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Do you know your consumer rights?

Ever had a faulty product, missing parcel, dodgy second-hand car or delayed flight? Well, you have rights – but do you know what to do with them?

Last year, we asked 2,000 of our members about some common consumer rights misconceptions.

We found some scenarios seemed to be cut and dry – such as returning a faulty second-hand car to a dealership or staying in a room with a carpark view instead of the seaview you’d booked.

But others were a lot more confusing.

For example, we asked if it was true or false whether a landlord was responsible for all repairs and maintenance to a property.

44% said true     |     29% said false     |      27% didn’t know

The correct answer is true – but you’ll need to check your tenancy agreement as to what is the tenant’s responsibility. Usually this comes down to keeping the property in a good state of repair, changing the lightbulbs and keeping plugholes clear.

Read more about your responsibilities as tenant in our guide

Does where you shop change your rights?

We asked if you ordered a product online, you have more more rights to return it than if you ordered in-store.

40% said true, but 60% either didn’t know, or incorrectly thought you had the same rights in-store as you do online.

In fact, you have much more enhanced rights shopping online thanks to the 14-day cooling off cancellation period which doesn’t end until 14 days after you receive whatever you bought online.

Read our guide to cancelling an order for goods or services you placed online

“I’m renting and there’s mould”

We also asked if it was always the landlord’s responsibility to remove mould.

33% said true     |     27% said false     |     40% didn’t know

This answer is false as, sometimes, depending on the type of mould, it falls on the tenant’s shoulders to remove it. You can read more about which mould is whose responsibility in our free guide.

Helping resolve your queries

Here at Which? Conversation, we’re often asked to help with problems varying from delivery issues to misleading advertising and from faulty televisions to shady art dealings.

And fair enough, consumer law can be complicated with lots of grey areas and uncertainty about where to turn if you’re not being heard.

Visit Which? Consumer Rights

Have you had any problems where your consumer rights haven’t been upheld? Or any issues where your rights haven’t been clear? Tell us in the comments and we can help direct you to the right advice.

Comments

Thanks to Amelia for writing this new Convo for us. The CRA page (https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act) was essential in a recent return I made to Amazon! Quoting the act to retailers really does go a long way.

A common complaint is retailers misleading customers about their rights, either through ignorance or deceit, or such as referring them to the manufacturer. I think each retailer should prominently display the key consumer rights in summary, and provide a standard leaflet explaining them in more detail with a link to relevant, more detailed, information, such as the Which? guidance and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 guidance. It is an offence for retailers to deny consumers their rights and perhaps Which? should see action is taken when this happens, to wake delinquent retailers up to their responsibilities.

That's a really interesting idea. I know many retailers do display a returns policy but it always ends with the phrase "this does not affect your statutory rights". It would be helpful if they outlined the statutory rights even if it was just on request rather than displayed.

I once had a pair of trousers that on first wash (washed as per the instructions) leaked so much dye that they went weirdly streaky. I returned them because I was so annoyed about it but thought it wasn't within my rights it – I was pleasantly surprised to see it was considered a faulty product. I wonder how many pairs of streaky trousers there are in people's wardrobes/landfill.

Many years ago, before I knew anything about consumer rights or credit card refunds, I bought a dress that looked ok in the shop. When I got home and tried it on, my flatmate pointed out how uneven it was at the back.

The shop would only give me a credit note then went out of business before I had a chance to spend it.

When a heel fell off a shoe after a week and the store refused to do anything, standing in the shop doorway waving the broken shoe around and telling potential customers not to shop there quickly got me a refund.

Thanks for the Convo, Amelia!

The rental information is particularly interesting. I think I need to have a chat with my landlord.

I wonder if it might be helpful to look at a little decision tree tool that could help people find who is responsible in a given situation. I still struggle to know which individual or body is responsible for upholding my rights in some situations!

A flow diagram? Excellent idea. Could go on the same locked topic as the hyperlinks I keep on about 🙂

Page 38 of this document has an example of a useful flow diagram relating to faulty goods: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/CRA-Goods-Guidance-for-Business-Sep-2015.pdf

Looks good:

🙂 It’s not ideal because it does not make the key point that the retailer has the legal responsibility for faulty goods nor that there is liability for goods that have failed prematurely within 6 years even if a fault cannot be shown to exist at the time of purchase. It’s a good basis for an improved version.

It doesn’t cover the problem with my grill.

You cannot, of course, do everything in a simple chart. However, the guide explains the contract relationships on P4. What is not well dealt with is “durability” – p39. It says:
“In some cases it will be very clear that the goods did not meet the rights at the time of delivery. For example, goods may not match the description if they are a different colour than was stated on the box – this is likely to have been the case when they were delivered. In some cases it may not have been obvious at delivery that the goods breach one of the rights, particularly in relation to the right that goods are of satisfactory quality. For example, goods manufactured with low quality parts may function perfectly for some time but not be as durable as a reasonable person would expect. The fault may therefore show itself sometime after the goods were delivered, but the root cause of the problem was present at that time.

Whether a poor design, use of poor quality components, qualifies as a “fault present at the time of delivery” I don’t know; it still requires the consumer to make their case. It should be much easier than this. Benchmarks for products at different price points should give guidance to how long it would be reasonable for a product to last (whether in years or in cycles, say) and would then be valuable when pursuing a claim. I believe this is an area where Which? could (and should) be providing information to help consumers.

The guide to the Sale of Goods Act dealt with this more clearly.

My view is that if the incidence of a fault is reasonably common (especially related to similar models) then the product may not be fit for purpose even if it has worked fine for a year. It would be useful to have a legal opinion on this.

The quality of the components may be fine but the problem may be how they are used. This is particularly the case with electronic circuitry.

