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The confusion around faulty goods

Robot toy

There’s still confusion over your legal rights when returning faulty goods, so we’ve built a handy tool that will create a bespoke claim for your refund, repair or replacement.

If you bought a product from a high street store and it developed a fault after just three months, who would you contact to return it? Nearly nine in ten people in our survey said they’d prefer to return it to the store, rather than the manufacturer.

Most people said they’d go to the retailer because they’d find it easier than returning the item to the manufacturer. But only a fifth of them knew it was their legal right to return the product to the retailer.

A quarter were unaware of how long they had to demand a full refund if an electrical appliance turns out to be faulty the first time they use it. You have 30 days under the Consumer Rights Act.

So to help with all this confusion, we’ve built a free faulty goods tool that anyone can use to create a bespoke letter of complaint to claim a refund, repair or replacement.

Rights outside of warranty

Nearly four in ten people said that if an electrical appliance develops a fault outside it’s one year manufacturer’s guarantee, they wouldn’t have any legal rights. You do, but after owning something for six months, the burden of proof flips. The retailer no longer needs to prove that you caused the fault. It’s now up to us, the customer, to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase. Only a fifth of people in our survey were aware they had to do this.

And getting proof of this is easier said than done. In the past you’d nip down to your local repair shop and get the opinion of an expert to prove your claim.

I’ve had a look and I’ve asked friends and family – none of us can find a local repair shop. Maybe there was a grievously under-reported mass emigration of local repair men? Maybe the relentless advance of technology means products are obsolete as soon as they’re faulty? Then again, modern technology can be helpful as you could build evidence from reports others have made online about the same product.

I’d be interested to hear how you’ve put together proof in the past when you’ve had a faulty product. Did you get an independent report from an expert? Or did you take a different tack?

I hope our new faulty goods tool is useful – let us know if you’ve achieved success with it. And fingers crossed you won’t have to use it!

Comments

Adam French, Consumer Rights Producer

Thank you for a short, sharp and pithy article – Which? at its BEST.
And I think that I may have a use for this >>faulty goods tool << in the next couple of days.

WHAT a jolly useful early Winter Solstice pressie.
.

I suspect it’s not as tricky as it sounds, initially. While it’s true that after six months the customer has to prove something “had a fault at time of purchase” the very nature of the fault can render this a moot point.

As an example, if after six months and two days the glass falls out of my newly installed and very expensive oven door it would seem eminently clear it was faulty at the outset, since it would be reasonable to expect quite a lot more service from a new oven than just over six months.

And not all companies are embryonic Mafioso, either; when a friend’s iMac’s HD failed after four and a half years he returned in to the retailer – in this case, Apple – and they replaced the HD without question. They established that the drive shouldn’t have failed in that time themselves.

In that regard, contract law remains largely unchanged, AIUI, so we still retain the same legal protections for faulty goods. The ‘one year’ manufacturer’s warranty is useful within the given time frame, and it’s generally easy to squeeze more out of the retailer at the point of sale (great opportunity for hagglers 🙂 ) but beyond say – two years, it’s always useful to have the handy little template letters Which? thoughtfully provides to get some action from the retailers.

Thanks for this Convo, Adam.

The biggest challenge, in my view, is getting retailers to accept that they can have any responsibility for faulty goods outside the guarantee or warranty period. It is very common for retailers to say that there is nothing they can do, or they advise the customer to contact the manufacturer. Which? research has provided examples of this.

I challenge Which? to make an undercover video of a Which? member taking a three year old TV or computer back to an electrical retailer and getting them to agree to repair it.

+ 1

? ? ? `Why are manufacturers now putting stickers on their products advizing :
** NOT to contact the retailer about a faulty item, but to
** Contact the manufacturer Directly ? ?

That’s great news. Thanks Adam.

Adam, the OFT published a useful “Sale of Goods Act Explained” for retailers that outlined the basic provisions of the act in everyday language. Such a document should be in the possession of all retailers, with retailers training their staff in its key points or telling staff to refer appropriate complaints to a suitable member of staff.

A similar document, or prominent notice, should also advise customers of their basic rights. Ignorance of the law is no defence. The law should be publicised and not kept hidden away.

Can Which?, through the Consumer Affairs minister, not do something about this?

wavechange, one example is no support for a case. it needs an accumulation of data to demonstrate whether or not particular retailers attempt to deny customers their legal rights. Let’s not resort to the emotive incidents singled out to make a case. They may or may not be representative. Properly organised investigations, balanced, objective and fair, are needed to uncover any “systemic” abuse of our rights.

Malcolm – There were two Which? undercover investigations of retailers which demonstrated that customers were being misled. If my memory serves me, they were in the Jan 2014 and Jan 2015 magazines. Unfortunately the investigations used actors. I’m disappointed that Which? did not use real people with genuine problems, from which we could have learned how each case progressed, even if it went to court. Which? Legal has a large number of subscribers and I’m sure some of these would have been more than happy to assist.

Spare me the lectures such as ‘Let’s not resort to emotive incidents singled out to make a case’ etc. We are all entitled to our own views. 🙂 Our objectives are the same, so we should work together. Now I’m the one giving the lecture. 🙁

Wavechange-There comes a time when the accumulative evidence and multitude of complaints leave only one solution -ACTION – and I agree with your last paragraph that each person is entitled to their views even if some people dont like them then that is democratic free speech as long as it is truthful they cant sue . If you just keep saying =it will be all right in the end that is just like US filibustering. IE- try to put an end to any action taking part.

The reason I used the single incident comment was not specifically aimed at your comment, wavechange, but Which? uses this repeatedly in some campaigns and convo intros. I do not consider it an objective and impartial way to present a case. The tabloids use It to make headlines. Which? should not.

As I’ve said before, I see no problem with emotive headlines if they are supported by facts. I support the use of such headlines by Which? because it helps to draw attention to important issues. To use your terminology ‘Let’s accept that people may have different approaches, even if their goal is similar’.

I do hope that Which? pursues the problem of faulty goods after the guarantee has expires. You and I have had a number of successes and I know others who have, but I suspect that we are in the minority.

I don’t disagree with your approach but I believe it would be more cost effective for Which? to pursue some cases with the help of their lawyers and publicly shame some of the well known retailers (if appropriate). The publicity could be used to apply engage with our Consumer Affairs Minister and the government to take action.

Wavechange -“publicity could be used etc ” I agree the only thing that would make the government react to this is massive adverse publicity directed against their “inaction” . I wish you the best of luck if you cant do it I dont know who can . This word “emotive ” keeps coming up(by some ) I dont get it ,well yes I do but when has a “stiff upper lip ” won over this stubborn to take action government ,if we just acted like unemotional zombies they would say= see they dont really care . Look at the “emotional ” posts of consumers to being ripped off by BB are those members of the public to be patronized just because people feel strongly about something (note the word FEEL used to represent an emotional position taken by somebody ) so if you “feel ” is that UN-consequential and not part of human nature ?

Duncan – If government cared more about its citizens we might have public information broadcasts to inform the public about consumers’ rights. Specifically, I would like part of my TV/radio licence fee used to give Which? the opportunity to raise awareness of important issues (but not to promote its commercial activities).

Emotive headlines are not what I was criticising. I was criticising one-sided or emotive comments used by Which? in some conversation introductions and campaigns. We need a balanced, objective and fair approach. That is not always the case. Otherwise we mislead people.

Which? seems to spend money on TVads and I don’t know their purpose. Presumably they want more subscribers but that is not a strong message. I also wonder how much distributing free guides and their advertising on TV costs.

Watchdog could no doubt use Which? if it so chose. However the focus for major issues in my view should be to work with the Consumer Affairs Minister (if he can make the time) to get issues made public and some action taken.

malcolm you have more confidence in the government than I have . Forget my dislike of it and just concentrate on its actions in relation to the general public it isnt for them malcolm even if you are an ardent Tory you must know they have shut down many public services or reduced them in size or reduced the grants to them . I just cant see their particular political philosophies being for action to curb any business action or even regulate it quite the opposite as they make plain . Cameron has said you know where you stand with us and yes I do know they havent made it a secret so they are realists in the sense they are “for ” BB in that respect they are truthful . I understand you saying be fair and even handed and speak with a soft tongue to them putting forward your point eloquently but does it achieve solid,practical,down to earth results that make a big difference to the complaints of the general public ?

duncan, I do not have great confidence in the government but, when it comes to applying the law, there is no other institution that I believe can do it. I am not “Political” – I want to see the country governed in a way that does not favour or discriminate and I do believe that we had a public spending policy that was too great for our wealth. That has been addressed, but I also hope as our national wealth recovers sensible public spending (as opposed to vanity projects like the Dome, HS2) will be increased.

I think Which? has not concentrated enough on some of the more important consumer topics – it spreads its net too wide – but that may be the only way it can keep large numbers of members. It should use its resources in a more focused way and use its members’ subscriptions to further their interests more directly.

“.Then again, modern technology can be helpful as you could build evidence from reports others have made online about the same product. I’d be interested to hear how you’ve put together proof in the past when you’ve had a faulty product. Did you get an independent report from an expert? Or did you take a different tack? ”

Do I take it Which? is going to accept my idea from 2013 that subscribers report through Which? so we have a robust database of failed, faulty or robust machines?

There is simply a matter of recording and passing on the complaints on products or there is the more detailed database. I realise that it may well turn out to be a database that toughs up manufacturers as we could have very good data as opposed to what one might accidentally come across on the Web. With 800,000 members the chance of getting statistically valid figures is very good.

The proposition works like this. If you want what I am going to call Which? Shield you log your electrical purchases on-line to a simple database [front-end under £50,000] . If you have any faults or problems hopefully you will be able to check whether it is a known fault or in fact rare. You up-date the database with problem and outcomes. It may well be that if Which? Shield provides evidence of obvious design faults or suddenly we have a faulty batch registered then the blame is obvious to to place.

Optionally a Which? employed engineer calls to take away the carcasse or gives a second opinion. This both ensures no spiteful claims and also gives members a feeling of value for money for their subscription and the willingness to upload data. There are the other benefits of picking up trends like the dangers of fires in Indesit, Creda etc clothes dryers.

In the event of a recall or safety warning then all Which? owners of the device/machine will be advised.

This looks like :
Win for Which?’s reputation of testing
Win for subscribers
Win for rooting out duff products which pass the more cursory testing when new
Major win compared to any other consumer body in the thoroughness of long term testing.

Currently Which? has the Logiks food steamer as a Best Buy by a considerable percentage. Analysis of the @ 30 people dissatisfied shows common design faults. Which? notoriously does not seem to pick-up and respond to the complaints – which rather makes a mockery of being a consumer champion.

This year because of badgering they did another survey of food steamers but inexplicably limited it purely to the Logiks. I spoke to the Head of Research at the last AGM and she could not tell me of the results of this months old Logiks survey as if she were unaware of it.

