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Legal advice: John Lewis refuses a free repair

A customer with a broken dishwasher handwashes her dishes while on the phone

If the product you’ve purchased isn’t free from defects, safe, and durable, then it’s not of satisfactory quality. Here’s how we helped a member get legal remedy.

Which? Legal member Kim bought a Bosch Dishwasher from John Lewis in February 2016. Just over three and half years later the appliance developed a fault.

In the first instance, Kim contacted Bosch to ask for technical help. Bosch told her that error code displayed on the machine related to a failure with the heat pump, and it said that as her two-year warranty period had expired an engineer could repair the fault at a cost of £99 plus parts.

Kim was dissatisfied with this outcome and contacted John Lewis, which offered her £100 towards a replacement as a gesture of good will. Kim then got in touch with Which? Legal to seek clarification on her rights in this situation.

Satisfactory quality

We informed Kim that, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, there is a requirement for the products provided to be at a satisfactory quality. This includes the need for the products to be free from defects, safe and durable. When products fail to meet this need, a legal remedy should be provided.

We told Kim that as she had owned the dishwasher for more than six months, she would need to obtain an independent report confirming the nature of the dishwasher’s fault. Kim did so, and presented the report’s findings to John Lewis, alleging a breach of her consumer rights. She then requested that a repair would be carried out free of charge and that the cost of the report would be reimbursed.

John Lewis repeatedly refused to accept Kim’s position, and she was subsequently forced to start court proceedings. John Lewis later settled the matter out of court by agreeing to pay £250, plus £60 for the cost of the independent report and £35 to cover Kim’s court fee.

We approached John Lewis for comment. It said that it is unable to comment on past or ongoing litigation matters.

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@laurenstacey, Lauren, I thought this rang a bell. A month ago I commented as below. What was lacking in the report was the basis in which Which? suggested the claim was made.There was no reply that I recall to explain this, nor what the actual fault was. I suggested that under the Consumer Rights Act it could be “durability” unless a pre-existing fault could be proven. I believe we should be helped to make more claims under this criterion, one of the contract requirements that the CRA gives to obtain redress.

”Durability? @laurenstacey, Lauren, for some long time I have been pressing Which? to explain and make use of the “durability” requirement in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to help people whose appliances, for example, fail out of guarantee but unreasonably early in their life.

In the May Which? mag, p61, is a short piece about a consumers whose Bosch dishwasher failed after 3 1/2 years, outside its 2 year guarantee. Which? Legal helped get John Lewis to pay £250 redress, £60 independent report cost and the court fee of £35. What the article does not say is exactly on what grounds the court application was being made. It would be useful to know. Was their a clear fault present when new – one CRA requirement – or was it lack of reasonable durability?

Given the modest cost of instituting court proceedings I think Which? could usefully publish an article in the mag on how to tackle a retailer, particularly the procedure for taking court proceedings, when you think you are being treated unfairly. It might – should – persuade retailers to settle when they know they are in the wrong.

One thing missing from here that I find interesting is the water hardness as a potential factor in a premature failure. Certainly 3.5 years is unsatisfactory and knowing the reason for failure would be helpful one might think to buyers and this consumer charity.

My Bosch washer WMF2000 dates from December 1997 and in the back of my mind I think there may have been one call-out in the first decade for something.

Hard water can cause premature failure of heaters due to limescale accumulation, though I do not understand why this would make a dishwasher of ‘unsatisfactory quality’ unless that make and model were susceptible to the problem compared with other makes and models.

It is important to investigate the cause of failure to establish whether the customer has evidence to support their claim that the product was unsatisfactory and that the fault was not due to misuse or normal wear & tear, though the latter would be unlikely in a machine of this age.

Hard water does not necessarily cause heater failure and the heater of my washing machine was still working after 34 years.

Valid point and I was wondering if like the early Quookers the problem was a gunging up of the inflow pipe affecting the level sensor in some way.

This is where we have the problem that JL and Bosch are not interested in the detail as it is expedient for them to write off the cost as a cheaper than an investigation. And of course it is. From the publics point of view unless all these occurrences are tabulated then only Bosch knows if there is a serious problem in design, construction, or indeed if it is more common in certain areas.

Data is power but Which? has been totally uninterested in sharing it or making any meaningful use. Some years ago I suggested that there may be sufficient members that recording major white appliance purchases, faults and mends, would be a useful weapon.

Under Vicary-Smith I felt W? was business friendly and that creating documented data sticks was not something he favoured. After all killing all the readers comments on thousands of products as we carried out the long-term testing really did make the charity that much less useful.

I suspect you are right about JL and Bosch writing off the cost, Patrick. I have been given replacement products without any investigation to establish whether the fault even exists.

I suggest it would be more cost effective for Which? to obtain information about products with a high failure rate from field service engineers – the guys who visit homes to repair white goods and boilers and have a wealth of experience. They know which models suffer particular problems. They may be able to identify poor installation or unintentional misuse, neither of which should be seen as machine faults. When I used to repair radios and TVs as a hobby I used to refer to servicing information that documented the most common faults with each model. Where a manufacturer is aware of a design problem they sometimes introduce a design change to overcome the problem. That may have happened with the Quooker.

