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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!


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Unless the TV was purchased directly from Sony, the legal responsibility lies with the retailer, not the manufacturer. It does not matter if there is a design fault. The manufacturer would only be responsible if they had recalled a product because it was unsafe. There is also no requirement to provide a refund on goods where the guarantee has expired. Under the Consumer Rights Act you have a legal to reject goods that are unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described and get a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

Although manufacturers have no legal responsibility, they are often more helpful than retailers.

Duncan – Sorry, but I should have mentioned that there is still the possibility of a refund if a retailer has attempted a repair and it has failed. The case we are discussing is complicated because the TV has already been replaced. I don’t know whether the retailer would be allowed an attempt to repair the new TV.

I think you are over-stating the consumers legal protection, Malcolm. My understanding is that the six year period (five in Scotland) limits the time during which a consumer can ask a retailer to take action if there is a problem with their purchase.

The Consumer Rights Act effectively provides protection for both consumers and retailers. My understanding is that after six months, it is the responsibility to be able to demonstrate that a fault existed in a product at the time of manufacture. As Adam says in his introduction: “It’s now up to us, the customer, to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase.” This is explained in more detail in one of the links he has provided.

The Department of Business Innovation & Skills produced guidance for business around the time the Consumer Rights Act was introduced: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/The%20sale%20and%20supply%20of%20goods_ALL_BIS_GOODS_GUIDANCE_SEP15.pdf The information on the ‘reverse burden of proof’ makes useful reading.

In my view, our focus of attention should be on the retailers who tell us that nothing can be done if goods are outside the guarantee period or wrongly refer us to the manufacturer. To pursue a claim regarding lack of durability, the retailer obviously has the right to demand that goods are inspected to eliminate the possibilities of abuse and problems arising from fair wear & tear (which should take account of the purchase price), and to determine the nature of the problem.

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There seems, in my view, to be a misconception that has been perpetuated and one I have asked Which? to comment on in the past. “Fault” as in “faulty goods” is not a term used either in SoGA or CRA. They use the term “contract” as in a failure to meet contract terms. These terms include a number of things, one of which is “Quality”. Under “Quality” are a number of items including “Durability”. Hence if a product does not prove to have acceptable durability – stops working properly before a reasonable time – then it fails to meet the contract and thus remedy is required by both SoGA (for items purchased pre Oct 2015) or CRA thereafter.

As far as the 30 days “rule” is concerned as I understand it this is the time when the consumer has the right to a full refund if an item proves to have a defect. But after that, and for up to 6 years, claims can be made and redress required.

We have a framework of legal protection that consumer groups should make absolutely clear, so we know how to approach retailers (with whom our contract usually rests and who are legally obliged to provide a suitable remedy) and obtain redress that is fair to both parties.

It may well be that Natakie has used the manufacturers guarantee to get a remedy. It is usual, I believe, for a guarantee to be effective from the date the product was first purchased, even when a replacement product has been supplied.

Another conversation has the subject “Will Prime Minister May be a pro-consumer Prime Minister”. One way to “restore trust” – I’d suggest rather “provide reassurance” – would be to ensure consumers can more easily get justifiable redress when they have a problem with a product or service.

Which? could, I believe, do much more to ensure steps are taken to achieve this. unless, perish the thought, my understanding of SoGA and CRA is totally wrong in which case perhaps they would say.

When we buy a product, use it correctly and don’t abuse it, we should be entitled to expect it to last a reasonable time taking account of the price we pay. That is what “durability” is all about and I want to see the playing field leveled so consumers get a fair deal without unreasonable cost or inconvenience. I would have thought that, as a guardian of consumers’ rights, Which? would surely have this as one of their top priorities?

I strongly agree about design faults, Duncan. When I used to do faultfinding on consumer electronics, mainly TV and radio, design faults were common knowledge and well documented. My last car was gradually working through the list of known problems with that model.

I am disappointed that the Consumer Rights Act did not focus on the problem of design faults. I wonder if those who compiled the document have much experience of faultfinding. Service engineers know about design faults and often carry appropriate replacement parts in their vans.

Which gives useful advice:

After the first six months the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time of delivery.

In practice, this may require some form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range.