My own research looking at the Currys Commissioned Revoo reviews on the Currys’ website of this Logiks steamer showed roughly 286 responses. These reviews cover a few years but perhaps more interestingly there are only a few purchasers a month responding to Revoo when they send a survey a month after purchase. I think therefore it is a low volume seller and that the Which? subscribers saying its rubbish actually form a reasonable body of evidence.
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/steamers/best-buy/verdict/

There are other Best Buys where subscribers disagree with the accolade in the light of their usage.

DT, Which? is a member of BEUC that represents around 40 European Consumers’ Associations. Many products will be sold Europe-wide, so why not have a European database? Then we’ll have much more information and a greater weight against offending manufacturers and, perhaps, influence with the EU?

I agree that EU wide would make sense as that would put us n par with the multi-nationals in terms of reach. I do look at some of the EU Consumer site of BEUC regularly and Test.de and Que Choisir send me frequent emails. In fact Test.de it is daily and usefully they do quick tests on the Aldi and Lidl offerings.

However small steps first as BEUC is a co-ordinating body and therefore the muscle and money is in the individual organisations. Which? being the richest, and Stiftung Warentest and Consumentenbond being the most respected.

The intro says” after 6 months the burden of proof shifts. The retailer no longer needs to prove that you caused the fault. It’s now up to us, the customer, to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase”

This seems to overlook an important requirement of the Sale of Goods Act, and now the Consumer Rights Act. Under “quality” their is a requirement for a product to be “durable” – i.e.last a reasonable time. To my mind this does not require a specific fault to be present at manufacture. I believe it is meant to cover such things as
– choice of durable components that do not fail early ( like washing machine bearings, plastic catches, fridge compressors)
– poor design that leads to early failure, such as badly routed wiring near sharp edges or heat sources,
– poor assembly generally that leads to failure.
So not products that depart from an otherwise good quality product with a fault but generally products designed and specified in a way that do not give reasonable fault-free working lives, considering the price.

if this is correct, then Which? should be pursuing this attack on failed products to help consumers. We have seen examples in other conversations – fridge freezers that stop working just outside warranty, Sony Xperia phones with cracked glass and failed USB ports, Kindles that froze, washing machines with failed bearings, glass doors, before they have given value for their cost.

In order to establish the nature of the fault and likely cause, the goods need to be examined. Taking your examples, phone screens can crack as a result of abuse, washing machine bearings wear because of overloading, and fridge compressors fail as a result of operation without the ventilation specified by the manufacturer.

I am very disappointed that the Consumer Rights Act has failed to clarify what protection the consumer can expect. I assume that the customer has to pay for an investigation of the faulty goods in case they want to make a claim.

I think a lot of Sony Xperia users would disagree that their glass failure was due to abuse. Are they right? I’d expect decent washing machines to have sufficiently robust bearings so they were not on the limit of their capacity when loaded normally, and unless a fridge is kept in an unventilated confined space then I’d expect the compressor to last.

Of course if we abuse products they can be damaged, but I’m concerned with those consumers whose products fail in normal use when they have not been abused. That is what reasonable durability should deal with. A database of product failures, as suggested by dieseltaylor, would point to products that fail more often than should be expected. This is what is needed to help consumers, and preferably should be established throughout European consumer associations, not just in the UK. One of Which?’s priorities is to protect consumers from defective products; I think more attention should be paid to this area.

There’s no doubt that some phones and washing machines are damaged by abuse. The possibility of abuse is less with non-portable and non-mechanical goods, such as TVs. TVs might be a good focus to test consumer rights. If your TV develops a fault just outside the warranty period then then there is a possibility that there is a problem with build quality, but bear in mind that even the best quality products do sometimes break down even though there is nothing inherently wrong with the design.

The Consumer Rights Act is not a guarantee or a warranty, so that you cannot demand a repair if your TV does not last for X years. A retailer should never disclaim responsibility for faulty goods outside the guarantee/warranty period, but perhaps they should be inviting consumers to obtain an independent test report to investigate the fault and its cause.

“The Consumer Rights Act is not a guarantee or a warranty”. No, it explains your legal rights and, as guarantees explain “this guarantee does not affect you legal rights”. But unless these rights are understood by both consumer and retailer, and unless both sides are helped to properly exercise them, then we will continue to see reports of consumers being denied their rights or misled by retailers. A washing machine that fails just after a 1 year guarantee expires is not durable and a consumer should not be expected to just throw it away and start again.

+ 1
——
Many years ago in the county in which I lived, the overarching County Council established a chain of Drop In Consumer Advice Centres – most successful in the days when even obtaining 6 months cover from a guarantee was hard work .
Came the change of Political control, and the slaughter of the innocent.
On Financial austerity grounds, of course.
Nothing to do with the howling and hollering from the ”Free Market” about their rights to sell, and refusal to take responsibility for 3rd rate, shoddy goods.

Nor that those Free Marketeers poured £millions into the coffers of that party so dedicated to throwing off the shackles of statizm and freeing the people [to be exploited?]

Malcolm – I would question whether the Consumer Rights Act explains our legal rights. If it did, we would understand the term durability. The explanatory notes that accompany the CRA state:
Section 9: Goods to be of satisfactory quality

61. This section provides that goods supplied under a contract to supply goods (as defined in section 3 above) must be of satisfactory quality. It details aspects of quality which may be considered when assessing whether the goods are satisfactory – although the section only gives an indication of such aspects, not an exhaustive list. This section corresponds to section 14 SGA, section 10 SGITA and sections 4, 9, 11D and 11J SGSA in so far as they relate to satisfactory quality. But as with all of this Part it only relates to trader to consumer contracts.

62. Subsection (2) provides that the test of whether or not the quality of the goods is satisfactory is determined by what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory for the goods in question, taking into consideration all relevant circumstances including any description, the price and any public statements by the trader or producer or their representatives, such as statements made in advertisements or on the labels of goods. For example, a lower standard might be expected of cheap or disposable goods in comparison to an equivalent item that cost more or was advertised as being particularly durable.

Since the ‘modern’ version of the Sale of Goods Act was introduced in 1979, no government has – as far as I know – devised a way to help consumers and retailers resolve claims for faulty goods outside the guarantee period. A washing machine that has failed just out of the warranty period may not be durable, but alternatively the fault may have been due to misuse. How is this established and which party should pay for the investigation?

For at least twenty years I have encouraged family and friends to try to take back faulty goods after the guarantee has expired. The only significant successes have been with Apple products where some have been given a refurbished exchange or a free repair. Some months ago, I reported that my three and a half year old laptop had been repaired free of charge. Not everyone has been so fortunate.

The Consumer Rights Act puts the onus on the retailer to provide a remedy or prove that the fault was caused by the user during the first six months after purchase. After that, the responsibility switches and the consumer has to prove that a fault existed at the time of purchase, with a cutoff of 6 years (or 5 in Scotland). That’s reasonably clear, but the durability clause is not.

This is the function surely of an effective consumers’ representative – such as the Consumers’ Association (Which?) to which many of us subscribe. I don’t just expect monthly magazines. I expect the association to help consumers – either directly or through informed lobbying of statutory bodies, government, EC etc – by ensuring their rights are effectively upheld. They campaign on various matters; why not this?

Let’s not cloud the issue with “products fail because of abuse”. Some may (do we have any references to this, from Which? Legal actions for example?) and I do not expect redress under these circumstances. But that does not excuse those that have not been abused.

If a product fails significantly earlier that an expected lifetime then I don’t expect the consumer to be penalised by a refusal of action by the retailer or by having to spend a significant amount of money on testing (that a combative retailer may challenge anyway). Some fairer system needs to be devised. Surely that is why we have Which? – or has it just become a magazine publisher? I hope not.

The Consumer Right

+1

The Consumer Rights Act (CRA) (2015) says:
“Goods to be of satisfactory quality
(1) Every contract to supply goods is to be treated as including a term that the quality of the goods is satisfactory.
(2)The quality of goods is satisfactory if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking account of—
(a)any description of the goods,
(b)the price or other consideration for the goods (if relevant), and
(c)all the other relevant circumstances (see subsection (5)).
(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.

This is just like the Sale of Goods Act (SoGA). Remember that if you bought a product prior to the implementation of the CRA (Oct 2015) the Sale of Goods Act is the applicable legislation. As I have posted elsewhere there was guide for retailers to SoGA published by the (then) Office for Fair Trading explaining both their rights, and their obligations to customers. This included “durability” as a criterion “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. ”

This act covers all products so is necessarily general. It is up to others to apply the acts to more specific circumstances. Let’s say large domestic appliances as one example; this requires some work, collection of data, to establish reasonable durability under different circumstances, such as cost, usage perhaps. If no one tackles this we will stay in the present situation where consumers are often apparently denied their legal rights, or feel unable to pursue them.

Malcolm – I started my subscription to Which? in the hope that we would see some progress. Which? did a grand job in alerting the public to the profitable extended warranties that electrical retailers, in particular, were pushing customers to buy. The topic of faulty goods keeps coming up but I see little evidence that Which? has tackled the issue of faulty goods outside the warranty period. As Adam points out above, we should be providing an expert’s report if we are asking for a repair or other remedy. Perhaps Which? should be suggesting how we should obtain an expert’s report.

Kenneth Watt has on several occasions explained that washing machines are often damaged by users. I have seen plenty of portable items that have been damaged by dropping, even if there is little evidence without dismantling the product. You cannot ignore the possibility of abuse by users.

“You cannot ignore the possibility of abuse by users.”. Quite the contrary, I have agreed that some people abuse products, and they should not be recompensed when that causes the product to fail. I presume guarantees may not be honoured either if there has been such abuse. Kenneth detects these apparently so it may not be difficult to weed them out.

However, this should not be used to divert attention from those who do not abuse products and suffer early failure out of warranty because of the lack of reasonable durability of the product.. This seems to be a tactic some retailers adopt to put consumers off- Sony Xperia Z phones seems a relevant example; we should not tolerate this.

I had hoped that the Consumer Rights Act would tackle the uncertainties about consumers rights after the guarantee period has ended, but this has not happened. I know that Which? made an input when the new legislation was being drawn up, but I do not know if they tried to help us over this issue.

It is quite clear that the consumer has to prove that a fault existed at the time of manufacture after six months, though retailers are generally cooperative throughout the guarantee period. I presume that if we want to make a claim for lack of durability, the onus is on us to provide evidence of this by obtaining (and paying for) an independent report. If the retailer fails to take action, we can then go to court.

Have you ever tried to obtain an independent report for faulty goods, Malcolm? I have not because I usually have a go at fixing faulty goods. If I don’t succeed then I do not attempt to seek a free repair because I have dismantled the goods and presumably waived my rights.