I would like to see the expected life of mechanical products such as washing machines stated at the time of purchase to allow the purchaser to choose an appropriate model. The expected lifetime (number of hours or cycles) could be shown on the label with the energy rating and on retailers’ websites.

It would be easy to improve the flowchart above by including numbers cross-referencing more detailed information.

A guide to the Sale of Goods Act (Published by the Office of Fair Trading as it was) gave a better appraisal of durability, and the principles will still apply to the Consumer rights Act 2015 as far as I am aware. Common sense needs to be used to decide what is durable but if something fails as early as your grill, I expect that the problem is pretty apparent unless disclaimed in the literature.

“Your contract with the customer
Under the Sale of Goods Act, when you sell something to a customer you have an agreement or contract with them.
A customer has legal rights if the goods they purchased do not conform to contract (are faulty).
The Act says that to conform to contract goods should
…….
• be of satisfactory quality
……
quality of goods includes

– durability

satisfactory quality – meeting the standard a reasonable person would think of as satisfactory, taking account of the goods’ description, price and so on.

durability – the durability requirement is that the item should work or last for a reasonable time but it does not have to remain of satisfactory quality. For example, a pair of wellington boots should stay waterproof but does not have to keep its brand new appearance.
reasonable time – this depends on the item and the circumstances. What is reasonable is determined by taking everything into account and considering what an impartial person would think is reasonable.”

Thanks from me too, Amelia.

I am fed up taking faulty goods back to retailers and being told to contact the manufacturer. This has happened to often that I take printed information that shows that there retailer is responsible for dealing with faulty goods. Last year, Currys wanted to me to contact Humax regarding a Freeview receiver and B&Q wanted me to contact Karcher about a pressure washer that were over a year old but within the two year guarantee period. In both cases I was given new replacements. As I have found before, dealing with Currys can be very difficult. I have not checked recently but the leaflet supplied with the receipt says that they may ask customers to deal with the manufacturer.

Apple is an exception and provides useful information about consumer rights on its website. Here is the UK version: https://www.apple.com/uk/legal/statutory-warranty/ On the few occasions when I have phoned Apple they have been very helpful and a few years ago they carried out a free major repair on a laptop that was three and a half years old.

Which? has very good information about consumer rights on the website, except that we really need more information about making claims regarding poor durability. There are some useful examples of fair settlements in Convos written by members of the Which? Legal team but the chances of visitors to this site finding the information is slim.

I agree – we all need to be making more claims. In our throwaway society, we’re so ready to just buy another instead of going through the inevitable bother of taking a complaint to the retailer. I’ve even been guilty of this myself, especially if it’s something cheap. Whereas we should all be holding the retailers to account for selling us shoddy products.

This means consumers being properly informed about their rights, and particularly about durability. It needs a little work to put a case together, but that is only fair to the retailer.

A couple of years ago I pursued a durability claim for a 3 year old Hotpoint fridge freezer after their engineer’s visit. The insulation had parted from the liner. I made the point that it had not lasted a reasonable length of time. After an exchange of emails Hotpoint replaced the Fr/Fr, gave a 2 year warranty, and the retailer (John Lewis) extended the warranty by a further 3 years as reassurance that the problem would not recur – at least for 5 years! a better outcome than I had expected.

Knowing your rights, approaching the retailer in the right way – polite, informed and informative – can be key to achieving an outcome from some vendors. But others seek to obstruct your rights and this is where I believe Which? need to take legal action to put a stop to malpractice by misleading people about their rights. CPCW seems one of the recurring offenders, judging from posts in Convos..

It can be a real hassle to make a claim for a product that is more than a year old.

I do have sympathy for retailers because many people try to get goods replaced when they have dropped or otherwise abused them, and water/liquid damage is very common problem with phones. Having done repairs for friends and family and found internal damage I conclude that the owner may not realise that they caused the problem, particularly if the fault does not show up immediately.

I suspect that people are less likely to take action over faulty goods that are bought online, other than when there is a problem soon after purchase.

This has come at rather an opportune moment….

We have a Sage Smart Grill Pro, now 2½ years old bought from John Lewis. It has only been used to cook steak and is not used every week.

The grill plates have never been in the dishwasher, always used plastic utensils, a short soak for easy cleaning, they could not have been treated any better.

The plates were starting to lose their non-stick before the 2 year guarantee ran out and I enquired in John Lewis who said the plates were not covered by the guarantee. This didn’t seem right at the time but the plates still worked and were not bad enough to make a complaint so we left it.

Six months later, the plates are now unusable with no non-stick left on them.

I phoned Sage Appliances who informed me the plates would cost £80 (all but a few pence) and after further discussion they asked for photos of the plates which I sent.

Their reply:
Thank you for contacting Sage Customer Service, following up on your case, the plates has to be purchased at full price each. Furthermore, we are happy to offer you a new BGR840BSS with a 40% discount, if want to take up that offer please inform us via email or by phone call.

A new grill from Sage is currently £329.95 so with a 40% discount would cost £197.97.

Lidl sell them occasionally and recently sold a complete very similar grill for around £39.95. If I only wanted it to last a couple of years, I would not have forked out the for the pricey Sage.
https://www.lidl-service.com/static/149614320/270355_EN.pdf

I replied that I was happy to buy the plates at a discounted price, but £80 for something that only lasts a couple of years is too much.

The reply from Sage Appliances:
Thank You for contacting Sage Customer Service, following up on your email, we are able to give you occasionally a discount on a new appliance but unfortunately not on spare parts that are perishable and replaceable. We are awaiting for your answer.

But above all, this seems absolutely ridiculous and wasteful to me. The rest of the machine is in good condition so there is no reason to scrap it when it only requires the replacement parts.