Relying on reports from members of the public without any technical expertise is unlikely to achieve much.

Service engineers could certainly report on the common problems that affect particular appliances if Which? Were to liaise with them. However, there are plenty of members of the “public”, those who own machines, consumers, many with the ability to assess problems, who can report their experiences and greatly help in identifying deficiencies on particular products. It is how we learn about problems with Indesit dryers, Whirlpool washing machines, glass breakages in Beko products, failures just outside of the warranty period. That should give Which? enough information to follow up and crystallise just what is the likely cause.

I would not expect limescale accumulation to be a problem in a dishwasher if dishwasher salt was used as recommended and the water hardness setting adjusted to suit the local conditions.

My Bosch dishwasher stopped working because of limescale accumulation. The problem was before the water passed through the water softener. Most people would blame that on the manufacturer but the problem was lack of maintenance.

In my case, salt and settings would make absolutely no difference. Lauren’s advice about getting an independent report to support a claim under the CRA is a good one.

In many cases, though, an independent report and the cost is unnecessary.

The first step, I’d suggest, is to ensure there is an actual fault and not just something you have done. Try to identify it. Contact the retailer and ask the manufacturer, if appropriate, with as much information as possible and see where that leads to.

If you are sure it is a real fault and the retailer is unhelpful, tell them your rights and their obligations under the Consumer Rights Act.

If you still meet a brick wall, then either ask Which?Legal for advice and help or tell the retailer you are preparing a court case to have your legal rights determined and to get appropriate redress and costs.

Should that fail then you will be putting a little of your money and on the line and then is the time to get an independent report. That might, of course, not support your claim.

I have made a few claims, for furniture and domestic appliances, based on the CRA and its predecessor SoGA, , and have never needed to provide an independent report. All were successfully resolved. None involved CPCW, however, so that may prove more tricky.

If you are making a claim against the retailer it’s not worth seeking an independent report unless you are asked to provide evidence to support your claim.

If the case goes to court and you do not have evidence to support your claim you might not achieve the result you are hoping for.

I considered obtaining an independent report to support a court claim but my money was refunded before I took action.

In the case described by Lauren, Kim did obtain an independent report because John Lewis would not budge and she was able to recover the cost of the report. Though I have not been asked to provide one, they provide the company with a way of discouraging non-valid claims.

We had to dial in on our Miele dishwasher the water hardness, presumably to meter the salt? We are in a hard water area but so far it is in its 9th year and been used around every one and a half days on average.

I’ve just noticed this fault arose nearly 2 years ago. Has it taken that long to resolve? I have noticed before that Which? Briefcases as they were known were often relating to problems from the past.

@laurenstacey Lauren – Thanks for this Conversation.

My experience is that retailers often ask customers to contact the manufacturer if they have a problem with faulty goods. It seems to be common for customers to be told something like ‘there is nothing that can be done because the guarantee has expired’. Obviously that is not true because we have five or six years during which we can make a claim under the CRA, depending on where in the UK we live. Many simply accept this and may even purchase a replacement product from the company that has misrepresented their legal rights. 🙁

John Lewis offered Kim a discount on a replacement dishwasher but I wonder if the retailer made her aware of her right to make a claim relating to her three and a half year old dishwasher.

I would like to see retailers provide brief information about our rights beyond the guarantee period, both on their websites and with all larger purchases in shops. Electrical retailers often place product receipts in a leaflet that provides useful information about product support and this would be a good place to make customers aware of their rights. Some of us have been discussing this for the past ten years on Conversation but we need help from Which? to make it happen.

I am among those asking Which? to campaign for a common leaflet that summarises a customer’s legal rights, points to the CRA 2015 , and goes with any significant purchase. In addition the retailer should display a summary of their legal right.

I think, just as they have to display a certificate of insurance, they should also display the name(s) of those instore who have been trained in the provisions of the Act so you can discuss a complaint with someone who should be somewhat knowledgeable.

@laurenstacey, Lauren, is this something Which? could do?

By the way, can you tell us the basis on Which? Kim’s claim against JLP was made? Was it down to a pre-existing fault (from new) or lack of “durability”?

We recently received a parcel from Fortnum & Mason – not our usual foodbank, I admit – and it contained the most comprehensive and comprehensible statement I have seen from a retailer on what to do if there were any faults or damage in the goods supplied, and what our rights were under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and how to exercise them. Interestingly, the company allowed 30 days for returns instead of the standard 14 days from the date of delivery. I expect the statement is also shown on the company website but I have not checked. Whether this extends to their widespread expat customer profile I know not, but I expect they would apply the same policy if at all possible.

My vote for customer service of the year award goes to Philips.

A part broke on a shaver so hubby contacted Philips via their online chat on Friday morning to try and get a replacement part. The shaver was bought in the US just over a year ago.

The person on the other end was very helpful, ordered the part, said it might take a couple of weeks to arrive and asked for his phone number so she could give him an update on the delivery.

An hour later she called from Greece, informed him the part was no longer available so would send him a replacement shaver.

It arrived yesterday (the following day) with our postie.