“It is quite clear that the consumer has to prove that a fault existed at the time of manufacture after six months”. In my view this is not the only way to make a claim. I do not believe lack of durability requires a specific fault to have been proven when it was bought. The example of boots that lose the waterproofing too soon is an illustration of this.

I have made claims referencing the Sale of Goods Act without the need to buy an “independent” report. One involved dining chairs where, after around 4 years, the glued joints failed on some. The retailer, when approached about the short life (lack of durability) rebuilt the whole set without quibble.

Another occasion involved the strap on a reasonably expensive watch coming apart. A simple strap replacement was not possible – it was a strap peculiar to the watch. It was out of guarantee (in fact I think the strap was excluded from the guarantee) so I pointed out it had failed too quickly and mentioned SoGA. The strap was replaced through the retailer by the manufacturer but failed again in around 12 months. This seemed to be a defective design in the construction method used to fix the strap (a glued joint). They had other complaints of the same type and the manufacturer could not guarantee that it would not happen on yet another replacement. The retailer replaced the watch with a different make and model of our choice up to the value of the original watch.

I had a pair of Hush Puppies (remember those?) which developed a hole in the suede upper in around 6 months – they were replaced. Whilst there was no apparent fault from new the suede seemed insufficiently durable in normal wear.

So using SoGA does produce results if both sides understand their obligations. I think we should do much more to make people aware of their rights (and those of the retailer) so disputes can be more easily resolved.

Do we know what proportion of Sony Xperia Z users might have damaged their screens through abuse? How many, like most of the reported incidents suggest, happened without impact? How many seemed to have overheated? We need some facts before we pass off such problems as “abuse”.

Malcolm – In the examples you have given the fault could probably be seen and the only question is whether the problem was caused by normal wear and tear or misuse.

In the case of a TV or a washing machine, for example, it will usually be necessary to dismantle the goods to find out the problem and likely cause. Having an independent report should increase your chance of success. Simply expecting the retailer to take action without one could be considered as treating your legal protection as a guarantee or warranty – which it certainly is not.

“Malcolm – In the examples you have given the fault could probably be seen”. The chairs, for example, needed to be dismantled to find out if it was lack of glue, defective joint design, defective timber maybe, for example and possibly examined for abuse . An independent person could have been called in to assess them.

I would have thought a bearing failure, a compressor failure, should be often apparent without dismantling.

But this really is not the point. Durability requires a product to last a reasonable time. If it does not, and there has been no abuse, then under most circumstances I would think the fault lies with the product. If this is a common fault (why we need a database) then even more strength to the defective product argument. We need to build a system that does not put obstacles – whether of difficulty or financial -in the way of consumers obtaining just redress.

Service engineers are often knowledgeable about the common faults with specific boilers, washing machines and other larger items, but in many cases it is necessary to dismantle the product to be sure.

A bearing failure in a washing machine could be due to poor quality materials or overloading. If it is a known problem, fair enough, but otherwise an examination is needed. We have learned that bearings cannot be replaced in most modern washing machines, so faulty bearings can mean that a repair is not economically viable and the manufacturer would only be liable for the market value of a secondhand machine. The same would apply if spare parts were not available.

Sad though it is to report, probably about 99.99% of all claims raised for appliances outside of warranty are not a defect that can be proven to have been there at point of sale. I have never seen a successful case brought under the 5/6 year rule, not a single one.

With no way to prove the level of use, conditions and so on most times you are left with opinion and the available evidence to prove a case one way or the other.

I do see where you are coming from Malcolm and if you presume that everyone that ever makes a claim of this nature is being truthful I’m sorry to say, that would be a very correct assumption to make. The vast bulk of them are claims for damage caused by owners or, just simple failures that the owner wants sorted for free, however they see fit most often.

I can fully understand why that retailers and manufacturers will often be extremely skeptical and require a lot of evidence to prove that they are in fact in the wrong. I’m sure you can also.

Given that all too often, to use your washing machine example, you’ll have several thousand using the same components in the field and in the absence of a number of failures of the same nature it will generally point to a use or condition being the cause, not the product. Without any substantiation through evidence then any claims would likely be rejected outright and dismissed as one of the two reasons being the cause, use or conditions.

With modern construction and manufacturing the chances of getting a mythical “Monday morning, Friday afternoon” machine are so remote as to be not even worthy of consideration. Machines putting them together do the same thing all the time, if one is wrong then hundreds if not thousands are wrong. The chances of just one that just one customer gets, extremely remote.

“Reasonable” is a subjective term that is very open to interpretation and I can tell you that all too often the owner’s definition and the manufacturer’s or retailer’s are often miles apart. In my experience and, keep in mind I only see the “problems”, it is almost universal that the owner’s expectation is beyond that of the other parties.

K.

IS that so Kenneth well I ordered a bed for my invalid wife ,it came in a soggy condition with parts missing .I contacted the firm who said -send it back -3 transit companies REFUSED to send it back via them because the covering was damaged by water due to the original delivery one even photographed it ! . Going back to the maker know what they said ?? its too dear to get somebody to repack it so KEEP it and they sent another one . I kept the old one for 2 months in case of repercussions and then skipped it. IF a machine made that then the programmer should be sacked or the computer binned.

Apologies Duncan and excuse me if I’ve misunderstood but, what does a failed or damaged delivery have to do with the above?

K.

Second last paragraph Kenneth you mentioned machine assembly so “little ” chance of error (no Friday/Monday mistakes ) I was pointing out the “machine” that made the bed got it very wrong. The bed was not damaged the packing was ,the bed had parts missing(base paneling/ nuts/bolts etc ) .And I apologize if I didnt make that plain .

Oh, I thought we were discussing out or warranty failure and durability stuff, not missing/damaged/mispacked stuff. I considered that a different topic.

K.

Duncan – The Consumer Rights Act gives us 30 days to reject the goods and get a full refund, whereas the Sale of Goods Act did not define the time period. I’m not sure where we stand regarding carriage costs for goods ordered online.

Wavechange -I refused to pay for goods delivered with parts missing and obvious damage to the packing .I ended up speaking to the owner of the business who asked me to repack it ,I said I dont have the large cardboard parts required to do so ,he checked and came back and said it would be too dear to send a packer +delivery to uplift it so just said keep it. There is no way on this earth I would have outlayed any money to pay a re-packer and said if he wanted to make a legal case out of it well ,I know a good lawyer and I do -a most famous one I met when working for BT .

And another one

+ 1

Hi Kenneth – I thought you would join in this Convo and present an alternative view. I would be very interested to read independent reports about the causes of faults outside the guarantee period.

I’ve mentioned before that Apple publishes a list of defects that may afflict its products: https://www.apple.com/uk/support/exchange_repair/ I wonder if any white goods manufacturers that do this, other than when there is a safety recall.

No they don’t do that.

There is, to my knowledge, no compiled reports of failures outside of warranty other than what you can glean from the information you can lay your hands on. For me, I have access to a bunch of things historically and live and in all honesty, in over two decades there’s been little change. I wouldn’t expect many brands to show much of a difference beyond the odd thing here and there.

Most of what will fail and what I refer to as “push and pull” parts, bits that people interact with in normal use (door handles, drawers etc.), plastics that nobody covers as they’re invariably broken through use and wear and tear items which is generally anything that moves as all those will fail without doubt, only the “when” is questionable and very often affected by use and installation.

The manufacturers do not and will not share failure data. At times I think even MI5 are more open to scrutiny than appliance manufacturers are on that.

But then, I live in a culture where they won’t even give you parts diagrams and part numbers so, I’ll let you imagine how secretive they all are with failure data!

K.

Kenneth I know for a fact that companies like British Gas/ various electric companies keep a list of defects and faults occurring in product sold/serviced by them as do most major BB in the UK . MY boiler was duff they spent a week working out how to fix it ,engineers /supervisors etc . Years later I managed to see a list of the defects on it from a BG engineer( no longer with the company ) and saw how they hold a large database of faults on products . You would be surprised at the amount of manufacturing faults on products sent out to the market . People watching US launches to the moon etc by NASA think that consumer products are checked out to the last detail to the same standard –no they aint !

Perhaps but, from a manufacturer point of view, they will not share the data so it will never be published or open to scrutiny.

And, it could be argued that BG service people are not the most reliable source given that they do not have access, like me, to much technical and spares info. Ditto for insurers and most other third parties not directly able to access that info, tech and diagnostic equipment.

Beyond that you then have the issues of volume, geography and a few other things to account for in addition.

Boilers etc are different in some ways, information seems more freely available, why I do not know.

K.

This might amuse you Kenneth it was a pressure balance problem that the boiler coudnt be adjusted to . After a week of deliberation they lifted the floor boards and fitted ———- a CUT-OFF valve , thats right an old fashioned brass shut -off valve adjusted it a bit at a time time the pressure was okay and left it that way . Its still there under the squeeky floor board I should have photographed it and published it on the Web but I dont belong to any of the well known “social networks “

I have mixed views on this, Kenneth. I can very much identify with the problem of people misusing goods, even if they are not aware that they are doing it. On the other hand, there is no excuse for selling products with flimsy parts that break in normal use. To give an example that I have used before, Apple laptops have for years come with a very poor charger. Here is a current example: http://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MD506B/B/apple-85w-magsafe-2-power-adapter-for-macbook-pro-with-retina-display?fnode=8b Many of the 134 current reviews focus on the flimsy nature of the lead between the power supply and the magnetic power connector. It either breaks where it joins the connector or where it enters the power supply. The problem has existed for years and many users have paid for replacement chargers, which now cost £65 each. The lack of strain relief is very obvious and I have not had a failure because I know to handle my Apple chargers with kid gloves.

I have a couple of examples of earlier Apple laptop chargers that are much better designed and the one made by Samsung is better styled than anything Apple has produced, in my view.

It is not difficult to spot obvious weaknesses such as flimsy hinges and door catches if goods are on display in a shop, but that is no help if the weak components cannot be seen. Consumers deserve protection if manufacturers turn out goods that fail prematurely because of poor design or inadequate components.

I have four Apple laptops in the house. Another three in use for work.

Not one has displayed those symptoms.

So, am I lucky or are you unlucky?

K.

I have three Apple laptops in regular use plus another that just gets used for photo displays. Not one of the chargers has developed a fault with the cable because I know of the fragility of the cable and take care to avoid bending it more than necessary. Neither of us is unlucky but both of us are obviously careful. 🙂

All that’s needed to correct this design fault is to use include effective strain relief at both ends of the cable and possibly use a more flexible plastic. Every one of the Magsafe and Magsafe 2 chargers has been criticised for the same problem. They are not fit for the purpose.

In your opinion they are not fit for purpose. 😉

Apple’s opinion obviously differs,

You can see that sort of thing all the time and, Apple’s a good example with the whole iPhone4 antenna thing, then Bendgate and all the rest where some people have a problem but, taken in context of overall sales or units in service, it’s too small to be of much note statistically.