Furthermore, I have checked the box and the manual and nowhere does it say the plates are not covered by the guarantee.

On the box:
PFOA Free Non-Stick Plates
Coated with titanium infused Quantanium™ for superior scratch resistance, oil free cooking and easy clean up. Plates are removable for washing in the sink or dishwasher.

So what do I do?

I’d suggest this appliance has not proved reasonably durable, particularly given it’s price and also the way it has been carefully and infrequently used. It should last much longer than this even under normal usage – it is a grill designed, presumably, to be used regularly. I presume the coating was faulty – lack of adhesion maybe.

Your claim is against John Lewis and I would inform them that, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, this product has not met the durability requirement and should be repaired, replaced, or an adequate refund given. It is their responsibility to handle your problem, not the manufacturer.

It’s interesting that you can buy this, seemingly, from a number of sources for £229. Sage’s discounted offer of £198 direct seems ungenerous. I found this in my dealings with Hotpoint; they offered a discounted fridge freezer (before recognising the lack of durability and providing one free of charge – a generous and unexpected resolution) but, in fact, the discounted price was little different from the price on the open market.

I think you are right malcolm. I have filled in the details in the faulty goods complaint generator so will see what happens.

Alfa – Your example is one where general advice from Which? on durability could be useful to many people.

A manufacturer’s guarantee often excludes certain parts that will have a limited life or would be replaced during routine servicing (in cars etc.). In the case of Sage Appliances, which appear to be made by the Breville Group and one of the conditions of their guarantee is:
“10. This warranty excludes defects caused by the product not being used in accordance with instructions, accidental damage, misuse or being tampered with by unauthorised persons. The replacement warranty also excludes breakages and consumable items such as kneading blade and pan.” If the grill plates are considered as consumable items then this information should be in the instructions and I believe that the information should have been available at the point of sale.

In your case I would make a claim for poor durability under the Consumer Rights Act and try to negotiate a free repair, a partial refund (taking into account the amount of time you have had the product) or a bigger discount than you have been offered.

Where do you draw the line on what is considered a consumable?

I have a frying pan with a 10-year guarantee that is likely to get hotter, more use and more utensil contact than the grill plates so expecting more than 2½ years use from them is not unreasonable. Utensils don’t even touch the top ribbed surface as it is lifted from the food by the handle, but they have both deteriorated at the same rate.

This type of letter is usually a joint effort, so will most likely go out in the morning based on the suggested Which? format.

I do not think a part such as a non-stick aluminium plate could be regarded as a consumable, unless it was clearly stated in the literature that it would need regular replacement. Something that was prone to wear through regular use, like a drive belt, carbon brushes, brake pads on your car, are consumables,

Precisely. I would like clear information available prior to purchase.

I bought a Panasonic breadmaker a couple of years ago and wondered how long the non-stick pan would last, having read that these are not cheap to replace. As it happens it has survived very well.

It might be worth letting the manufacturer know about the problem too. Although they have no legal responsibility for faulty goods they can be very helpful in my experience.

Alfa, I agree with that “superior” grill plates ought to offer a service life similar to that of a high quality saucepan.

Many of the latter do now come with 10 year (or longer) guarantees.

Cheap non stick coatings are another matter though. Some years ago I had a cheap (ex Lidl) “George Formby” grill and the (inadvised) use of “fake butter” on it caused it to shed its teflon coating.

Manufacturers have mastered how non-slip coatings based on PTFE can be bonded to cookware – quite a challenge if you think about it. I suspect that there was a manufacturing fault.

I think Alfa has been wise not to put the grill plates in the dishwasher, despite Sage saying this is OK. Aluminium is best kept out of dishwashers and since the heaters are an integral part of the grill plates there is the risk of moisture entering the heater and causing a breakdown in the electrical insulation.

And I have a reply from John Lewis:

Thank you for contacting John Lewis and Partners.

I am sorry to learn that your grill plates are no longer non-stick and now unusable. I hope we would be able to help you out through this.

Upon checking your order details this order was already out of our returns policy and your 2 year guarantee is already beyond the coverage period. Regrettably, there is no possible way of resolving your concern.

If there is anything that I can help you with, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

From the JL website: “We offer outstanding guarantees in addition to always honouring the manufacturers’ guarantees. All our guarantees are in addition to your statutory rights.”

You could ask them what is meant by statutory rights. The only good news is that they did not ask you to deal with the manufacturer.

Tell us that you are not going to give up now, Alfa. 🙂

I don’t give up that easily.
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-are-my-statutory-rights-and-when-do-they-apply

(I haven’t read it properly yet)

alfa, What JL have told you is nonsense. It is not a question of their returns policy nor of the guarantee. Your “statutory rights” are embodied in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/contents/enacted). That is the way you can “resolve your concern”.
Clause 9.3 says:
“What statutory rights are there under a goods contract?
9 Goods to be of satisfactory quality
………….
(3)The quality of goods includes their state and condition; and the following aspects (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—
(a)fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied;
(b)appearance and finish;
(c)freedom from minor defects;
(d)safety;
(e)durability”.

I’d suggest your claim is for inadequate durability. JLP are obliged legally to deal with this and, if you are not happy with the outcome, you can suggest taking them to the small claims court. The court fee is based on the amount you’re claiming, plus interest.

Claim amount Paper form fee Online claim fee
Up to £300……….. £35 ……………………….£25

It is an offence for them to deny your legal rights.

I can find no evidence that the grill plates are regarded as consumables.

When making a claim for faulty goods under my statutory rights it has helped to point out that the company is breaking the law by denying me these rights or even expecting me to deal with the manufacturer.