We have to be careful about using information from websites because frequent failures are not always caused by the same defective component. You will be aware of this but those who rarely do repairs might not.

The CRA does focus on “design faults” in requiring “durability”. So a deliberately-included poor quality bearing that causes early failure in a washing machine, or duncan’s suggestion that substandard capacitors are included in Sony power supplies, that lead to unreasonably short product life as the result of poor design or specification given the price of the product. would seem to fail the contract requirement of Quality/Durability.

We need to examine the legal requirements to see where consumers can get proper and fair resolution of problems. We have seen many instances in conversations over the years where consumers have been badly dealt with. It is time it stopped. We should not shy away from dealing with it.

Whirlpool tumble driers is a prime example where hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of consumers are being severely inconvenienced by having long waits for repairs, being told to sit with their unsafe driers in case they catch fire. It’s a joke. The law says they should not be subjected to unreasonable inconvenience. Where is the help coming from to support their rights? Is Whirlpool too big for Which?

“The Which? mission is to make individuals as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with in their daily lives”

Poor durability is a consequence of design faults but it would have been very helpful if the Consumer Rights Act had specifically mentioned design faults and provided a provided interpretation of the term in a way that is fair to both the consumer and the company.

If I obtained an expert’s report that identified a failed component I would do my best to look for evidence of a design fault or common problem to help me achieve an acceptable resolution of the problem. Experienced service engineers will know of common failures of that make and model – compared with similar products made by the same and other manufacturers.

Perhaps the first problem to address is that retailers turn people away if a problem arises outside the guarantee period. What they should be doing is to say that we do have rights under the Consumer Rights Act but it is necessary to investigate the nature of the problem as a first step. If Which? was to enlist the help of someone with a faulty washing machine (for example) that is now out of the guarantee period, they could be guided through the process of pursuing our rights. It could make a good story for the magazine.

If I buy a £1000 washing machine, as an example, with a 2 year guarantee and after 2 years and one month of normal use, no abuse, it stops working I would argue that given its price that appliance was not durable, whatever the reason. It is an extreme example to make a point. We need to get to grips with “reasonable durability”, not only to protect consumers but to protect resources. BEUC – the umbrella consumers association in Europe – takes this view. So should we in the UK.

Consumers need to have the trust that, when someone supplies them with something, they get what they pay for, including the expectation it will last a sensible time and that, if it does not, a straightforward path exists to put matters right. I don’t care if that is longer warranties linked to expected durability, simple legal protection, or whatever. But we need to protect consumers. Which? should have a key role here. They had the opportunity to help shape the Consumer Rights Act. Did they think to look at durability?

When a retailer is faced with a claim over a product that has failed outside the guarantee period, the first action should be to establish whether the fault has been caused by abuse or fair wear & tear, either of which would invalidate a claim. Rather than sending customers away because their washing machine guarantee has now expired, the machine needs to be examined by an expert. The problem could have been caused by a coin left in a pocket, use of excessive detergent or damage caused by prolonged use without having been set up correctly. In other Conversations we have been given these examples. I have seen a few cases of water damage in household goods belonging to family members and friends, even though there was no external evidence. I once managed to drop my large flat-screen TV (it’s a long story) and it started to misbehave soon after. With mobile phones and other small portable items, abuse is a very common problem.

I am very keen to promote consumers’ rights, but we have to be realistic in our expectations. I would like to put an end to retailers saying that ‘nothing can be done’ or ‘you should contact the manufacturer because it’s now out of guarantee’. Any company that does that is – I understand – breaking the law if the cause of the problem has not been investigated.

I suspect most lack of durability issues are not caused by consumer damage – although no doubt there is some abuse. A fridge-freezer failure, Sony cracked screens, 2 Sony tvs that stop working in months, frozen Kindles, drums that seize in a washing machine, failed joints in furniture, ….look back on these convos for problems that are not down to misuse, just a poor product – either indidual instances or due to poor quality components or poor design.

It is difficult for an individual without expertise to recognise what might be the cause of unreasonably early failure, and to know who to pay for the advice needed to make a claim. We need a much better system that does not always put the individual consumer in situations where they simply give up because they do not have the means or support to gain their rights.