And that’s the point I guess when you talk about faulty goods in general that, one or a few instances does not constitute the need to redesign or whatever if there’s not enough of any particular failure to justify it. A single voice with a single problem is of little concern at all design wise and much more so to global companies where the problem has to reach a critical mass before it’ll even be looked at. Often you’ll find that the bar to reach that critical mass will either involve a potential safety issue or, it’s thousands of people all with an identical issue.

For appliances you expect failures, as I’ve explained you fully expect that 7-10% will suffer some sort of “failure” in warranty per annum. That’s normal. They’re machines, they will break. And, that’s when used correctly and within the parameters that they were designed for.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a design problem or that they’re not fit for purpose in any way at all. It just means that they can go wrong on occasion.

K.

Ken, I agree that one or two isolated failures do not constitute a design problem – maybe just a rare flaw in a component. But it might depend on whether people bother to report these problems, or just are resigned to the fact that they’ll have to deal with it themselves.

You say “for appliances you expect failures”. I don’t go along with this. If a product is properly designed, tested and well manufactured we should not expect failures – other than isolated instances (perhaps this is what you meant). However when there is a failure within the expected reasonable working life, it is wrong to expect the customer to bear the (whole) cost – it simply let’s the manufacturer off the hook if they feel they don’t have to up their game and do their design and manufacture better. Perhaps we just have a difference pf philosophy on this.

We bought a Belling cooker years ago. Over around 18 months the plastic knobs operating the controllers failed; the plastic moulding that fitted over the metal spindles split, so would no longer turn the spindle. This was a clear fault in either choice of plastic, thickness of moulding or quality of plastic. I should not have had to fork out money to replace these – and I didn’t; Belling provided a full new set which were different in appearance of the plastic and have worked well for years now. But I wonder how many people would have simply bought replacements? Manufacturers do make mistakes, in design, materials, assembly methods and we need to ensure consumers are not penalised for something that is out of their control. The only way to encourage improvement – which, incidentally may involve little or no production cost.

Many household products have design faults and I’ve seen examples of poor quality knobs, as Malcolm has described. The water inlet on my pressure washer fractured and being aware that manufacturer had switched to a different plastic I contacted them and received a replacement without question. Normally I would go back to the retailer but it was not local. I also believe that manufacturers should have some responsibility for poor quality products, even if the law does not require this.

I was speaking to a service engineer who worked on gas and oil-fired boilers and he told me about problems with different makes and models. He used the term ‘design fault’, a term I became familiar with when I was a teenager.

It’s not just my opinion, Malcom: http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/11/08/apple_notifies_faulty_magsafe_owners_of_class_action_settlement

The L-shaped connector and the current Magsafe 2 connector are both an improvement over the original. However, if you look a the comments on the Apple website (see my earlier link) there is still considerable dissatisfaction and I’m not surprised. I have seen numerous examples of damaged Apple laptop power supply cables – it’s not just a problem I have read about.

I think it’s wholly unreasonable to expect zero failures or even close to it on low cost consumer products. Without engineering things to the Nth degree that’s simply not possible, if it even is possible at all.

And, to expect a low failure rate on a product costing less that £360 (on average) used daily (on average) to work for years and years without failure or maintenance servicing I’d consider to be a completely unreasonable expectation.

If it were £3600, maybe. But even machines costing that and more in commercial use still fail and, they will usually be serviced regularly with preventative maintenance carried out, just like a car.

To be frank, at the price they churn some of the stuff out they do I’m astonished it’s as good as it is and break as little as they do. Quite an achievement really.

The thing about reading complaints on the internet such as the Apple thing is, whilst it may appear there’s loads of people on about such things, a hundred or even five or a thousand when there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of the same thing out there without fault isn’t representative at all. Statistically it’s of little to no concern.

Reputation wise, yes it can be damaging but it can be misleading when not viewed in context which, without all the data to make an informed assessment of the actual failure rate you can’t get proper context.

A few folks shouting about how terrible a thing is doesn’t make it true that it is terrible, poor design, poor durability or much anything else.

K.

“A few folks shouting about how terrible a thing is doesn’t make it true”. This is not ther point I am making, nor others I suspect. But if a manufacturer makes something that fails relatively early in what should be a reasonable life – taking account of factors such as cost in particular – then they should take responsibility. It is the only way products will improve. Many times cost is not an issue, it is simply more care in design, component choice, assembly method and so on.

The pity is that some people are not aware of the consequences of poor quality allied to low cost. Mandatory longer guarantees unfortunately will not happen, in my view. So we have to rely on the protection provided by the Sale of Goods and Consumer Rights acts. Durability, properly used, is the remaining protection, it seems, for consumers once an inadequate guarantee has expired.

Kenneth – Apple notified product owners of the class-action settlement, so I suspect that someone decided that there was a design fault rather than just a few careless owners. You only have to examine the product to see the weakness in the design.

The article mention that one owner had a serious house fire as a result of their Apple charger. There are numerous examples of burning damage and I have seen a couple with my own eyes.

Okay, I’ll bite.

Class action is misunderstood in my opinion as I think you’ll find the parties that gain the most, if anything are solicitors. You can even find them trawling for such cases and trawling for potential clients, in effect they are one step up from (literal) ambulance chasers in the States.

They see a potential claim to the sound of the register ringing.

As a guide to good or bad product, a very poor yardstick to measure by.

You’ll also find a fair number get kicked into touch before the opening arguments close.

Malcolm, okay so we raise the quality on all products, we make sure that they are of a sound design and carry a “better” warranty.

Two things, some (many maybe) people still will not be satisfied with either and still demand more. As I keep saying, you can’t please all the people all the time, you never will.

Next, the products will increase in price due to these demands be they legislative or consumer demands. This is inevitable.

That means that many people who may have been able to afford such products now cannot. How do you explain that to them, that they can’t have a thing because these demands must be met? Or is that just tough on them, probably the most disadvantaged?

Then, if you do this legislatively you may face legal challenge by manufacturers or, perhaps even other governments who say it restricts free trade by placing such Draconian impositions on products sold in a single territory.

Then, you could face legal challenge over the restriction of consumer choice or, you could have Which? responding to complaints from consumers about reduction of choice and increased costs.

This because some producers who cannot or will not meet these demands simply exit the UK market, for a lot of global businesses it’d be more hassle than it’s worth for the tiny bit of market the UK represents.

All the while, people in France, the US, Spain or wherever can buy lesser goods, with a lesser warranty at lower prices. Thus giving rise to yet more of the old “Rip Off Britain” type stuff.

And, you then create a black market for shoddy cheap goods being imported by the back door at cut down prices through Ebay or smuggled in that might be safe, might not, may be okay for use in the UK, might not. Who knows, it’ll be like the Wild West.

As for support on such products, forget it, grey imports are not and never will be covered fully, partially addressed by EU unification on warranties but, not as much as you might think.

On the whole whilst what may seem like a great idea, to champion the cause of the consumer could very easily have exactly the opposite effect.

So many times you see this sort of thing happening, over regulation actually produces the exact opposite of the intent because, the market will react but quite what way the ball might bounce, often nobody really ever knows until it’s too late. And, reversing such a thing, if done by legal means, total nightmare, it’d take as long as it would to implement it.

I could never support such a notion, I think it’d be crazy. It really would be the turkeys voting for a monthly Christmas and it would not get the result you want. It’s a fight not worth having as, either way, you’d lose and I suspect that overall everyone would.

K.

Kenneth in regard to class actions you say that the lawyers win in the end .Quite true in the US where the Law is you pay a big percentage up front to the lawyers not so in the UK win the action then UK lawyers claim from the defenders only if you lose do you pay . I personally would pay more for better quality but you mention “rip off Britain I brought this up on Which elsewhere its true in the US quality items are cheaper I know I post on a top end US hi-fi website the official reason is bigger population more consumer choice due to competition but that doesnt always hold water this country is consistently dearer in just about everything compared to many countries lack of competition is just one reason greed is another . Youn arec also forgetting the US trade takeover of the EU including the UK called TTIP America wants to set the profit margin for Europe and dictate against local councils and government legislation for public services ie- take over the NHS etc . I hope those greedy companies leave this country shouting -not enough profit I can live without them. The problem is this country is now a service industry if the people are paid buttons then they can only afford buttons.

It is also relevant to look at how the product has been advertised or promoted in the store. Sometimes the build-quality or material specification is a key selling point. We have rights not to expect premature product failures when their reliability and performance has been hyped up.

KennethWatt wrote
But then, I live in a culture where they won’t even give you parts diagrams and part numbers so, I’ll let you imagine how secretive they all are with failure data!
————-
Since you mention this matter, which culture is that, and where, plz?
.

I had to repair a Miele dishwasher and a vacuum cleaner. On both occasions Miele supplied the parts needed, and comprehensive diagrams to show how to fit them.

This is why we need the equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act to apply to companies. I believe we should run this country for the benefit of its citizens and not business.

While all sorts of answers are given on the legal aspects I would like to comment on the lead article . IT mentioned lack of repair shops , thats easy to answer as I used to buy spares from many and talked to owners its down to one thing . The now built in social need to replace your product after 2 years as its “”OLD “” -watch out ! -are your neighbours laughing at your 2 year old car/TV / Radio/ you name it -why then the answer buy our latest neighbour ridicule safe (for 2 years ) product straight off the manufacturers shelf . What cant afford it ? then get into debt the banks love that ! It seems the media brainwashing really does work (but not with me ) anybody putting my possessions down will get a mouthful of abuse or a well chosen sarcastic remark . dont let them grind you into the ground !

It would be interesting to have a survey to see what proportion of people choose to replace basic products – like appliances, TVs, cars – so regularly. My own approach is to use something until it is generally beyond economic repair.

+ 1
————-
”The boy wrote good !”

”HARSH words turneth away impudence.”

duncan lucas says:
anybody putting my possessions down will get a mouthful of abuse or a well chosen sarcastic remark . dont let them grind you into the ground !
_ _ _ _ _
+ 1
……..
”The boy wrote good !”

”HARSH words turneth away impudence.”
.

I would like to know how our consumer rights are affected by buying items through Amazon or Ebay that are shipped from China or Hong Kong.

These are becoming more and more prolific and although I try and avoid purchasing items that state they are being shipped from these places, sometimes I see a bargain and just hit the buy button.

If the good turn up faulty or not as described, who is our retailer. Amazon/Ebay or the people who shipped it. What are our rights on returning the items as costs can be exorbitant shipping to these countries?

Recently my partner bought some shoes which were shipped from Hong Kong. She did not realise it, but when they eventually turned up, they were at least 2 sizes too small. We asked for them to be replaced or refunded.

They said that they would replace them on the following conditions.
We could keep the pair that was too small, but we would have to pay the shipping of the replacement pair. No sure what the shipping costs are yet, but this may not suit us. What are our rights?