It may be that JL is being difficult because no spares are available. I expect that many would choose the discount on a new grill, but even at the discounted price they might still be making a profit.

A reply from JL:
Thank you for your email to our Customer Services team regarding your Sage grill. I am sorry to learn the non-stick coating is coming away from the plates and I can appreciate this is disappointing. Please be assured this can be swiftly resolved.

Due to the nature of the issue you are experiencing, there are various external factors that could have caused this such as cleaning products (detergents and cloths etc) that have been used to clean the plates and storage of the grill. With this in mind, we would require the grill to be inspected by a Sage-authorised repair agent to confirm any design or manufacturing faults, if you wish to per sue a claim under Consumer Rights Act 2015.
To arrange for the grill to be inspected, I would recommend contacting Sage on 0808 178 1650 and their opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Please ensure you are with the grill prior to calling as they will require some details from the machine itself.

If the engineer confirms the non-stick coating coming off the grill is an inherent fault (there since purchase), design fault or that the issue cannot be repaired, I kindly ask you send a copy of the report in response to this email. Upon receiving this we will contact you to discuss a resolution under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Please note that if the reports does not confirm the above, the cost of rectifying the issue will be on a chargeable basis.

I hope this email has provided some further clarity on the next steps.

I’m sorry to hear this, especially since you have supplied photos as requested. Assuming that they were as clear as other ones you have posted on Convo (I remember your kettle problem) they should have demonstrated any evidence of abrasion. These grill plates are supposed to cope with a dishwasher, which I would rate as harsh compared with cloths and most cleaning materials.

Yes, a retailer is entitled to examine a faulty product for evidence of misuse. A Sage-authorised repair agent will be familiar with the product but are hardly independent. Unless there is one locally, there will be the cost of postage and the agent is entitled to charge, though hopefully this could be recovered if it is agreed that the problem is not caused by abuse. If the grill has worked fine for more than a year it is questionable whether it is possible to demonstrate that a fault existed at the time of purchase, and I think that the issue is simply one of whether the grill was sufficiently durable, taking into account the price paid.

I’d be tempted to join Which? Legal, but bear in mind that if no new plates are available any refund would take into account that you have had use of the grill for over two years.

alfa’s claim is about (lack of) durability. As I understand it the “fault” is a failure to meet the contract, in this case a lack “satisfactory quality”.

It is reasonable for a retailer to ask for evidence that the problem is not caused by misuse or abuse but any qualified person who will provide a report would be adequate. I see no need to use a Sage agent.

I’ve acknowledged that the problem concerns durability. The Sage agent will be familiar with the product and possibly other examples of this fault. On the other hand, I would not consider them as impartial and JL has given no indication of the cost of inspection.

As I mentioned, photographs should provide good evidence of mistreatment and I wonder what an independent expert would be able to do. One test I would carry out is to check for overheating because PTFE-based non-stick surfaces start to degrade above 250-260°C, though if that was a problem I expect that Alfa would have complained about food being burned before the coating started to fall off. If there is no evidence of overheating, I can’t see anyone other than an analytical chemist being able to contribute a useful report.

Many times it has been said on the convos that you get what you pay for.

Cuisinart do a grill with a 5 year guarantee that can be purchased for £89.99.
Lidl did a similar looking grill a few months ago for £39.99 with a 3 year guarantee, here in 2017 it is £34.99 http://offers.kd2.org/en/gb/lidl/pbVZt/
https://www.lidl-service.com/static/149614320/270355_EN.pdf
.
.
And the Sage
.
.
Neither Cuisinart or Lidl say the grill plate is excluded from the guarantee.

So by paying 3-10 times more should get you a grill that will last a lot longer than 2½ years when only used a couple of times a month and cleaned according to instructions and not in a dishwasher.

Therefore the Sage grill definitely has a durability problem.

Interestingly, non-glowing reviews seem to have been removed from John Lewis as they were not quite that glowing when I looked some time ago and at least one review had a moan about the probe.

I don’t think JL are being totally reasonable.
It is reasonable to inspect the grill.
It is not reasonable for me to get it examined at a Sage-authorised repair agent who probably doesn’t exist. JL know all faults go to Sage, they also know small appliance repairers barely exist these days as they charge more for repairs than the appliances are worth.

I think Sage Appliances has changed. When my Sage toaster failed under warranty a couple of years ago, John Lewis told me all problems with Sage Appliances were dealt with by Sage and they were very good to deal with then.

Sage have been in the UK for 6 years now and I suspect their products are not living up to their high prices and expectations hence their bad reviews on trustpilot.

The problem with assessing “durability” is, if a retailer is obdurate, the need, inconvenience and expense to find and commission an independent definitive analysis. That is rarely possible. In alfa’s case I suggest that the test of “reasonableness” is the one that should be used. Given alfa’s assertion that this expensive product has been little used, cleaned carefully, reported to JL as beginning to lose its non-stick surface surface within the 2 year warranty, and now unusable after a little more than 2 years careful use, I’d suggest JL should be reasonable and accept the product has not lasted as long as it should without the need for such hassle.

JL could recognise that if they treat alfa unfairly they will lose goodwill and future business. Equally, JL should recognise that they have themselves been supplied with a product by Sage that may have been – probably was – of “Unsatisfactory Quality”.

Perhaps alfa could complain to the JL CEO and suggest that, through her local store, they return it to Sage for their examination and meantime arrange a suitable deal for a replacement.

Alternatively alfa might have paid by credit card and make a claim on the card issuer.

I have never, when I have had a durability complaint (only a very few) had to commission independent testing. But a visit to a local domestic repairer for an opinion may be worthwhile.