I support Which? as a Member in the expectation – reasonable I believe – that it will stand up for consumers, clarify their rights, put effort into establishing what is, for example, reasonable durability – beginning with key products like domestic appliances. They need not act alone; BEUC can bring all their European organisations together.
But it will need application and effort – which is what I believe part of my subscription should be funding.

Do you not mean “unfair wear & tear” in line 2, Wavechange? Products must be capable of standing up to fair wear and tear.

I think it is right that consumers have redress against the retailer as that is where the contract lies. If the retailer doesn’t like it they can take it up with the wholesaler or manufacturer. The essence of the consumer protection given under the CRA is that the purchaser should not be unduly inconvenienced.

Because there is the possibility of abuse, each claim needs to be investigated. The alternative would be to include accidental damage cover in the cost of goods, but I don’t want to contribute to this.

A service engineer might be able to make an educated guess about the cause of a failure from past experience of a product but we cannot rely on guesses if we have a faulty product and expect a company to pay for a repair or other remedy.

We certainly need advice on how to an expert opinion on the cause of a fault. To be fair to both the consumer and the company, this should be an independent report, and if either party commissions it, it would not be independent. I cannot remember reading anything about this issue in the magazine or on this website.

Durability is an extremely complicated issue and unless we want to be taking individual cases to court or get involved with mediation, pushing for longer guarantees could be a much easier solution.

Receiving redress under a guarantee will still depend upon the claim being accepted as valid. It is no magic solution.

Durability is not complicated – the concept is simple, it just needs work to decide what a reasonable working life should be, given the purchase price. Start with washing machines. Progress bit by bit. We can, of course, duck out because it involves some work, but that is no way to resolve fairness in consumer issues.

Guarantees and warranty claims do have to comply with terms and conditions. Most of them seem remarkably fair. I know many people who have had repairs or replacements and I doubt that one of them would attempt to make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act.

One retailer offers a fair number of washing machines that include a total of five years cover, presumably a manufacturers guarantee plus an insurance warranty. Obviously the extra cover is not free but the prices seem reasonable and since the price includes the warranty, it is easy to compare prices with other retailers. We have come a long way since Which? warned us to avoid taking out ridiculously priced extended warranties pushed on customers in the late 80s.

It’s not a case of ducking out but maybe one of extending a solution that already exists. At one time, cars came with a one year guarantee, but thanks to consumer pressure most manufacturers offer cover for three years or more because it is a selling point. I know Hyundai, Toyota and Kia owners who have said that the guarantee has been an important factor in their choice of car. Some manufacturers offer optional extra cover at a reasonable price and that might be worth considering by anyone wanting to protect themselves from unexpected bills or are concerned about the reliability of their purchase.

John – What I meant was excessive wear & tear. For example, a cheap washing machine could not be expected to work for years if it is used two or three times a day. I had always assumed that use was related to the number of people in a family until I discovered that teenage children sometimes put on washing machines with single items. 🙁

Which? magazine has illustrated that major retailers are failing to face up to their responsibilities and this reflects my own experience. I am disappointed that Which? has not pursued this and reported back. Looking back over the years, I have had much more support from manufacturers, despite the fact that they have no responsibility to resolve problems.

Of course the retailer has the responsibility to provide appropriate remedies under current law, sometimes a solution seems as far off as world peace.

Extra cover can be purchased reasonably for some appliances but it will still leave a claim subject to scrutiny.

I hope WhiteGoodsHelp don’t mind me reproducing this:
” I have information that many parts inside washing machines are specifically designed to run for a specific number of wash cycles. In many cases the amount of cycles they are designed for is shockingly small, and can equate to only 3 years under heavy use for a big family. This means many washing machines are completely inadequate for many people, but these manufacturers don’t publish the cycle times to enable people to make informed purchasing decisions. It’s safe to say though that you should not buy a budget washing machine for a large family unless you are happy for it to last only a few short years. ”

This is what durability should address. If we pay decent money we should expect a decent machine. 6 or 7 years life is, from memory, what should be expected.

I would not mind a warranty that matched an expected realistic trouble free life, and I would not mind one where later in its life both I and the warranty contributed to any repair. This requires, though, that appliances are sensibly repairable.