Much is what is sold on the Amazon website is sold by Marketplace traders. This encourages us to buy from companies we have never heard of, on the assumption we can rely on Amazon if something goes wrong. On the two occasions that I have tried to get help from Amazon they have let me down. You will find examples of unsafe electrical goods on both the Amazon and eBay websites.

I cannot answer your question, Seamus, but I would be interested to know if you are successful. An Amazon Marketplace trader refunded my payment for a product that looked nothing like the illustration but failed to refund the carriage, which cost more than the item. Amazon did nothing to help.

AS I pointed out in another post Seamus Amazon/Ebay are totally out of luck shipping back faulty goods to China . Their laws state NO faulty goods are allowed into China ,no matter what the cause . If any Chinese product says its guaranteed the Chinese manufacturer is never held to account by the Chinese government so Ebay/Amazon are on their own if the Chinese manufacturer says -too bad -eat it up.and all costs for faulty goods paid for by these UK/US companies . Those that query this look up Chinese commercial law as applied to export goods.

B BC News
Chiropractors’ libel case dropped against Simon Singh

… news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8621880.stm

Is it possible that goods cannot be faulty at the time of purchase but still unfit for purpose?

I purchased an HSL leather recliner electric chair in the Spring of this year. After about one months use I developed sciatica which left me with a pronounced limp and in considerable pain. My chiropractor assured me there was quite considerable free movement in my hip joint and therefore was not in need of a replacement. The problem was one of tissue damage which was putting extra pressure on the sciatic nerve. The tissue damage could only have been caused by the very firm seat of the chair which I have now declared unfit for purpose.

My question is, do I have any redress for a chair which cost me £1800 but arguably was not faulty at the time of purchase, plus several visits to my chiropractor incurring more expense for a chair which I can no longer use? The chiropractor suggested I purchased a wedge-shaped foam cushion to soften the seat, but given the amount I paid for it, should this be necessary? The chair I tried in their showroom prior to purchase was very comfortable with a softer seat which I now put down to the fact that it had been used for demonstration purposes by a good many people on a number of occasions.

Adam French says:
I believe this could come down to whether the seat was specifically sold on the premise of being a good option for someone susceptible to, or suffering from, sciatica. if that is teh case there’s a clear claim.

It may be worthwhile making enquiries with the retailer who sold you the chair and
explaining the situation – they may offer to help out without you having to resort to quoting legislation.
—————–
1.0….. ” … someone susceptible to, … sciatica … ”
1.1….. Crystal balls – Versus – Evidence based medicine?

2.0….. IFF (sic) the purchaser has a certified affidavit from their ‘professional” advizor that the design of the chair is such that it will cause skeleto-muscular mal-functions, then – to coin a phrase – the retailer don’t have a leg to stand on.

** Should not the purchaser have been advized to demand their money back, and to report the matter to their local trading standards department?
** Should not you Sir, have taken this matter on board, found out further details of the products and obtained a copy of the chiropractor’s report,
** If there was a prima facie case : investigated , and if the case was found proven, taken appropriate action ?

Or is this Forum just a dead end Chat shop?
.

B BC News
Chiropractors’ libel case dropped against Simon Singh

… news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8621880.stm

Many thanks for the input.

First and foremost read up on: nice.org.uk – Manual therapy and chiropractic.

Second I thankfully do not suffer from colic or asthma and have only suffered from sciatica once before about 6 years ago.

It is easy to check the HSL website which claims to sell Comfort chairs with “comfort, quality and style, handcrafted by experts.”

“our chairs are popular with customers who suffer from the following:”

Backache
Aching & sore joints
Circulation problems
Insomnia
Swollen legs & feet
Arthritic conditions
Stiff neck
Headaches & stress.

One of their chairs comes with a Which? Recommendation and an Occupational Therapists Approved Logo.

“Essential lumbar support that help you sit correctly and comfortably”

Thankfully the sciatica has now gone away. My dilemma of course is providing convincing evidence that the chair was in fact responsible, but it does seem rather odd to me that the sciatica occurred so soon after purchasing the chair which claims to help all of the above conditions.

I was in their local shop recently and discussing various matters of their offerings.

One thing I cannot quite recall was the matter of weight. I recall discuss knee-length and various size of chairs.

My feeling is that leather in itself is not a particularly soft material. It also may require for wear qualities more support.

Weight may or may not be significant but I suspect lightweights perch differently than the rest of us.

Either matter may have been part of your conversation. However it must be an impossible ask for them to be able to predict any users outcome even if fit and weight work.

My approach would be to have a discussion with them as to the hardness and establish how they could solve your problem. Possibly they might consider whether they should have some trial chairs available prior to full purchase.

Lastly I was wondering Beryl if you were up to testing cause and effect more fully by perhaps trying upping sitting an hour at a time. I think HSL would appreciate the results – but perhaps talk to them first.

As you still have the chair perhaps you could also get friends of different weights to sit and comment : ) Measuring deflection of the seat pad also might be interesting.

rica.org.uk/content/riser-recliner-chairs

Are an excellent charity and deserve support. They may well have provided most of what Which? writes on the matter. From the Rica .pdf:

” Try before you buy
It’s very important to try any chair out properly before you buy it. Whether you’re buying in a shop, in a manufacturer’s showroom or having a home visit, they should be happy for you to take your time over this and not rush you (if you’re making an appointment, tell them you mean to take your time). Make sure:
• you can operate the controls properly and use any accessories
• you can sit down and stand up safely and without too much effort
• you are going to be comfortable sitting for long periods
You might be surprised to hear that you should try the chair out for at least an hour. Bring a book or something to do and make sure you try the different things you might do in the chair (reading, eating, watching tv, etc). You can also try chairs out in your local DLC

DLCs Disabled Living Centres are a network of local centres where you can go for independent advice on disability equipment. They have a wide range of equipment for you to look at and can give you free, impartial professional advice. ” [2010]

Surprisingly HSL do not appear in the RICA 2010 pdf. list of manufacturer/vendors despite claiming to be in the back care industry for 40 years.

The local shop is nice and I believe I did try the Linton amongst others.

HSL apparently cannot spell simple words

Meet our Occupational Therapy Expert
All HSL chairs, sofas and beds are approved by an independant, consultation occupational therapist, so you can trust HSL with your comfort.
Approved Occupational Therapist
Julie M Jennings
Julie M Jennings Dip COT HCPC,
Consultant Occupational Therapist

Thanks Diesel for your comments.

It was a bit of a disaster from start to finish. I also tried the Linton chair as it was the one that won the Which? Award but the lower back support did not suit my shape. The Berwick fitted my shape perfectly and I spent quite a long time sitting in it. There was no doubt this was the right choice having tried every other one in the showroom.

Delivery was promised in 6/8 weeks and I paid my deposit. Eight weeks came and went and I heard nothing from HSL so I ‘phoned the branch I purchased it from who seemed totally unaware of the chairs whereabouts and I was promptly told I would have to contact the courier. I reminded them that under the then Sale of Goods and Services .Act, this was not an option as they were the retailer from whom I bought it and it was their responsibility to deliver it within the allotted time and if they failed to do so, I had the right to cancel the order and request a full refund of my deposit. The conversation then became very heated and I was repeatedly told it was out of their hands and I was to contact the courier. I was then referred to their Head Office and received a call later that day and spoke with the management when I issued him with an ultimatum i e if the chair was not delivered by the end of the (9th) week I reserved the right to cancel and receive a full refund of my deposit.

I was assured this would happen and thankfully it did. I then requested please would they formally brief their branch sales staff on the conditions laid down under the Sale of Goods Act to avoid them attempting to pass the buck by passing all responsibility over to the courier.

The chair seat was very firm from the start but I put this down to its newness and was prepared to give it time to soften up with use but unfortunately this didn’t happen before I developed sciatica. The chiro was correct in stating that it wasn’t a hip joint problem since the sciatica responded well to the treatment and I am now free from pain.

It was a very unpleasant episode from start to finish and I feel very let down as I expected a chair that was supposed to help spinal and muscular problems has, in fact, had the very opposite effect.

The seat meantime remains very firm and unusable.

Beryl, the “Sale of Goods Act Explained” says:
“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
• match their description
by law everything that is said about the product must not be misleading – whether this is said by a sales assistant, or written on the packaging, in-store, on advertising materials or in a catalogue
• be of satisfactory quality
quality of goods includes
– appearance and finish
– freedom from minor defects (such as marks or holes)
– safe to use
– in good working order
– durability
Your responsibilities
as a retailer
• be fit for purpose
if a customer says – or when it should be obvious to the retailer – that an item is wanted for a particular purpose, even if it is a purpose the item is not usually supplied for, and the retailer agrees the item is suitable, or does not say it is not fit for that purpose, then it has to be reasonably fit. If you disagree with the customer about a particular purpose, you should make this clear, perhaps on the sales receipt, to protect yourself against future claims.

Clearly a chair has to provide support, comfort and not damage your body. it might be difficult, though, to prove that the firm seat cause sciatica, but your Chiropractor may advise best on this.

A product fault includes “not fit for purpose”.

malcolm r says:
Beryl, the “Sale of Goods Act Explained” says:
“Your contract with the customer ….
—————–
+ 1
MOST useful.
Thank you very much indeed ! ! !

Regards
.

Thanks Malcolm. My son who has a similar chair, different make, agreed when he tried my chair that it is much firmer than his, and when I visited him, his chair was softer than mine.

I am reluctant to use the chair again in case the sciatica returns and lasts for such a long duration with yet more expensive for treatment.

I will take the matter up with HSL as Adam suggests but I don’t anticipate much success without too much hassle.

I guess I am suffering the Goldilocks syndrome which could be used in their defence of course. On the other hand it would be nice to be able to use the chair which at the moment is nothing
more than a very expensive ornament

There seems to be a lot of use of the word ‘abuse’ in terms of damage or malfunction of ‘items’.
There seems to be little if any discussion of a definition of the word.
Let me put forward some scenarios:
1.1….. I throw my Cell phone onto the floor
1.2….. I drop my Cell phone onto the floor, and I have a video of it happening.

Abuse, poor design or bad choice of construction material/s ?

2.0….. My Cell phone has a GPS App which enables me to use it walking in the street in UK, and when I go walking in the hills.
It, and I, get soaked to the core in a sudden rain storm.
Is that abuse?
2.1….. Should the manufacturer have foreseen that rain storms do happen in UK, designed accordingly?
2.2….. Should I have foreseen that my Cell’ wasn’t designed for using outside in the open air, and spent another £500 on a specialized hand set?
.

@kennethwatt – Please can you explain why you believe that the following clause of the Consumer Rights Act does not give the consumer protection if goods develop a fault after the guarantee period has ended. Let’s take the example of a TV (an item fairly unlikely to be abused) with a one or two year guarantee that has failed just after the guarantee has expired.