I think it is high time that manufacturers were specific about what parts they regard as consumables. I have spent some time looking into this, Alfa, and can see no indication that your grill plates are regarded as consumables and they are not listed as spares on the website.

You have been told by Sage that the grill plates are ‘perishable and replaceable’. I suggest that this deserves to be challenged.

Brand engineering can result in essentially the same product being sold at very different prices. I wonder if the Sage grill is similar to a Breville product but is cosmetically different and celebrity endorsed. Nevertheless, when making a claim under the Consumer Rights Act, the price paid for the goods is a relevant factor in deciding how long they can be expected to last.

This is part of the instruction leaflet for Sage grill:
DURABLE NON-STICK COATING Cooking on a non-stick surface minimises the need for oil, food does not stick and cleaning is easier. Any discolouration that may occur will only detract from the appearance of the grill and will not affect the cooking performance. When cleaning the non-stick coating, do not use metal (or other abrasive) scourers. Wash with warm soapy water. Remove stubborn residue with a non abrasive plastic scouring pad or nylon washing brush.
NOTE The cooking plates are coated with a non-stick surface, do not use abrasives.

The coating is described as “durable” (so not in need of regular replacement). alfa has followed the cleaning instruction. I’d follow through with John Lewis at the top and perhaps give a link to this Convo.

I think it is high time that manufacturers were specific about what parts they regard as consumables“. Perhaps examples could be given where manufacturers have been deceitful about what are clearly consumables and what are not?

I would suggest that where a part, unique to a manufacturer’s product, is not made generally and readily available to the consumer, either directly or through stockists, then that part cannot be regarded as a consumable. Of course many parts are made available that are “spares” to replace failed components – either faulty or worn out. The distinction, to me, is whether the part needs to be routinely replaced by all users. Such parts should be listed in the user instructions as consumables (or whatever description applies).

When I search for “parts and accessories” for grills and sandwich makers on the Sage website shop, it delivers “0”. They are not consumables and the conclusion is they must have been faulty.

Well spotted wavechange, it is a rebranded Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill. There is a lovely 2 star review on Amazon.com that I understand completely.
https://www.amazon.com/Breville-BGR820XL-Smart-Grill/dp/B003SIN0BC

I have always ignored the celebrity endorsement and was pleased the products were only labeled Sage, but Heston’s name doesn’t seem to be linked with Sage quite the same as it used to be.

The CEO is one route that could be taken.

The review from Amazon:

A home-grilling love story gone bad.
As a big fan of contact grilling, I’d worn out my George Foreman grill after several years of use and went looking for a serious upgrade and found this grill. I was initially concerned about the hefty price, but reading the reviews and looking at the pictures, I’d decided that it was clearly a high quality piece of equipment that would last and be worth the investment. When the grill came, I was not disappointed – the build quality on this thing is approaching commercial grade; everything from the dials, to the finish, right on down to the heavy duty A/C wall plug. If I was another home cooking appliance in my kitchen and had to sit next to this thing, I would feel seriously intimidated. The Breville Smart Grill isn’t just for looks either, it cooks every bit as even and quick as every review says: chicken breasts in 5 minutes, whole thick bone-in steaks in 10 minutes, veggies, grill lines and all, the list goes on and on. After one week, I fell in love with this machine – I practically wouldn’t eat anything that hadn’t first been electrically heat-snuggled by my snazzy smart grill. After our initial honeymoon, and a good 4 months into our home-grilling marriage, the Breville Smart Grill broke my heart.

When we first started cooking together, nothing, and I mean nothing stuck to her surface. I’d grill something, wipe her down, and enjoy my chicken/beef/veggies, but after a while I had to start prying my food from her surface – in short, she got clingy. I thought to myself, alright nobody is perfect, I still love her – but then the chipping began. Her beautiful, diamond like non stick surface began to come off – she was a smooth customer when we first met, but in just 4 months of loving, albeit often use, her surface became rough. Prying food quickly turned into violent struggles to retrieve my meal from her death grip without burning my hands in the process; a couple times she almost hurt me, and all I wanted was my dinner. We became distant, I started eating out, I couldn’t even look at her when I went into the kitchen…I even unplugged her for a while. The last straw was when she started to fall apart on me – literally.

After I’d recovered from our last couple fights, I plugged her back in and tried to give things another go, and that’s when things got real bad. Not only would she not let go of my food, but now when I lifted her lovely steel handle she clung so hard to my chicken tenders that she’d detach her bottom plate….that’s when I knew it was over. She doesn’t cook for me anymore, she just sits on my kitchen counter and scares the crap out of my toaster…sometimes I let her burn some boneless chicken thighs for my dog, but that’s about it. Every now and then, when I go into the kitchen, I see her and think of the good times, like when she grilled all those steaks for my buddies and I during the football game, or when she helped me impress this girl (she didn’t mind my seeing women, as long as they didn’t try to cook for me) with some excellent grilled salmon. That’s what I do now, I just try to remember when things were great between us, and I try not to think about how bad things got – it’s better this way…..it just wasn’t meant to be.

“Brands

Over the past 80 years Breville has grown to become an iconic Australian brand and has enhanced people’s lives through thoughtful design and brilliant innovation, delivering kitchen products to over 50 countries around the globe. Breville is the kitchen appliance brand that engages people with ‘food thinking’. Delivering innovation and insights that empower people’s potential to do things more impressively or easily than they’d thought possible in their own kitchen.

In May 2013, the Group launched a range of 17 of its premium designed and developed products into the United Kingdom under a new Group owned brand called Sage™. The brand identity and positioning of Sage™ is aligned closely to the new global Breville brand identity and ‘food thinking’ strategy.”

“Premium” should last longer than 2½ years, unless alfa has used emery paper or runs a toasted sandwich bar.