Rather than debating the negative aspects – making a claim for a failed product either through warranty or legal redress we should be working towards more durable and economically repairable products. By all means have cheap, shorter life products for those who want that, and where it is clear that the product is in that league. But for those who want better longer life products, let’s have them and make sure they do what they say.

We have debated the need for cycle counters to record the amount that washing machines have been used. They are standard features of many types of equipment containing engines that need to be serviced at regular intervals. Washing machines may record use but the information is not user-accessible.

One of the prerequisites for products to be repairable is the availability of spares. I rarely fix faulty goods for family and friends these days but I do offer advice if they are prepared to give it a go themselves. The most recent example was a hand-held vacuum cleaner that had remained unused and failed to work when it was needed. It’s less than two years old and spare batteries are not available. Many cordless tools are scrapped because spare batteries are not available or the price is so high that buying a new tool makes better sense.

I had hoped that BEUC, the European consumers association, would coordinate pressure on the manufacturers to produce durable goods that can be repaired and a requirement to hold spares for larger appliances for an appropriate period. That has not happened and the recent referendum may not help in this respect. We have been told that it is not possible to replace drum bearings in most modern washing machines and learned of other integrated assemblies such as Bosch washing machine doors that no doubt make assembly easier and cheaper but will add to the cost if a repair is needed.

To be positive, longer guarantees and warranties may drive greater reliability and repairability because the retailer will have to pay for repair or replacement during the period of cover, assuming that there is a valid claim.

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BEUC has a good deal to say about product durability, repairability and availability of spare parts. It points to EUEcodesign directives requiring minimum lifetimes to be stated for light bulbs and vacuum cleaners – and how this should be extended to more products. It points out that most consumers want a good indication of product lifespan when making a purchasing decision. Throughout there is great emphasis on durability and its enforcement through EU Directives.


However, a position paper that states an aspiration or two is no good. We want Consumer Organisations that pressurise governments to act on behalf of consumers. Which? is part of BEUC and hopefully will increase its focus on product lifetime, durability, repairability and the availability of spares when it deals with the new Government. I think “rebuilding trust” is something consumers would wish for from all parties involved. 😉

If you look back at early posts by Kenneth Watt, there are some interesting insights into what is happening in the white goods industry, particularly with regard to washing machines. Apparently it’s all our fault for buying cheap machines, whereas I don’t think the industry should be selling products that are anything but durable.

The problem with main bearings is due to increased drum diameter, increased spin speed and use of cheap bearings. That is on top of the poor engineering design of having a horizontal drum supported only at one end. With almost all recent machines the tub and drum are an integrated assembly, so that the simple task of replacing bearings becomes hopelessly uneconomic.

I have limited experience of US products dating from the 50s. At least British products of that era were easy and cheap to repair if necessary.

Thanks for the suggestion about producing a corded vacuum. I have already offered to turn it into a 12V car vacuum. I could probably find a 12V lead acid battery that would fit the space available but it’s a daft design to have a heavy battery in a handheld vac.

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A school friend and fellow electronics enthusiast worked as a TV engineer and showed me examples of the notifications you mention, Duncan. Commercial secrecy often acts against the interests of consumers and I have said many times that I would like to see the equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act applied to companies. I expect we could find some helpful information if we could explore information withheld by Whirlpool and the Volkswagen Group.

Apple includes information on consumer rights on its website, and here is the page relevant to the UK: http://www.apple.com/uk/legal/statutory-warranty/

Apple guarantee their computers for only a year, so it is good that they do provide information about consumer rights. You can pay for an extended warranty called AppleCare, but that is fairly expensive and provides telephone support for products.

Last year I had a problem with an Apple laptop that was over three years old and could not resolve this myself. I was disappointed, having had good service from other Apple computers. To cut a long story short, it was repaired free of charge by Apple and works fine. I’m glad that I was not charged because they quoted £841.20 for the repair, more than half the original cost. Normally I would have had to demonstrate that the fault existed at the time of purchase but thanks to a known fault with the model, I did not have to do this. As it happened, my computer did not exhibit the known fault, but was fixed free of charge anyway. It was far from convenient to get the repair done. I had to travel to the nearest Apple Centre, which involved an hour on the train and then go back the next day to collect the repaired computer.