“The quality of goods is satisfactory if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking account of ––––– durability.”

Sorry wavechange, I missed that.

I don’t believe that this offers no protection, I never said that I did.

What I have said, quite openly is that what it means is all too often misinterpreted.

Let me give you an example to demonstrate.

You buy a £40,000 brand new car.

One month outside the warranty expiration a brake calliper fails.

Ordinarily most people would just assume that it was a failure and well, too bad, just typical it just gets out of warranty and it breaks.

They pay for a new part, have it fitted and move on.

Is that the fault of the retailer? Is it the manufacturer? Is it the owner? Is it just bad luck?

Now many would, in all probability, blame the retailer (who didn’t make the thing and only got a small profit from the sale) or the manufacturer (ditto) before considering any other option. They’d kick off and make a fuss but, in the end, they’d be unlikely to get a free repair as well all know as, unless the owner can *PROVE* that the defect was there from new there is no case for claiming for a routine component failure.

You could argue that the car (several hundreds of parts) should have lasted longer before it broke if you wanted to Or, you could argue that a brake calliper should not have failed so soon. But, in the end it’s likely to be viewed as just a simple, straightforward failure that sadly happened when the car was out of warranty.

Of course, all along you did have the option to take an extension to the “free” manufacturer warranty to cover you for such failures but, unfortunately you chose not to take that option and to accept the risk yourself.

The manufacturer or retailer might make a gesture by covering a portion of the cost but, they’re under no obligation to do so.

If you decided (by some insane method) that you were not going to pay for that brake calliper and you just scrap the car and buy another well, that’s your choice.

The retailer or the manufacturer sure as a sure thing will not just give you a new car, that I think we all know that simply isn’t going to happen.

The same rules apply to everything under the SoGA and the CRA.

What people have to keep in mind when they band this about is that, it is *NOT* an extension to the provided warranty. It won’t cover you for items failed or damaged through normal wear and tear and in any case it’s very hard to prove what “reasonable” actually is as, it’s a subjective term.

It’s even harder to prove that it isn’t just wear and tear or indeed that the defect was there from new. For most low cost goods, it’s not worth the trouble regardless of what opinion proves correct.

K.

Thanks for responding to this and my later ‘notification’ Kenneth.

I fully accept that parts can fail and I’m sure we have discussed the ‘bathtub curve’ at least once. I might be the only on the ‘consumers’ side’ of the debate that accepts that users can abuse products, often without realising they are doing this. Our opinions differ over breakage of what you have called “push and pull” parts because if they are failing in everyday use, I consider the product unfit for purpose. I totally agree with you about the ‘Bendgate’ nonsense. When I saw the various mobile phones being tested on an Instron, I was happy to learn that my iPhone is more resistant to bending than I would have guessed.

I don’t understand why we disagree over design faults/flaws/weaknesses or whatever we call them. Maybe they are not common in white goods but I have seen many examples as a hobbyist and have discussed the issue at length with service engineers. Some of the service engineers that maintained and repaired my university lab equipment had worked on domestic stuff before moving into specialised lab and industrial equipment. Design faults are well documented in cars. I owned my last car for ten years and although it never let me down it was working through a short list of well known problems. 🙁 My front window regulators both failed after five years, so I payed for them to be fixed. Had they failed after two or three years I would have expected a contribution towards the repair. Taking your example of a brake caliper, it would be perfectly reasonable for the customer to pay for the repair as long as it is not a common problem with that make and model.

Kenneth’s example of a brake calliper is an interesting one.

As a “safety critical” component, one might hope that it would be designed and built to achieve a high reliability and a low probability of failure on demand.

Unlike pads and discs, would it not be reasonable to expect a good quality and correctly maintained calliper to last for the life of the vehicle?

Derek the problem is the seals in the caliper as they are the actual parts that contact the walls of the cylinder and are made of non-permanent material that wears down through continuous moving contact they represent the weakest link , second would be the actual linkage which unless weather proof would jam eventually causes either non operation or clamping tight to the steel disc and overheating and in many cases the whole pad becoming unglued from the caliper . Yes its happened to me more than once ,even cases where the piston jams in the cylinder ,all dangerous things .

wavechange, you have given examples of products you have owned that failed, and I would describe the failures as poor durability. I do not understand why Which? do not tackle this aspect of the Sale of Goods Act (which applies to goods bought prior to Oct 2015, so has another 6 years life in it), and the Consumer Rights Act.

They have not responded to many requests to either dispute that durability is a salient issue, or to propose how they might begin to address durability in a way that is helpful to consumers. A clear statement from them one way or the other would be useful. Otherwise I am left with the impression they are shirking the problem.

Malcolm – When I started posting on Which? Conversation – five years ago – I had high hopes that I would gain an insight into the priorities of Which? and maybe help make an input. By the time you joined us I had realised that Which? would tell us little of its strategy and priorities and I am not optimistic that this will change.

Which has a legal team that could interpret ‘durability’ for us. It could advise us on our chances of success if a washing machine or TV developed a fault soon after the guarantee expired, but has chosen not to do so. I’m disappointed and will keep making suggestions, but

I would be very surprised if Which? compiles an extensive database related to durability of products, which would be a major task and could draw attention to weaknesses in the current test procedures. We are still not being told about the length of manufacturers’ guarantees in product reviews – a much simpler task – despite the fact that guarantee period is now a significant factor (at least for some people) when choosing a car.

Those of us who are determined can report successes in getting retailers to repair goods out of guarantee, but I have had more success with manufacturers, who have no legal responsibility. There is nothing to lose by trying.

I hope Kenneth will answer the question I have posed above.

“which would be a major task”. It seems to me that trying to set up an India equivalent was a major task (and expensive), Presumably Which Mortgage Advisors (also expensive, and is it really needed?) does not happen overnight, nor some of the other operations Which? deals with. So when this may prove to be a great help to consumers, and its membership, why should it not spend effort on such a database?

It does not have to start in too daunting a way. It will already have an idea of products that have aroused comments, so start with those – perhaps domestic appliances. Is this not what Which? is for?

Malcolm – Which? sets its own priorities and all we can do is make suggestions.

My suggestion is that rather than setting up a database, Which? takes a couple of items that have a poor reliability record. That information could come from an independent service engineer – a small company that has no connection with the trade but has sufficient experience with the make and model. The products could then be examined by one or more independent experts to confirm that there is a genuine design fault. If this does exist then Which? lawyers could support members go to the small claims court and hopefully win their cases against whichever retailers had sold the product. The outlay in staff time and other costs should be relatively small.

wavechange, I think subscribers and ordinary members should have a voice that Which?, as a charity set up to help its members, listens to or at the very least responds to.

We have been discussing product problems, longer guarantees, durability, applying SoGA and CRA, some retailers misleading customers as regards their rights, for a long time now in these conversations, through their members forum, and in my case by email. The response in constructive terms? I’ll let you guess.

“The outlay in staff time and other costs should be relatively small.” Why should it need to be for an important issue? However it is only my personal view that this issue is important enough to expect resources to be devoted to it. Other members may feel it is trivial and not worth attention. If that is the case I will go along with the majority.

Tony B says:
9 December 2015

Quote from original article: `I’ve had a look and I’ve asked friends and family – none of us can find a local repair shop. Maybe there was a grievously under-reported mass emigration of local repair men? Maybe the relentless advance of technology means products are obsolete as soon as they’re faulty? Then again, modern technology can be helpful as you could build evidence from reports others have made online about the same product.`

Having spent all my working life (45+ years) there have been many factors which have caused the decline of consumer electronic repair engineers in the uk. Hardly and `new blood` is joining the trade, ageing and retirement of existing engineers, retail outlets cost cutting by closing their own service dept`s, Manufacturers insisting warranty repairs are only carried out by their authorised agents who often receive only a token labour charge which does not even cover their overheads. Not forgetting all the cheap `supermarket specials` now imported without available spares and technical support.

Having said that there are still a few of us engineers around who still love the job we do.

KennethWatt wrote:1 day 11 hours ago
Sad though it is to report, probably about 99.99% ….

I do see where you are coming from Malcolm and if you presume that everyone that ever makes a claim of this nature is being truthful I’m sorry to say, that would be a very correct assumption to make. The vast bulk of them are claims for damage caused by owners or, just simple failures that the owner wants sorted for free, however they see fit most often.

I can fully understand why that retailers and manufacturers will often be extremely skeptical and require a lot of evidence to prove that they are in fact in the wrong. I’m sure you can also.

—————————————————–

May I check your line of reasoning, plz?

”A” asserts that statement ”S” is true.

If ”S” is true, then corollaries S1; S2; S3; etc will be true.

If ”S” is not true, then some, but not necessarily all, of S1; etc may not be true.

Your case is that ”S” is not true, and that ipso facto, ALL of S1; etc are un-true.

In support of your claim that ”S” is not valid, you assert that ”R” is correct, where R is the negative of S.

Having offered no proof of the validity of ”R”, nor the in-validity of ”S”, you then go on to present the corollaries to ”R”, viz: R1; R2; etc as being valid.

Is this a correct understanding of your case?

I am but a simple fellow possessed of an enquiring mind.
A follower of the razor of William of Occam.

Second last line Josef— anything BUT simple !!!

;-))

@malcolm-r – It would be helpful if we could engage more people with the problem of goods failing soon after the guarantee expires. With examples such as Apple laptop chargers and Sony Xperia phone screens there is always going to be the problem that some of the failures are caused by abuse.

Perhaps it would be worth looking at smart TVs, where it is commonplace for apps to stop working, sometimes soon after purchase. With computers we can often update the software and operating system to maintain functionality for an extended period. A possible solution would be to push the manufacturers to make the TV computer upgradable or replaceable, so that the owner does not have to replace an otherwise functional TV just to retain the functionality they want.

I expect that manufacturers would prefer us to just buy a new TV. A disgruntled owner of a Brand X TV may vow not to buy another one and switches to Brand Y, but if all the makers are playing the same game, there will be another owner who switches from Brand Y to Brand X.

Many householders have just come to terms with having to replace household goods regularly. Unless prompt action is taken, I can see the same happening with smart TVs. Perhaps there is an opportunity to stop this madness and recruit more people who want to buy decent products that have a decent life expectancy and can be updated or repaired at a sensible price.

Consumer pressure can work. It used to be expensive to upgrade the maps on a sat nav but the main manufacturers of stand-alone units now offer models with lifetime maps. I presume that the same has happened or will happen with built-in sat navs.

I don’t use a smart tv, wavechange, so don’t have experience of apps. Is this a tv failure, or is it to do with those who provide the apps?

Many of the complaints about early product failures are fragmented and it is hard to get a grip on their extent. However, I still maintain that if my washing machine fails in an unreasonably short time after a 12 month guarantee has expired the retailer should make recompense – hopefully passing the cost back to their supplier. The retailer makes the choice as to what products they market, they make the profit, they should have more expertise and knowledge than most customers about the quality and reliability of their products, so they should take the consequences.