Incidentally, Which? list a small number of reasonably-reviewed freestanding cookers at around, or less than, the cost of your sandwich/grill contraption. Admittedly they would take up more space on the worktop, but is your product in the overpriced Dyson camp?

Exactly malcolm.

It is a great shame that there is no longer a proper consumer protection [a.k.a. trading standards] service where the ordinary consumer can get an opinion, and possibly help, with a claim about safety, durability, satisfactory quality, and related concerns. I do not consider the Citizens’ Advice service an adequate substitute.

Retailers, even the better ones like John Lewis & Partners, are aware that customers are on their own and cannot practically or financially pursue a complaint that is strongly resisted. In my view John Lewis are denying liability unreasonably given the evidence; I had expected better of them but they are getting very hard-nosed nowadays because of the commercial pressures. I agree that a letter from Alfa to the CEO would be a good way forward. In this instance I think Citizens’ Advice would also be capable of sending a letter to provide an extra degree of formality and render JLP’s response less defensible. But this all takes time and trouble, and meanwhile the appliance is out of action. Delay is a powerful weapon in defeating claims and retailers know it.

I too am sceptical about Citizens Advice. When I approached them about a problem they said they would pass it on the TS (why can I not do that directly) but they would not follow it up to see the outcome and did not keep records to accumulate complaints. If what I was told was correct then it is a waste-of-time service.

Consumers should be able to contact TS direct, expect a response, expect their complaint to be accumulated with others and to be visible to enquirers. And, of course, to see action taken when a complaint is clearly becoming more than isolated instances.

Retailers should be reminded that obstructing or denying a consumer their legal rights under the Sale of Goods Act (pre 2015 purchases) and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is a criminal offence and liable to prosecution. Which? could take some such cases to court to drive this point home. I’d be happy for some of my subscription to be used for this. Perhaps we could nominate prospective candidates?

Keep at it, alfa. It does seem strange that it’s been admitted that the plates are covered by the 5 year guarantee but you’re struggling to get them directly replaced. Buying a whole new grill would seem wasteful.

Remember you can always opt for the Which? Legal route if you continue to get stuck.

Cuisinart and Lidl have not explicitly excluded the plates from their 5 and 3 year guarantees. but alfa’s is a Sage with a 2 year guarantee. I have seen nothing in the literature that excludes them either nor describes them as a consumable. I hope alfa keeps us up to date. Maybe Which? could take this on as a “Briefcase” as it seems to illustrate the lack of retailer recognition of consumer rights and a good example of lack of durability. Time these concepts were tested.

We’ll be able to take it on for Brief Cases if alfa opts for the Which? Legal route, as that’s where those stories come from. There is of course a cost for that service though, so it’s up to alfa to decide. We’ve been following up by email, too 🙂

In Alfa’s case we have been given far more information than in most Brief Cases, so this case could be of educational value for those who want to pursue their consumer rights. It’s high time that manufacturers are required to be explicit about which components are regarded as consumables.

I agree. I was not aware that only cases that had been dealt with by the Which? Legal Service could be discussed in a Conversation. That is clearly a good source for articles but should not be an exclusive source.

With her knowledge and experience I feel that Alfa is more than capable of pursuing her claim against John Lewis. In this case, getting the legal service involved would probably save some time and effort and relieve some of the pressure of taking action against a big organisation, but that comes at a price. Their specimen letters might be more lawyerly but sometimes the ordinary approach conveying a sense of the consumer’s emotions can be just as, if not more, persuasive.

If we had a personal messaging function within Which? Conversation we could more easily collaborate in such matters.

To clarify – it isn’t just Which? Legal cases that can be discussed in a Conversation – Malcolm mentioned Brief Cases specifically, which is a mag feature that the Legal team writes from the experiences of Legal members 🙂

I’d be more than happy to feature alfa’s story in a new Conversation once it reaches a conclusion.

Brief Cases appear occasionally as Convos when they are complete, such as
“4 MARCH 2019 / MOTORING
Brief Cases: faulty second hand car fiasco”

I agree that the case should be completed before it is published.
I do think that John Lewis should be taken to task by Which? for apparently attempting to mislead alfa:
Upon checking your order details this order was already out of our returns policy and your 2 year guarantee is already beyond the coverage period. Regrettably, there is no possible way of resolving your concern.“.
Consumer Rights Act guidance tells us
It is also against the law to mislead consumers about their legal rights – this could lead to a criminal prosecution under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

This attitude towards customers complaints has been reported on numerous occasions and I believe Which? should be campaigning to put a stop to it. Ignorance is no defence, particularly for a major organisation like JLP (and others).

Thank you, George. I was pleased to hear that Alfa’s case could be eligible as a Conversation piece when it is over.

I agree with Malcolm. I think we are entitled to have much higher expectations of an organisation like John Lewis since a huge part of their public reputation is based on their tradition of fair and honest trading.

I am sure JLP try to train their Partners in correct and appropriate responses to customers, but unfortunately workers are exposed to so many messages these days from other companies that – as individual citizens – they deal with or read about, that the authorised version loses its authority. Must try harder.

I am very happy to report I now have a working grill thanks to John Lewis. 🙂

I had to order replacement plates from Sage who are rather slow, and John Lewis reimbursed me after they arrived.

Well done. Steaks at the weekend is it?

Bring your own plates.

🙂 Rib-eye is definitely back on the menu. 🙂

What I don’t have is a proper invoice or receipt from Sage. They are not good at communications and slow to respond if they ever do. Twice I have asked them for a receipt or invoice.

The first time they resent:
Your Sage Appliances order has shipped.
We would like to thank you for being a valued customer and hope that you enjoy your new product.