I can buy an Apple laptop with a three year guarantee/warranty from John Lewis and had actually done this before I got my old one repaired. I cannot find anything about my consumer rights on the JL website and I have a feeling that they might send me away (based on what I have read about JL and other retailers in Which? magazine) if I’m unlucky and have a problem outside the guarantee period.

I suggest that all retailers follow Apple’s example and put information about consumer rights on their website. It would be helpful to also have advice on how to go about providing acceptable evidence that a fault existed at the time of manufacture.

Indeed. Apple is a leader in the field of informing customers, and I too have had a friend’s iMac fixed for free, and that was four years old and had been a refurb, anyway 🙂

Perhaps we could push for all retailers to follow Apple’s lead and put information on consumers’ rights on their websites. Then when the sales assistant or manager says that nothing can be done after the guarantee has expired it would be great fun to turn it up on the company’s website. 🙂

Which?’s latest report (website) in washer / driers makes no mention of either guarantee length or repairability, let alone any assessment of quality that might help decide whether a product will last a decent time or not. It is surely time that these things were considered so we could make better buying decisions. Isn’t it? 🙁

Which? do put this information on their website, so perhaps it would be useful if it was linked directly from washing machine reviews?


Done properly it does not seem a big step to put expected trouble free years onto appliances and from there it seems fairly simple to give a “reasonable durability” for appliances. At least it gives a start, based upon users’ experiences. If European surveys were included we might then get a very sound basis on which to provide evidence to help people making claims against retailers under SoGA and CRA when they consider an appliance has failed unreasonably early? Isn’t this what the following should mean? “The Which? mission is to make individuals as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with in their daily lives”. Knowledge is power, so we need to work on getting the knowledge.

If we are going to tackle the problem of pursuing our rights under the Consumer Rights Act, my view is that we should tackle the problem that retailers often deny customers help if they turn up with a product that has developed a fault outside the guarantee but within the six year (five year in Scotland) period during which we have statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act.

Perhaps one approach would be to have a letter to hand that formally asks a retailer for a remedy under the Consumer Rights Act, explaining that you intend to take legal action if they refuse to help without a valid reason.

I agree, but we need help from Which? to make use of our legal rights. They seem very reluctant to address durability as a contract requirement and to help us use the Sale of Goods Act (for purchases before Oct 2015) and the Consumer Rights Act for those after that date.

There is also a requirement in SoGA and CRA that remedies should be made without unreasonable inconvenience to the customer. My view on the Whirlpool / Indesit timescale to repair hundreds of thousands of unsafe tumble dryers is that this does cause unreasonable inconvenience and customers should be compensated (those with machines within the 6 year limit – 5 in Scotland – allowed by SoGA). So far Which? have refused to reply to a request for a view on this. I wonder why Which? are so unwilling to engage with this, or at least to give us their opinion?

We certainly do need help from Which?, Malcolm. I presume that we are in a minority pushing for our rights under the Consumer Rights Act for goods that are no longer covered by a guarantee or warranty. Many feel aggrieved at the time they experience a problem and just replace a faulty product. Some will decide to avoid a brand in future but brand loyalty is such that people often stick with makes that have let them down. 🙁

My reason for wanting to tackle the problem of retailers turning customers away is that it is so easy to find examples, and it has certainly happened to me. If a retailer declines help in writing then that is the necessary evidence to take legal action. I’m quite happy to give this a go but will wait until something that cost £100 or more lets me down.

I don’t know where we go with the durability issue. I had hoped that the Consumer Rights Act would clarify what the law expects, in the way that the time allowed to reject faulty goods is defined as 30 days rather than the vague requirement to act promptly until the new legislation appeared.

Perhaps it’s worth looking at some of the practical problems with deciding what is acceptable durability. Do we expect every part of a complex product to continue working for 6/5 years? I recently took my VW to the dealer from which I bought it in the hope that they would replace the headlamp adjuster control free of charge, though the car was nearly a year beyond the warranty period. I have had a considerable amount of goodwill work done by VW main dealers. This time I was told that the car was out of warranty and a new control would be over £120. The options were to buy a new control and fit it myself (my preferred option) or to pursue a claim in the hope of a free repair. As it happened, the problem disappeared after the service, so it was probably a dodgy connection, corrected when the mechanic investigated the cause. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect owners to replace minor user-replaceable parts provided that spares are inexpensive and readily available. I’d be interested in your view on this, Malcolm.