We only have (perhaps regrettably) one consumers’ association. We pay subscriptions to it to look after our interests, not simply to buy their magazines. Where better place to collect specific details about products that fail, with a view to taking action? Which? could set up a member of staff and a database to collect and sort this data. It could ask all its members (800,000 or so) to email in any failures with appropriate details. It can also do so through its 30 000 or so connect members. It might need two members of staff. Please don’t outsource it (certainly not to Capita).

It could also talk through BEUC to all the European consumer organisations to get a European database going. Then we would have statistics to demonstrate where there were problem products.

Why does it not seem to want to do this?

The most recent Convo about the smart TV issue is: “Why do my favourite smart TV apps no longer work?” You have mentioned that you have an old laptop, but you have been able to keep that going by updating the software including the operating system. I don’t have a smart TV either, but my understanding is that they cannot readily be updated, resulting in loss of functionality.

As Duncan indicates, smart TVs can be expensive. As with mobile phones, we have seen major developments including high definition, flat screens instead of bulky CRTs, LED screens instead of power-hungry plasma screens, interconnectability with other AV equipment and a growing range of useful apps that can become outdated very soon. I assume that (1) the manufacturer of the TV has to plan ahead so that their product can be upgraded and (2) the app producers have to maintain versions that are compatible with the hardware and software in the TV. I have no idea of whether smart TVs run on industry standard operating systems or something specific to the model.

I suggested we look at smart TVs because they have become popular and the public is not yet conditioned to throwing out TVs in the same way that they do with washing machines and other household goods.

@wavechange– Your right if someone is buying a £4000 “smart TV ” then they should have at least the basic capabilities of a PC that amount of money would buy you 2 top end gaming rigs . Its the app manufacturers they make them obsolete or change the spec but the “smart TV ” does not recognise it. But like the “smart ” electric meter you do know if connected to the Internet that multiple 3rd parties know what you watch (including “naughty stuff ” ) and hit you with Spam /harassing phone calls /an avalanche of “snail mail ” . A computer can at least try to stop some of it but being honest Windows is open to abuse by any BB and hacker and even MS has admitted its a “sales window ” for them to gross millions of $$$$ from BB. Hence Win 10 -the Ultimate spying program (sorry Windows fan boys )

There may be help from the EC to get better, more repairable and more durable products. BEUC have issued this press release on the EC’s so called ” Circular Economy”:

Circular economy package launched
PRESS STATEMENT – 02.12.2015
Waste reduction, recycling and repairing broken products are the central elements of the “circular economy package” presented today by the European Commission. One year ago, the European Commission withdrew a previous circular economy package amidst a big public outcry.

Today’s package contains a legislative proposal on waste as well as an action plan outlining a number of planned key measures for instance regarding product design (Ecodesign), food waste and green claims.

Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) commented:

“It is hard to grasp why a nearly new dishwasher with a broken insulation ring has to be discarded after just a few years of service. Not only do unrepairable washing machines and short-lived smartphones waste scarce natural resources, but they are also a financial drain for consumers. The transition from a throwaway society to a circular economy makes excellent economic sense for consumers.

“The Commission’s decision to repeal a previous version of a circular economy agenda raised many concerns that this policy had become the first victim of the Commission’s so-called ‘better regulation’ push. The best way to dispel these worries is to ensure that words are quickly turned into concrete actions.

“Convenience for consumers would be greatly increased with more durable products – products that can be repaired, upgraded and for which spare parts are available. Producers should be legally bound to take durability into account when developing new products. Writing this requirement into EU law would clearly be a great leap forward.”

As the BEUC is the umbrella group for European Consumer Organisations (including Which?) presumably Which? also subscribe to this policy. It reflects many comments that have been made in this, and similar, Which? Convos.

Maybe Which? will comment and say how it proposes to support the policy.

It’s great in theory, but as I have mentioned before, companies could exploit the circular economy to push us into a buy and replace or recycle cycle*. Neither you or I feel compelled to replace our phone or car frequently, but many do. I hope my suspicions are unfounded and would be grateful for input from Which?

*You mentioned that you were buying a new car several months ago. My guess is that you will encouraged to replace it by the time it is a year old, even if you have declared your intention to keep it for a long time. I’ve been there.

Previous cars were kept for 12 years and 22 years. I bought a new car at 25% discount which made it not too different from a 9 month old ex-management car (that was my initial considered purchase). The intention is to keep it as long as it is economic. We don’t know any Joneses so no need to keep up 🙂 .

My previous cars made economic sense. I also believe buying a, hopefully, better quality product that costs more (to pay for the quality design and components) is also more economic. Our Miele dishwasher with a 10 year repair or replace warranty cost £600. That’s £60 a year. Would I get 4 years trouble-free life out of a £240 dishwasher, also costing £60 a year – overlooking any difference in performance or energy/water use? That, to my mind, is the way to look at the real cost of products that you use year in, year out. If you can’t afford the up-front cost it may well still be cheaper to use a loan.

EC legislation may well be necessary to drive us out of the present wasteful approach – resources are finite so at some point we’ll need to change.

As part of a durability onslaught I’d like Which? to look not just at first cost, but at the real cost of ownership. We might then begin to help some consumers with information that leads to better choices.

We can thank the EC for a great deal of current and forthcoming environmental legislation. Some of it is of questionable benefit, but I don’t believe that the UK would have made much progress on its own. I bought a pair of tyres earlier this week and included in the cost is a charge for disposal of the old ones. I guess that this could be around £2 per tyre these days.

I don’t know if there is a disposal charge/environmental charge included in the cost of white goods, consumer electronics, etc. but there certainly should be.

I don’t watch commercial TV so miss most of the pressures to spend, spend, spend.

Which? and a few others have a document written by me on how to largely achieve this Malcolm or, at least how to do so in my view, from my perspective.

However the reluctance to do some stuff is as it is:

a./ Not in the best interest of several business models, all of whom have vastly more resource to lobby than Which?, myself and likely government as well as it *has* to be EU wide at the very least.

b./ It will result in price rises but, as I’ve explained on numerous occasions, if you raise quality, durability and repairability this is absolutely inevitable and wholly unavoidable whatever way you slice it so, politicians aren’t exactly queuing round the block to sign up to an unpopular price hike.

Where it gets a bit flaky is around the whole waste thing as, this is a major, major problem.

Asides the obvious, bad waste and having to needlessly recycle things you really ought not to or, should have a far longer service life, there are a number of deep flaws in the current system, some as noted by a recent investigation into WEEE by Interpol and others. Google is your friend if you want to learn more but, it was all largely ignored by the mainstream media as it’s probably too technical beyond a tacky headline.

Therefore I expect some change but just what and how drastic it will be, we’ll see I guess.

If you look at the WEEE Directive you’ll understand it’s so open to corruption and manipulation it really is rather staggering. But while very much connected, that really is a whole different topic.

But part non-availability is hardly a new issue, the French government were looking into it a few years back due to exactly this, things being scrap after a few years due to non-availability of parts, such as cars at six years old that was a “highlight” of the phenomena.

One of the things I keep banging on about to, pretty much anyone that will listen, is that spare parts should be mandated to be available for certain periods as, currently, there is no legislation in force to say that parts even have to ever be available, at all, for anything.

Obsolete parts one month out of warranty, tough. Prove it wasn’t fit, durable or that there was a flaw from point of sale in court as, that may well be your only option to get anything at all.

You need to couple that with controls on costings however as demonstrated in the recent Which? investigation on washing machines, several key components can cost 60-90% or more of a replacement. That obviously isn’t right and isn’t fair on buyers, that I will agree with many on here I’m sure.

Part in short supply or, you just can’t really get it any longer, no problem, whack the price up so that it’s not really an option, even the insurers will write them off and, job done.

There are reasons for this and, I get that but, I don’t think that owners that bought a product in good faith should be slapped with a huge bill for a part just because it’s a low volume item. Deals with suppliers could be formed to prevent that I would think or, at the very least, limit the issue.

Without that, along with a few other basics set out, make the circular economy little more than politicians PR pipe dream as there can be no substance to it without a number of measures in place and, further, even if they were to pass some high flying bit of legal gobble-de-g**k that did what they typically moot in the above, it’d be largely meaningless without the fundamentals in place to make that actually work.

Closing the loopholes, so much as possible, on a fundamental level is absolutely key. Or, you’ll get nowhere.

K.

Maybe we can all work together to push for legislation to require spares to be held for larger products. Lack of spares is not a new problem. When I bought my bungalow it had two boilers – one for heating and one for hot water. The latter developed a fault and the local dealer told me it it could not be repaired due to the lack of availability a routine service item (flame failure device). Other dealers confirmed this. I went back to the local dealer to buy a new boiler and was offered the same model as the one that had failed! I have often wondered who bought the boiler I rejected.

It’s a common myth that manufacturers have to hold spare parts.

Any chance of a response to my :
———————–
JosefKafka says:1 day 1 minute ago
KennethWatt wrote:1 day 11 hours ago
Sad though it is to report, probably about 99.99% ….

. . .

May I check your line of reasoning, plz?

”A” asserts that statement ”S” is true.

If ”S” is true, then corollaries S1; S2; S3; etc will be true. …

———————-

please ?

I missed that Josef.

However, I’ve no clue what you’re talking about.

K.

– 1
————
You MIGHT, when you’ve read it ”Kenny Babes”.

JosefKafka

I don’t do riddles Josef, if you’ve something to say fine, but I’m not working it out.

K.

“Obsolete parts one month out of warranty, tough”. I would have thought this was a clear case for a decent product that your particular one was simply not durable. The retailer is liable. Why should it be tough on the customer?

One help on spares that legislation might lead to is the use of interchangeable basic components – motors, pumps, bearings for example. Why do these have to be so different for different machines? Maybe these are interchangeable – I don’t know.

The industry I worked in had many suppliers of similar products (in terms of function) but the market demanded that they were all compatible so the clients were not committed to a single supplier. Superior performance or technology would still give competitive advantage but if one manufacturer’s component proved unavailable or less reliable, an equivalent could easily be sourced. This is an attitude issue rather than some fundamental obstacle. And it is attitudes that need to change. In my view.

First seen in kettles and other small appliances I think as prices were pushed lower and lower as well as the introduction of more sealed units, including components. These are all too often specific to a manufacturer or design.

Many you now simply cannot obtain spare parts for at all, replacement is the only option.

Microwaves followed and then others and, it’s all completely legal.

I hate to break it to you but the retailer is not automatically liable if the product failed and a part isn’t available and, on low cost items it’s not worth the bother of pursuing a claim through the legal system anyway. Any settlement, even if you managed to get one, would be derisory so, a pointless exercise.

