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The most frustrating flaws in everyday products

Angry man pulling hair out

‘Tumble dryers that don’t dry your clothes’. That was recently voted as the most frustrating flaw in an everyday product as uncovered by our tests. What else is grinding your gears?

Have you got an appliance at home that isn’t up to the task? Feel like throwing your latest gizmo at a wall?

The testing we do here at Which? doesn’t just rate how well different appliances stack up against each other. We also reveal flaws with products and expose the claims that really are too good to be true.

Thanks to our latest survey, we’ve identified which of those flaws wind people up the most.

Top frustrating flaws revealed

To find out which product flaws have proven to be the most irritating, we gathered 10 examples from our tests. These included smartphones that have less accessible memory than advertised, washing machines not reaching 60˚C on the cotton 60˚C program and advertised mile per gallon figures that aren’t reproducible in real life.

We then asked more than 1,000 Which? members to rate how frustrated they were with each flaw. This gave us the following top five frustrations:

1. Automatic tumble dryers not drying clothes.
2. Apps and services like LoveFilm disappearing from smart TVs.
3. Lightbulbs not as bright as they claim (as revealed by Which? tests).
4. Bagless vacs claim no loss of suction, but our tests show they do.
5. Mile per gallon figures not matching up to real life.

Soggy surprises from your tumble dryer

Automatic tumble dryers that leave clothes wet came in at number one. For those unsure what an automatic dryer is – it’s a tumble dryer that doesn’t require you to set how long you want the dryer to heat your clothes for. Instead, you set the dryer going and a sensor inside the drum should keep an eye on moisture levels of clothes. Once it detects clothes are dry, the dryer stops. A good sensor should tailor drying times to every load.

However, our tests show that quite a lot of automatic tumble dryers we’ve tested stop prematurely, leaving clothes wet.

You can read more about the issues we’ve uncovered, who the biggest culprits are and what Which? is doing about these flaws in the September issue of Which? magazine.

But we want to hear what’s getting on your nerves. Have you got a product, appliance or gizmo that isn’t up to scratch? Or have you been affected by one of the issues above? Go on, have a rant.

Comments
Member

Which? I see the makings of a Which campaign in this thread. We want regulations on the availability and price of spares. I suggest: All separate parts to be available as spares for a reasonable lifetime (with provision for the minister to state what this should be). The mark up on spares to be less than 250% of the cost of the spare to the manufacturer. For any part not available or not meeting the cost rules, drawings must be made available on line, so that parts may be made by 3rd parties, who would be protected from any patent or copyright issues.
With this legislation in place, we should see the emergence of online spares manufacturers using additive manufacturing (3 D printing) techniques.

Member

I agree that we should be pushing for spares to be available for a reasonable length of time but wonder if this is more likely to be achieved via EU legislation. Not everyone sees the benefits of EU legislation to benefit the environment but making spares available long term could help convince more people of its value.

I expect that manufacturers would claim that the cost of spares has to be high but I believe the number of spares involved could be greatly reduced if they did not make so many trivial changes to their products.

Your aims are ambitious DorsetMike, but thats the way we need to be thinking.

Member
CarolineMouse says:
25 August 2014

I agree with wavechan and dorsetmike I have repaired several parts in my fridges with tape rather than pay the exorbitant costs of each item . Standardisation of parts like these would make them much cheaper for both the manufacturer and customer.
What about products that end their lives back with the manufacturer to be reused/recycled making them the responsibility of the manufacturer, would they not then think more carefully about these issues?

Member

We have a Neff dishwasher that requires a new microfilter This is of (deliberate) poor construction including a strip of plastic to hold the stainless steel filter in the shape of a cylinder The microfilter is not currently available without having to buy another filter which is of good construction and does not wear out and is therefore completely unnecessary.Total cost £25.I regard this as fraudulent trading. How do we stop it? ( I understand that some Siemans dishwashers also suffer from this very same built in wear out defect).Anybody know how to repair this microfilter?

Member

A way that we can stop the abuse is for Which? in its test results to note that bad design, which members have noted, that is still present in newer models, is commented on and marked down in the test results. Ideally, the suspect components should be subjected to accelerated testing to see if they fail.
It is apparent that many manufacturers no longer test their components to destruction or to survive 7 million cycles of load / unload. This was normal in the 1960s in the aftermath of the Comet air disasters, which were due to fatigue failure. Plastics however do not fail in the same way, they creep, lose plasticiser, go brittle and break.
Come on Which?. Show some initiative, link tests on new products with “old” components to failures in previous designs. We might then get some action from manufacturers.

Member

I agree that it would be good to know more about poor design and anything that will affect the durability of products. Failure of plastics for the reasons you have indicated is a major issue, but it’s difficult to accelerate this to estimate how long plastic components will last.

Member

A good product designer would be able to spot a poor choice of materials. This is exactly where Which could add value compared to user reviews; most users would not have the expertise to identify different polymers and assess their suitability.

Member

jak, exactly right. Most products are designed using existing materials and manufacturing methods with known characteristics. There is no excuse for early failure of plastics in fridge-freezers, inadequate strength of components, for example. However, the effect of poor design in practice often takes time to reveal itself and may not be apparent when the product is brand new. This is perhaps where the wide membership of Which? could help by reporting problems that have arisen in normal use. If they were encouraged to report defects that arise in fridge fittings, as an example, warnings might be given of the likelihood of similar defects in new versions; just asking the manufacturer whether they have made any changes might help?
To make this manageable, in view of the large number of products Which? review, it would need to concentrate, I suspect, on the key offenders. Perhaps we could suggest them?

Member

Agreed. So how about a longitudinal tracking survey of (say) 1000 Which member households over a few years. Every time a premature product failure occurred, people would register all details. A Which expert would attempt to diagnose the reason for failure and over time a comprehensive picture would emerge. Funding might even be available from WRAP as there’s a political will to reduce scrappage and landfill.