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Legal advice: hot water tap goes off the boil

Do you know your rights when you need a replacement for another replacement? Here’s how we helped a member with a faulty tap’s boiling unit.

Andrea and Ian paid Wickes to supply and install a fitted kitchen in March 2019. The kitchen included a Protex tap, which provides on-demand boiling water.

Sadly, the tap’s boiling unit leaked. Wickes supplied a replacement under warranty, which resolved the issue until 2021, when the replacement unit developed a dangerous fault causing its outlet hose to spray boiling water.

Despite requests for assistance, Wickes said it couldn’t help because the Kitchen Workmanship Guarantee had expired. So Andrea and Ian contacted Which? Legal.

Breach of contract claims

Section 9, 10 and 11 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 state that goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

Under Section 24 of the same Act, a consumer is entitled to reject goods and claim a refund if an attempt to repair a fault fails to resolve all issues.

Although the guarantee period had elapsed, consumers have six years to bring a breach of contract claim against the supplier.

We suggested referring Wickes to its obligation to offer a refund as it hadn’t resolved the issues by replacing the unit. Wickes then agreed to provide a full refund of the purchase price. Wickes said:

“We’re sorry to hear about the customers’ experience with their product and the customer service received whilst trying to resolve the issue; our customer relations team has reviewed the matter to ensure better service for customers moving forward.”

Have a legal question of your own?

Which? Legal offers affordable legal advice, over the phone and by email to help you tackle your problem or issue.  

The team of legal advisers will give you tailored information and advice on your rights and next steps, so you can handle your issue confidently.  

Which? Legal can help on a range of topics, from faulty goods and car purchase issues to landlord and tenancy issues, plus much more.

To find out how the team can help you, call Which? Legal on 0117 405 5695 or visit Which? Legal.

Crusader says:
9 May 2022

I can hardly believe this, what an appalling attitude! Something so seriously dangerous and they won’t fix it, anything which sprays boiling water is DEADLY, especially to precious little ones. And I’ve not seen any boiling water taps but I hope those things are seriously child proofed. And where is Wickes’s sense of urgency? Fixing something like that, or at least making it safe until it can be fixed, even if it means charging for the work is surely a moral obligation with something so dangerous. This reminds me a bit of a dangerously vandalised bus shelter I once encountered where some idiot had ripped open an electrical supply box for the shelter’s night light and left potentially live and lethal wiring dangling within easy reach of any passing small child. So I got my mobile out and tried calling the transport authority responsible for it but they didn’t want to know because it was a weekend! Can you believe that?! So I went to the local bus station and spoke to someone there and they said they’d deal with it, but I don’t know if they did. And I know this is a wee bit off topic but it’s all too similar to the situation with the boiling thing isn’t it?

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for retailers to be unaware at operational level of their obligations under consumer law. In this case the company has had to be reminded of its duties and has responded properly.

Certain other largescale retailers have shown a cavalier attitude to compliance with the law on defective goods and refuse to learn from wrongs committed against consumers. As a matter of corporate policy they give consumers incorrect advice on liability and then thwart, through commercial delinquency, their attempts at seeking redress.

At least Wickes has acted decently and promised to learn from the experience.

Good work Which? Legal. It would be good to see Currys feature in a case because they have treated some of their customers very poorly. It’s more than 20 years ago since they first refused to help me and directed me to the manufacturer when I had problems with a recently purchased product.

These boiling water taps are seen as a luxury kitchen item that adds to the modern kitchen design. Though this legal challenge is well and good, a faulty product can do serious damage both to kitchen and person. We see adverts with people holding vegetable pans under the tap and simply turning it on. There doesn’t seem to be any safety mechanism to stop scalding if the water goes onto skin. The tap works like any other, except for the tank underneath. Another minor issue is the energy used to keep the water hot when it is not being used. Turning the system off means waiting for it to heat and one might as well use a kettle. Even adults can slip, imagine a youngster trying it out without supervision. There are plenty of ways of boiling water safely without these gadgets.
Some also dispense ice cold and fizz. It seems an expensive way of getting either.