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Extended warranties – surely one is enough?

A washing machine with rainbow-coloured laundry

We heard from someone who bought a washing machine with an extended warranty, only to be asked to buy another one a few months later. Has this ever happened to you?

If I’d paid money for a washing machine that came with an extended warranty, I wouldn’t want the manufacturer trying to sell me another warranty just months later. But that’s exactly what happened to a Which? member.

We’ve been contacted by John Short, who splashed out on a washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher, all made by Miele, in early 2011.

All appliances came with Miele’s two-year manufacturer guarantee as standard, but when John bought the appliance he got a free, promotional 10-year warranty for the washing machine and a five-year warranty for the tumble dryer.

But just 90 days after the purchase, John recieved standard two-year manufacturer warranty confirmations from Miele and also offered him the chance to purchase extended warranties for the washing machine and tumble dryer, again for £149 each. To make matters worse, the washing machine warranty he was offered at this point was only for five years – so £149 for a warranty that was only half as long as his original one.

Mistake or carelessness?

John wrote back to Miele, but received no reply. Instead, a little while later he received identical letters asking him if he’d like to purchase extended warranties for £149 each.

John wrote to Miele, but again no response was received. Shortly after, a third set of identical letters arrived, again inviting him to pay £149 for any extended warranty he wished to purchase ‘for peace of mind.’

It was only after John spoke to Miele directly that the manufacturer started to resolve the issue. As a courtesy, they extended the warranty on his dishwasher for free (the only appliance John had not bought an extended warranty for) and sent out new certificates for all three warranties.

But in the paperwork that followed, Miele continuously failed to get John’s details correct. The mistakes included incorrect postcodes, his name, warranty-end dates and serial numbers. The sloppy letters and certificates caused just as much frustration for John as Miele trying to sell him an extended warranty in the first place.

When we asked Miele about trying to sell warranties to people who already had extended warranties in place, it told us:

We have stringent controls in place to ensure that customers do not receive conflicting or misleading communication from us. There will, however, be isolated instances where our processes and communication planning fail to prevent a letter or warranty offer reaching a customer who holds a promotional guarantee.’

Has this happened to you?

If a company has tried to sell you an extended warranty you already own, assuming the company are already aware of your existing warranty, it could be a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations 2008 and a form of mis-selling.

You also have a 45-day cooling off period where you have a right to cancel any extended warranty.

More details about extended warranties can be found in our consumer rights guides. Have you bought an extended warranty only for the company to try and re-sell you the same warranty?

[UPDATED due to factual corrections on 5 August 2013]

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers should come with a manufacturer’s warranty for ten years. Expensive extended warranties should be unnecessary and those paying for them need to be aware that they are profitable for the companies offering them.

A manufacturer’s warranty should not be expected to cover abuse (e.g. damage to a washing machine caused by coins in trouser pockets) or over-use (e.g a machine used for a large family), but it is easy for manufacturers to record total operating hours.

A ten year manufacturer’s warranty on consumer durables could avoid many problems, such as those mentioned by Adrian in his introduction.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

This is the perennial problem of product durability. Inevitably guaranteeing a product for 5 or 10 years will add cost for the risk involved – whether this is a voluntary extended warranty or included in the initial price. For some quality products and manufacturers this additional risk, and therefore cost, should be small, but if you buy a cheap appliance it is likely to have a shorter life before it needs to be repaired or ditched.
The Sale of Goods Act includes a requirement for reasonable durability which, for most appliances, should be beyond the 1 or 2 year warranty; it is presumably little used formally as I don’t know where data exists on what should be a reasonable life for appliances. This is where Consumers Associations should have enough test and reliability data to give advice. It would be a service to consumers if it were addressed.
Meantime, as with cars, if decent manufacturers begin to back their products with decent unconditional warranties then they will gain a commercial advantage, and others may be forced to up their game.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

ISE offers a ten year warranty on all their washing machines. They are expensive but don’t cost as much as some other manufacturers’ models with a two year warranty. I don’t know much about ISE but recall some positive comments in other Conversations. When my elderly washing machine fails I shall be looking at ISE and any other manufacturers that offer a similar warranty.

I live in hope that the EU will push for manufacturers’ extended warranties on environmental grounds.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Never heard of ISE before but just been on their website and it is certainly interesting reading.

Our washing machine might need repair or renewal in the not-too-distant future, and I really like what I’ve read on the ISE website.

Having sensitive skin, I’ve been dreading having to buy a new eco-friendly washing machine as the two just don’t go together. ISE machines do up to 7 rinses, have other very useful sensible features, backed up with a 10 year parts and labour warranty

If further investigation doesn’t throw up anything unfavourable, I think I have found our next machine !!! Thanks for the mention Wavechange.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Alfa – Rather than take this discussion off-topic, I suggest you have a look at all the pages of a Conversation about the possible reasons why some people suffer skin irritation caused by washing machine detergents: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/bio-non-bio-best-laundry-detergents-washing-clothes-allergies

This mentions ISE washing machines, which rinse thoroughly and have hot & cold fill (unlike most modern UK machines).