I replied with thank you it has arrived but I still need a receipt. That was 11 days ago now and they have not replied.

I totally agree with Wavechange’s comments above. I’m fed up with retailers citing the manufacturer’s warranty when goods turn out to be defective. A warranty is a contractual right that is in addition to, and does not replace, the consumer’s statutory rights. In cases where the warranty has expired, retailers often try to mislead consumers that they have no rights, which is a breach of Regulation 5(4)(k) of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, an offence under Regulation 9 punishable under Regulation 13 by a fine and/or up to two years’ imprisonment.

I have become an experienced litigant-in-person, and I am now quick to litigate whenever a retailer refuses to honour my statutory rights. Which Legal Service is a great help to me with this. For example, three years ago, I took a BMW franchised dealer to court who tried to fob me off that I had no rights after my car’s BMW warranty had expired; I won.

You have sometimes mentioned making claims under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for purchase on credit cards. I’ve never had to make a claim but know this protection is available.

True, but I’ve never had a Section 75 claim ending up in court (yet). I have a big one coming up that might do though.

Best of luck and let us know how you get on, NFH. I’ve not had to make a Section 75 claim yet, never mind go to court. I presume that we are expected to make reasonable efforts to recover money ourselves before making a Section 75 claim.

Making a Section 75 claim means first contacting the credit card issuer, and failing that, issuing a claim in the Small Claims track of the County Court against both the merchant and credit card issuer as joint defendants. Most card issuers settle quickly, as they have in-house lawyers who know consumer law very well. I’ve had plenty that reached the first stage where the card issuer settled, but my next one might get to the second stage.

You are indeed expected to exhaust communication with the merchant before either the first or the second stage.

Thanks for that. I have not yet had to make a Section 75 claim but I pay by credit card when possible to provide this option.

Do you know if the card companies manage to recover money from retailers for Section 75 claims?

Yes, card issuers are entitled to recover their losses from merchants under Section 75(2). They have the means to do this via the card networks without legal action. If the merchant disagrees, the onus is on the merchant to take legal action against the card issuer, which would usually fail because of Section 75(2).

Thanks NFH. Next time a retailer tries to deny me my rights I might point this out.

I wonder if a Which? super-complaint could be useful way of putting an end to the way that many consumers are treated unfairly by retailers. Super-complaints are made via the Competition and Markets Authority and it looks as if the CMA may soon receive both government support and pressure to act decisively.

The Which? online guide to consumer rights is good, but I cannot find any links to the legislation (some might find this useful, particularly to quote a clausewhen pursuing a claim with a retailer). There are also a number of other useful “official” guides, one with Guidance on the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which gives plenty of examples and is for business as well as the consumer – they have rights also – and others that can be found under Business Companion https://www.businesscompanion.info/ . It would be useful if such links were included by Which?.

I am fully aware of my rights as a consumer, however, if a supplier is not willing to abide by the terms within the Act it is pointless. The act does state that a supplier can write whatever the hell they like into a contact and let’s face it a single consumer is extremely unlikely to be able to afford to take out private litigation against them. So in my experience this act does not protect the consumer in any way shape or form.

Yes they can, but their guarantee is in addition to your statutory rights. It’s not easy and certainly not fun to pursue your rights. I have not resorted to the small claims court, but I don’t think the costs are excessive. My biggest concern is that individuals can no longer rely on action by Trading Standards.

Wayne larnder says:
8 March 2019

Company’s like hyperstech are selling products like T WATCH which packed in after one and half days replaced battery still doesn’t work informed them and they said I’d have video said faulty watch for there so called exsperts could solve problem but video would just show watch LIEING on table so how can they solve problem without taking watch apart is my question I informed them of warranty and consumer rights act given them 14 days notice to replace or repair or refund they took notice of consumer rights leaving me a naff watch they also wanted me to send T WATCH back to in astonia at my exspence I don’t think so they treat customers with contempt could be a one fault with watch as they say everyone is talking about this over the internet they don’t apologise to customer there not interested in helping you they had your money and that’s that with them don’t purchase this T WATCH from hyperstech I beg you don’t they are joke

Wayne larnder says:
8 March 2019

Someone should govern what’s being sold over the internet web page doesn’t tell you anything where company is hyperstech are based in astonia web page is another company who gets payed for every customer they get hyperstech don’t recognise warranty’s or customers consumer rights they go by there policy which is show contempt to customer don’t ask any questions u ask like one question was how do you solve problem with T WATCH via video without taking said watch apart like normal watch repairers would do no answer to that question second question do you use X-ray vision to solve problem with your product via video still couldn’t answer that question very strange company

One way to check out a potential seller before you buy is to look at reviews. Many may be worthless but I suspect those that receive a lot of bad reviews are ones to avoid. Trustpilot give Hyperstech 69% “bad”……

Frances Nelson says:
12 March 2019

Hi, I bought a Samsung fridge freezer and it was delivered yesterday. I did as the delivery/installer said and did not turn on for four hours. I read the manual and set the temperature and put food in the fridge after the 4 hrs. This morning although the freezer reading states it is -23 it was only just cold so I put in a thermometer which says it is 2c just 1 colder than the fridge. I rang Samsung and they said I had to unplug and leave for 20 mins which is hard when it is such a massive fridge! I have now done this and I noticed that the fridge temp went from 0 to -23 in about 10 mins and it was set at 19? I rang the retailer and they won’t do anything till it has been left overnight without opening the freezer and will ring me in the morning to see if it has reached the correct temperature. I would like to refuse this fridge and get it replaced what are my rights? They keep saying they will send an engineer but I’m not happy to accept a fridge that needs an engineer from day 1…

If you have a freezer thermometer and it demonstrates that the freezer is nowhere near the correct temperature then either you are doing something wrong, and the retailer or Samsung should explain the correct procedure, or the appliance is faulty. As you are within 30 days of delivery you can opt for a refund or a replacement by the retailer – your choice – under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You will have to show there is a fault, but that simply means demonstrating the failure to achieve the right temperature after following the correct procedure. That is my understanding of the situation.

sue taylor says:
12 March 2019

can anyone advise, i was expecting to relocate, 3 days ago i signed the contract & paid a deposit and one months rent on a flat, due to unforeseeable matters my circumstances have changed. I asked for a return of my money and was informed I could not receive any money due to signing the contract and there was no ‘cooling off period’. Is this correct ?