A growing problem is non-availability of spare parts, the motor industry being an honourable exception. Furthermore, the increased use of integrated assemblies can easily make repairs uneconomical. We have previously discussed the problem with replacement of bearings in most modern washing machines.

An interesting paradox in this is that those of us who would be prepared to take a case all the way on the ‘durability’ clause seem to have appliances that do not let us down and keep going way beyond their forecast lifespan! Perhaps it’s the way we look after them.

Forecast lifespan? I’m still not sure whether I made the right decision buying a 2016 washing machine to replace my 1982 machine. Parts are probably no longer available for the old one, though it is still working well.

Now that I’m in a house rather than a bungalow I have resurrected a couple of radios for use upstairs – my 1975 Hacker Hunter (seems to be a collectors’ item) and 1967 Bush TR146A that I was given for passing my O-Levels. I really must pension them off (again) and buy two DAB+/FM radios.

You are right about keeping products going, but it is becoming much harder. I cannot recall a time when household electrical goods other than fridges and freezers, were reliable, but at least they could be repaired easily and cheaply.

I think basic and elementary maintenance can prolong the life of products – not overloading them, keeping them clean, and attending to routine service requirements as set out in the manual, makes a big difference. I can’t remember when we had to have a repair carried out to any of our main appliances – some of them are into their second decade now and in daily use.

I agree, John. If users followed the instructions for cleaning lint filters in their tumble dryers there would be fewer house fires. Microwave ovens are sometimes wrecked by food ‘exploding’ due to incorrect use. With a little care, they can be kept in immaculate condition.

Durability – sorry for the delay in replying, wavechange. Watching Death in Paradise.

Many products are “cheap” and those who buy them generally put up with unreliability and shorter life. But many of us are prepared to spend more on what we believe should be a quality product – better components, better built, better performance and, crucially, more reliable and should last longer. But will it meet these criteria? My view is if it does not, we have not been given what we had a right to expect and we need suitable protection and redress.

The obvious protection is the manufacturer’s guarantee. But despite one or two improvements there is no sign of a “guarantee war” where the better manufacturers offer longer guarantees to back up their products. “High quality” domestic appliances can still come with 1 or 2 years. Like the rest. Up-market makes of car have 3 years, whereas lesser brands can have up to 7. So no emerging solution here.

The law – Consumer Rights Act now. This gives protection for up to 6 years – if you can show a cause. This act requires a product to have reasonable durability so in principle if, considering its price, it breaks down too soon you should get redress. But this will be scaled down the longer you have used it. To use this act we need to establish “reasonable life”; consumers’ associations could tackle this from their tests and surveys if they were so minded and therefore give “formal backing” to individual consumer’s claims. It should only be necessary to present this to a retailer; small claims should only be a threat and last resort.

Extended warranty: the above still only cover limited time. You can buy a warranty to cover repair or replacement for much longer. I favour this in principle, but I would propose that manufacturers should offer this direct, not have you go to a third party. This would be an incentive to them to design better, use better components and build, thus reduce their costs. It would also give the better manufacturers a competitive advantage – more reliable longer-lived products would b cheaper for them to support and show up as cheaper warranties. An incentive to the thinking purchaser.

A consequence of the above is the need for international action. BEUC (the European umbrella group for consumer associations) are heavily in favour of longer-life products that are sensibly repairable with availability of spares for a decent time.

We need a change in culture, EU led, pushed by consumer groups, to get better protection, establish reasonable lives, require repairability and availability of spares. Need to start somewhere. . How about domestic appliances?

We and others are agreed that paying for a separate extended warranty is undesirable and generally expensive. If the manufacturer offers the warranty they can price it according to their knowledge of how well built their product is. Including the cost of a decent warranty in the price means that consumers can compare prices more easily.

I suggest that fridges and freezers might be the easiest appliances to predict the life of. Unlike washing machines where the use can vary considerably between households, a fridge or freezer is almost always in continuous use. Unfortunately, many people shorten the life of these products by ignoring the manufacturers instructions, particularly those about ensuring adequate ventilation.