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

A problem with significantly extended warranties (5-10 years) would be that more appliances would be repaired instead of scrapped and sales of new appliances reduced. Perhaps this is why manufacturers are reluctant? More repairs would require more local (UK) labour so as well as being more friendly to resources so there would also be more employment and repair businesses? Which is better?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

From an environmental point of view, there is no contest. It’s high time we start producing more durable ‘consumer durables’ and ones that are easy to take apart and repair. If companies are forced to provide decent warranties, either by legislation or by consumer demand for durable products, it is fair to all manufacturers. If the companies want to provide their own service facilities, that’s fine.

I would not mind a few job losses in the companies that provide expensive extended warranties, sometimes with surprising exclusions. Extended warranties seem better value for money than they used to be, and I’m very glad that Which? exposed the way they were being forced on us by electrical retailers in the 80s or 90s.

Profile photo of jimbo123
Member

As a person who use to sell these THEY are not worth the paper they are written on

Profile photo of current
Member

Right or wrong I decided in July 13 to take an extended warranty on my one year old laptop after 12 month.
I contacted the manufacturer site and opted for the 36 month extended warranty only to discover after completing the transaction to find that they considered it to expire in July 2015 ?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I don’t buy extended warranties, but I believe it is standard practice to for an extended warranty to be described as the total length of cover, including that provided by manufacturer. Those involved in marketing do their best to make their products look attractive at first glance.

If the length of warranty was made clear on the application form you should demand a refund.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Oops. The last sentence should read: ‘If the length of warranty was NOT made clear …’ 🙁

Member
Keith says:
27 July 2013

Many years ago a solicitor of mine (before statutory rights) said never sign up to guarantees. A manufacturer can’t say something may only last a year or two. Perhaps five years is a reasonable minimum guarantee period for an average appliance but when it comes to Miele products, especially laundry products, you should expect at least ten years average use because you are pay a premium for many of their products. On their website under washing machines ‘Miele Quality’ tab they say their machines are designed, built and tested for up to 20 years of reliable use and high performance. But then I suppose they know there are enough people out there who will pay twice while they laugh all the way to the bank.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Guarantees generally say they do not affect your statutory rights. I believe Miele say they will keep spare parts available for 20 years (on the basis their machines should function that long, but probably with some attention). Our Miele dishwasher lasted 13 years before it became uneconomic to repair (Miele spares are not cheap and I believe only Miele-appointed engineers can repair, not independents) We replaced it with another Miele, £600, bought online for £500 with £50 of consumables. On offer was a 10 year (total) warranty – parts, labour or replacement – for £149. We would not normally touch extended warranties but felt this offered reasonable value and peace of mind for 10 years – just over £1 a week total cost. The dishwasher performs very well indeed, as did the last one.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It is good that guarantees/warranties state that they do not affect your statutory rights, but it would be better if it was mandatory to mention the Sale of Goods Act. I have yet to see any reference to this in manufacturers’ documentation.

You are right to raise the issue of availability of spare parts, Malcolm. I hope that someone will tell me that I am wrong, but I do not believe there is any requirement for manufacturers to hold spares for a fixed period, though certain trade associations have pushed their members to do this.

Some pattern parts and generic spares for popular models of major domestic appliances are fairly readily available, and the quality is not necessarily inferior. My washing machine motor and pump failed within ten years but the generic spares have lasted more than twice as long. Some Miele spares, including genuine parts, are available online – eSpares for example.

I think I would be tempted by the ten year warranty you mention, but I reckon this should be included in the price. Perhaps add £50 – £100 to the price and deny the insurance company a profitable sale. 🙂

Member
Gerard Phelan says:
27 July 2013

In February 2003 I bought a freezer from John Lewis. It came with a 2 year guarantee. Shortly afterwards I received a letter from Homeserve offering me an extended warranty to cover a third year for what seemed a lot of money. However I was most upset to receive a second letter a few days later addressed to my wife (a lady whom I have never met!) offering her an extended warranty at a CHEAPER PRICE! We(!) continued to receive regular letters offering warrantys for a number of years. Now 10 years later my Hotpoint freezer continues to work perfectly.

Member
Richard A says:
29 July 2013

I have never bought an extended warranty, on the basis that all the money saved will help towards (or exceed) the cost of repair or replacement when the need arises.

Member
Tina Wright says:
16 August 2013

My husband is an actuary and we have never bought an extended warranty since these are always over priced despite looking a good option when you buy them, Most of the extra you pay goes into commission for the sellers and the insurance company profits since all of the appliances are designed so that they do not go wrong during the extended period and those that do are often classed as due to misuse so they are still not covered.