It will depend on what the contract says. There is generally no cooling-off period in such an agreement because it is not ‘distance selling’. You saw the flat in advance, presumably knew the rental and other terms, and entered into a contract. It is indeed unfortunate that ‘unforeseeable matters’ have altered your circumstances but the landlord is not able to foresee them either so cannot be expected to release you from the contract prematurely and refund all you have paid. I think you might be entitled to return of the deposit, however, so long as you leave the property in exactly the same condition as it was in when you started the tenancy but there might be a retention if you did not give the required period of notice of termination.

sue says:
13 March 2019

Thanks John

Hi Sue – this is a tricky situation. John’s right that there likely isn’t a cooling-off period and that it would depend what’s in your contract. Given it’s likely to be quite a lot of money, it might be worth seeking legal advice about what your options are.
You can contact the Which? Legal service, which you might find helpful: https://legalservice.which.co.uk/

Mary Carey says:
12 March 2019

I had a new kitchen installed in 2016 with most of the appliances. The dishwasher is not heating the water I informed the company of this problem and they say it’s not their problem what are my statuary rights under the consumers act of 2015 please

I suggest you have a look at the advice on the Which? website: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product
The Act is here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/contents/enacted

Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act are against the person you paid for the product. If you paid the installer for the appliances then they are responsible even if they try to get you to deal with the company that supplied them or the manufacturer. If you purchased the appliances yourself, your rights are against the retailer and not the manufacturer.

By refusing to consider a claim for a faulty appliance within six years (five in Scotland) the company is breaking the law and it might be worth speaking to Citizens Advice. Best of luck, Mary.

If your dishwasher is out of warranty but does not now work correctly, then you may have a claim for lack of durability under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Assuming the dishwasher was correctly installed and used , and was not especially cheap, then you should expect it to work longer than 3 years. Presumably the heater has failed and you may, by taking this up with the person you bought it from, get a contribution towards a replacement heater. If the company you informed was your supplier then, as wavechange says, they have a legal obligation to address the problem for up to 6 years (5 in Scotland).

Which?, I think, offer template letters if you don’t feel able to construct a complaint yourself.

Not sure if anyone can help with this.
I bought a Gucci handbag from Secret Sales 2 years ago. The strap broke recently and I asked them if they could repair it and they said yes. So I sent them the bag back but after a month had passed by I hadn’t got my bag back, so I called them asking where was it.
They then told me they couldn’t repair it, as it was too long ago that I bought it. ( why I wasn’t told this originally is very annoying) So they said they would send it back to me.
Another month passed and now the situation is they can’t find the bag! They have offered me a refund but I don’t want this as I paid £500 for the bag and if I was to purchase now direct from Gucci it would be £800. They said they don’t work with Gucci anymore so can’t replace it. Do I have any rights here as why should I have to pay an additional £300 to replace the bag myself when this is their fault?

Sharon Prior says:
13 March 2019

Can someone advise me
I sent my wedding dress off to a specialist wedding dry cleaning company I found online. During the process of cleaning the detachable train, the decorative glitter came off (which was a key feature of the train). The dry cleaner blamed the manufacturers cleaning instructions, and the manufacturer said it was the dry cleaner. The dry cleaner engaged with an independent cleaning specialist company who found in their favour, and now the dry cleaner wants me to pay for the specialist’s report (£550) and the cost of the dry cleaning (£270). He is not returning my dress (which cost £11,500) until I make payment. I’ve maintained that my contract is with the dry cleaners, not the manufacture, and that the dry cleaners were negligent as they should have spot-tested their cleaning methods to ensure due care. Do I have any rights here?

This would seem relevant:
Negligence
Where a trader supplies a service, they owe a duty of care to the consumer and to others who might be affected by their work. If their work is substandard, the duty of care may be breached and the person who suffers a loss may be able to make a claim. This applies even where there is no direct contract between the parties – for example, here the claim is made by one of the consumer’s friends or relatives, or where the trader is a subcontractor who is not working directly for the consumer. The duty of care is similar to the standard of ‘reasonable care and skill’ (see ‘What the consumer can expect (statutory rights)’ above), and it applies to the standard of work rather than guaranteeing a particular outcome………

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, certain standards apply to every contract for the supply of services. A
trader supplying a service must meet the following standards:
the service must be carried out with reasonable care and skill. This means that the trader must, as a minimum, work to the same standard as any reasonably competent person in that trade or profession. The law does not imply that any particular result will be achieved (for example, a competent doctor will not necessarily be able to treat every patient successfully) but many contracts will have express terms as to what result the customer can expect from the service. To minimise the risk of disagreement, it is advisable to state clearly where a particular result has been agreed and where there is a risk of the desired result not being achieved

I’d suggest the question to address is whether the manufacturers instructions were adequate and whether the dry cleaner adhered to those instructions. Does the independent report (if indeed it was) deal with this?

Incidentally, did you ask for an independent report to be commissioned, agree who would do it and agree the cost?