Sale of Goods Act. Somewhat confusingly, that doesn’t mean that goods have to last this long because wear and tear and damage caused by misuse are excluded. Plus, the Sale of Goods Act requires products to be durable, even though ‘durability’ has never been properly defined.
If it’s been more than six months since you bought a product, the retailer can ask you to provide evidence that a fault existed at the time of sale, but in my experience, most retailers just push you to contact the manufacturer or point out that you should have taken out an extended warranty. It can also be hard to prove that a fault is inherent in the product, meaning lots of people can give up at this stage.
Of course, we can pursue our legal rights through the courts but that can be quite daunting. Personally, I prefer to try to repair things myself, but over the years household goods have become much harder to repair.
Should extended warranties be standard?
In the 80s, large electrical retailers started pushing us to buy costly extended warranties. Since then, Which? has correctly been pointing out that these warranties are often poor value and that it may be better to save the money for repairs or replacements.
But car manufacturers have led the way; warranties for three years or 60,000 miles are commonplace, with some manufacturers offering cover for five years or more. The length of warranty can be an important selling point. Cars are generally reliable these days despite having become much more complex, but having a warranty means that motorists will be protected from the possibility of expensive repairs for a few years.
So isn’t the way forward to look for household products that come with extended warranties at little or no extra cost? For example, John Lewis decided to offer a minimum two-year warranty on all electrical goods in 2013.
For me, the length of the warranty is a big factor when choosing a new product. My new laptop came with a three-year warranty for no extra cost. I’m planning to buy a TV with a five-year warranty and when my old washing machine dies I will look for one with a 10-year warranty.
The hidden advantage of decent warranties
Electrical goods are often designed for ease of manufacturing, but that can make repair more difficult and much more expensive. For example, most washing machines are now manufactured with ‘sealed drums’, so that the task of replacing bearings has become much more expensive and modern machines may not be worth repairing.
If a product is covered by a warranty then the company, not the consumer, will be responsible for the cost of repairs. If enough of us push for longer warranties, surely it would encourage manufacturers to go back to making goods that can be repaired economically, making the likes of ‘sealed drums’ a thing of the past?
Do you look out for products that have longer warranties at little or no extra cost? Would you like to see all major household purchases with at least a five-year warranty?
This is a guest post by Wavechange, long-term community member on Which? Conversation, picked from our Ideas lounge. All opinions expressed here are Wavechange’s own and not necessarily those of Which?
Five years (44%, 939 Votes)
Three years (23%, 502 Votes)
Longer than five years (20%, 419 Votes)
Two years (9%, 194 Votes)
Four years (3%, 65 Votes)
One year (1%, 24 Votes)
Total Voters: 2,143