Just look at the cheap stuff in small goods sold in supermarkets et all that is own label, they don’t supply spares at all, just replace in warranty and once out, too bad.

I now see them applying the same principals to larger items.

You can’t mandate interchangeable parts as it would limit design options and product development so, that’s a non-starter. Many are but, many are tweaked to make them not to be interchangeable, the owner then forced to buy at whatever price is demanded for a replacement part.

K.

K., the law specifies durability as a requirement, whether the retailer likes it or not. It is a case of helping the consumer apply the law, not letting the retailer avoid their obligations.

I have no problem with people buying cheap, throw away appliances if they know what they are getting. I am more concerned with those appliances that purport to be better than that in terms of quality, and those few examples that then fail early. This is where I want to see fair treatment.

The future cannot continue with our present wasteful approach – it is a bad use of scarce resources that cannot continue. So while some simply seem to accept the status quo – nothing can be done – I don’t. Something CAN be done, but it will require change – probably enforced. I don’t agree with limiting vacuum cleaners to 1600W, and I presume manufacturers were not necessarily united either, but the EU enforced legislation as they have done with other stuff – light bulbs for example. Manufacturers have adapted, the world hasn’t come to an end.

Nothing says the only washing machines we produce must have sealed drums that mitigate against economic repairs for example. Nothing fundamental says that you can’t get spares. Make it a requirement in the EU and manufacturers will find a way of dealing with it.

@malcolm-r– the reason for all the sealed business is cost ,it is in engineering terms cheaper to produce a sealed unit of anything than it is to prefabricate it by hand or machine . This is only to get worse as time goes by. Follow the money.

duncan, I am aware of the cost reasons. However, we may have to start thinking in terms of long term cost savings rather than cheaper initial price. if you cannot economically repair something, but have to spend out on a totally new one, that is rarely in the financial interests of the consumer. It is why I suggest Which? look at the real cost of ownership (of say domestic appliances) not just initial cost. It might help consumers make wiser choices.

Longer guarantees, if enforced, might change manufacturers approaches as they would then have to deal with the consequences.

Better designed products, better components, need not be costly. A decent motor, decent bearings, an assembly that can be dismantled, will add some cost, but there is no reason it needs to be excessive. A change in design philosophy is needed.

“Longer guarantees, if enforced, might change manufacturers approaches as they would then have to deal with the consequences.”

No.

They’d just cost it in as another factor. It would not necessarily lead to better quality at all.

Cases in point:

Beko.

Sold under Blomberg as a two year warranty, Grundig with a five year warranty.

Exactly the same machines behind the fascia, just price hiked for the design and warranty costs.

Bosch.

Sold under Siemens.

Same innards, longer warranty, higher cost.

What many might think would happen by forcing longer warranties, as is proven in only two simple examples above, will not.

K.

““Longer guarantees, if enforced, might change manufacturers approaches as they would then have to deal with the consequences.”
No.
They’d just cost it in as another factor. It would not necessarily lead to better quality at all.”

OK. That may or may not be right. My experience in manufacturing was that we aimed to control after-sales costs as they could be expensive in £ and reputation. In £ it was relatively easy to make a product more reliable without too much extra cost.

If a manufacturer offered, or had to offer, a 5 years guarantee they will make sure that they will keep the number of likely claims to a minimum.

Which? need to look at declaring rebadged appliances and their specifications so we can decide whether to buy, given your example, a BEKO, Blomberg or Grundig. If they perform similarly, but presumably at different prices (BEKO seem to be in the £2-300s, the others in the £3-400s) then their value can be better assessed, given the different guarantees. I expect to pay more for a longer guarantee.

Which? is set up to represent Consumers and should have acquired the staff and expertise to deal with these sorts of issues, and to collect relevant data.

“In £ it was relatively easy to make a product more reliable without too much extra cost.”

I think that’s where you may be not understanding here Malcolm. You’re trying to apply common sense to a situation that often defies all common sense. 🙂

Many manufacturers are striving to lower build costs by even fractions of pennies, not increase them at all.

Increases in costs are a bad thing in the domestic market.

Reduction of cost is a good thing.

And, there’s often not much joined up thinking between different divisions in these behemoths of companies with each area (sales, service, accounts, spares) all in competition internally to cover cost or maximise profitability. The notion that putting a 2p better bearing in would save X on service, sales don’t care as it’s not their problem and not their cost, that’s a service problem, sales just want the price lower than the competition.

In that environment, how do you increase revenues without increasing costs?

One great way, buy a “premium” brand name, use the same stuff you have already and slap a fancy set of LEDs and a display on it, paint it black, silver or something and then slap on your “premium” badge. Perhaps offer a longer warranty.

Then (just for example) fire it out with a 30-50% premium on it for the privilege.

Net effect could be a 10-40% revenue bump for not a lot of investment.

K.

“I think that’s where you may be not understanding here Malcolm. ” K, I do understand. Credit me with that – I have worked in a competitive manufacturing environment.

When regulations are applied to a product that may increase costs, companies have to comply and the consumer has to pay. The point I will make again is that to design a product to be more reliable by using better quality methods and components is not a great added cost. Given a level playing field, companies will adapt accordingly.

I think we might have exhausted this now 🙂 .

Perhaps we should be discussing ways as to how the consumer can be better protected in future.

Yes it does, but the term is not defined at all.

The goalposts can shift on it and, I expect that without naming and designating a “durability” to every product in the market from a toaster to a jet plane, it’ll never happen.

So if I, if I was in a retailer position or indeed manufacturer, said that there was a design life of two years, it had a fault at sixteen months then I’d have to give you back or a discount on new equivalent to four months use. Like I said, derisory in many people’s eyes and yet, as wavechange points out, many people are satisfied with this.

I completely agree with you, it is immensely wasteful and in a lot of way I am fundamentally opposed to the situation but, I have to deal with the realties of it, not a Utopian vision of what it may, might or could be.

What forces a lot of the change is the constant desire for lower ticket prices, manufacturers are “forced” by consumers to cut costs to meet that demand and, that’s the primary driver there.

K.

Malcolm – What often happens is the retailer offers the owner of the goods that have failed soon after the expiry of the guarantee a discount on a new product. On another Convo, we learned that this was Amazon’s standard procedure for Kindles with screen faults. I suspect they were still making a profit on the sale of the replacement, and some customers were happy with the offer.

I had a fridge that developed a fault and the retailer decided to replace rather than repair it with a similar model. They tried to charge me because the price was higher but after a polite discussion the surcharge was dropped and the receipt shows ‘manager’s discount’.

Not everyone has the confidence to take on store managers, so we need solutions that are easy for everyone. Solutions that are fair to retailers too.

Non-availability of parts is nothing new but in the days when products were simpler and products more expensive in real terms than they are today, there were various ways in which appliances etc. could be kept working.

Malcolm – I presume that your company was not selling primarily to the domestic market. Selling to companies, local authorities, educational establishments, etc. seems an entirely different world, and one where there is less opportunity for exploitation.

Maureen says:
10 December 2015

My Hotpoint washing machine a 3 year old Aquarius, had on many occasions been throwing out concrete on
the kitchen floor from when 9 months old but at that time the concrete was smaller amounts after spinning
and the spin became louder and louder and middle of November 2015 a great noise and the machine broken
down, not working and on this occasion the concrete on the floor under and around the machine broken off
are huge great lumps.
I phoned Hotpoint and when I eventually got through was told to go to supplier.
I explained I could not as the supplier was out of business as I purchased from Comet.
I was then told that I could pay for an engineers visit, further costs would be needed to cover labour or parts
or I could £163.00 for a years insurance or pay that over a 12 monthly period
which would include labour and parts.
I was told that if I paid the insurance method the engineer could be with me the following day
and the machine repaired that day.
I said that the machine should at least be repaired by Hotpoint free of charge as it was but 3 years old
and that there is certainly a design and manufacturers fault which made the machine in a short life span
not fit for purpose, as the concrete had disintegrated and damaged the finer electronics.
I explained that on the internet it is plainly seen that bloggers have come together, showing that
Hotpoint and Indesit, (Whirlpool to be owned by same) have been found to be manufacturing
and servicing a great deal of the same problems with out addressing the issues to the satisfaction
of their consumers and they should visit:
grumpygitsandusefultips.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05.hotpoint-aqualtis-noisy-spin-damage.html

I had to pay up for the insurance to repair as I was informed they were not prepared to help but when the
engineer came the following day, he had to order many parts as they were not in stock but said
an engineer would call back the following week, this did not happen as when I chased Hotpoint
up I was told parts had to come from abroad possibly Turkey for the concrete base.
A further engineer arrived this week, but it was found that ALL 12 parts were for the incorrect machine
and am now to wait a further 9 days.
I explained to the engineer that I have to now hand wash for yet another period of at least 9 days,
after doing this since machine broke down and
possibly longer if there is another mishap on their servicing !
I explained that
as my husband is incontinent due to Parkinson’s symptoms, the machine is
a very vital and important piece of machinery within my household.
The engineer said he appreciated what I was going through without my
washing machine but because of the previous engineers mistake there
was nothing he could do.
I feel that there should be a means by which all previous Hotpoint /Indesit
customers can come together and pay into a pot a small fee and take Hotpoint/Indesit
to court.
By the way I see that one such customer whom wrote on the above mentioned
bloggers site did mention this to Hotpoint that he would pursue this avenue
of going to court
and Hotpoint replaced his machine, when I did the same they refused to do the same for me.
Today, I rung Which for their view.
The customer services assistant advised me to purchase their (Which) solicitors
advice on special offer of £58.00 , as she said the machine should have lasted at least 6 years!!
I asked her to pass onto Which what is regular nightmare with other consumer of Hotpoint
wash machines as can be seen at:
http://grumpygitsandusefultips.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/hotpoint-aqualtis-noisy-spin-damage.html

All this has emotionally distressed my husband as he feels guilty to add a larger workload to
the already overworked wife/carer.

As we are pensioners and somewhat older then some writing here, we look for the younger
ones to take the lead.

It has been interesting reading what others have posted here and I hope something will really
be done about the many customers that like myself get taken for a ride with the poor
workmanship / manufacturing of products that do not give the service they the manufacturers
profess they will give.

do this

Maureen, this is a distressing case in your circumstances particularly. In hindsight (which is easy) I suppose you should have reported the concrete disintegration as soon as it started – but why would you suspect it would become a major problem.

Your particular machine seems an example that was built with a fault, not fit for purpose and not of reasonable durability given its fairly high price. Pursuing a claim when the retailer has gone out of business is a problem, but it is disappointing that the manufacturer has not been more helpful, given they have may have caused this problem through faulty manufacture.

I wonder whether Which? keep any kind of watch on reports of faulty appliances? It would be a useful adjunct to their reports to make people aware of an unusual incidence of a particular fault. I note Which tested this machine in 2012 and scored it “OK, not outstanding, 61%.