It has never been a requirement to maintain a stock of spares, and some companies do much better than others. In the past, it was fairly easy for service engineers to fit alternative parts that would do the job or could be adapted for the purpose. Nowadays, more parts are specific to the make and model. I had been hoping that the EU would push for a requirement for companies to maintain a stock of key parts of large appliances or to subcontract this duty to another company. The EU has brought in some valuable environmental legislation. It looks as if we will have to cope without the help of the EU soon, but may still benefit if legislation is introduced in the remaining EU countries.

I cannot see that we can predict a reasonable operating life for a washing machine until manufacturers provide their machines with user-accessible cycle counters and give us an idea of what to expect from different models. Paying more for higher quality seems to make sense, but if you are unlucky and need a repair and the manufacturer does not make parts available to anyone other than their own service engineers, it could work out expensive. I am not surprised that some have switched to cheaper machines with a one or two year guarantee and when that is expired they carry on using their machine until it fails, at which point they order a new one. That’s wrong on environmental grounds, of course, but could make economic sense.

You may turn up your nose at Hyundai, Kia and Toyota, but they might not be a bad choice if you are only planning to keep a car for five years or less. I know people who have bought Hyundais largely because of the guarantee and the company now has around 3% market share in the UK. Some of my friends used to drive much more expensive models but were fed-up with the running costs. Toyota generally beats ‘up-market’ makes of cars for reliability. I am hopeful that these companies will help larger manufacturers to recognise that a decent warranty sells cars, at least to those private owners who hold on to them rather than putting up with high depreciation costs when they drive their car out of the showroom.

Of course it would be good to be able to say that a washing machine in the price range X to Y should be expected to last Z years but I don’t think this is going to happen. Nevertheless, I wish you luck with that one.

If I’m not mistaken, the European equivalent of the Consumer Rights Act gives consumers only two years to make a claim, not six – or five in Scotland. That is not going to help if we want support from Europe, though I am well aware that BEUC is keen on more durable appliances.

We agree on manufacturers directly providing extended warranties then?

Appliances like fridges, washing machines, tumble driers, dishwashers and others can be fitted with hours-used meters to help with monitoring usage and to give another aspect to “life”.

If stocking spares is made mandatory that might cut down the varieties used. But it will have a cost.

I didn’t turn my nose up at any cars. Toyota is a reliable high-volume maker with a 5 year warranty. Some other quality makers are only 3 but you’d expect them to be more durable than that suggests.

To become a more sustainable society – throwing less away – requires a commitment from a fair proportion of consumers, help from consumer associations, and the EU agreeing with manufacturers a way forward. Whether we are in the EU or not should not affect us; if we are to trade with them we’ll need to cooperate and comply with EU regulations.

My preference is strongly for goods that are sold with longer warranties as standard, which could be a normal stock item or a temporary promotion. Paying extra would be my third choice and I would only consider it if the price was reasonable.

On one of the occasions when we discussed the value of monitoring the number of cycles or hours that a machine had been used for, Kenneth Watt hinted that some machines might already have this capability, but the information is not user accessible. If the machine has a display panel the cost of displaying the cycle count would be negligible.

My view is that the expected life of an appliance in cycles or hours should be on the label with energy rating and other essential information, so that consumers can make an informed choice. It would be nice if the whitegoods industry would make this information available without pressure from consumers or organisations such as Which?

As John mentioned earlier, simply following instructions and looking after products can pay dividends. You and I want goods to last but marketing and peer pressure has conditioned many into replacing products. Every few years we see a press report that quite a lot of electrical goods taken for disposal are in working condition. Some can be explained by house clearances following a death, new kitchen installations and so on. A friend who rents property buys cheap electrical goods and Ikea furniture, because new appliances and furniture appeal to most tenants. In his words, running a successful business is more important than worrying about the environment. 🙁

Education can help make more people aware of their environmental impact but sadly legislation will be necessary to really move forward with making products more durable and repairable.

I agree about longer guarantees, but how long will we wait?

My main concern is what Which? is doing to get better consumer protection? I’ve seen no general push for guarantees, nothing promoting product repairability or durability, nothing to push for spare parts to be stocked, nothing much to help use SoGA or CRA, nothing to begin to establish reasonable life for appliances. These things matter to many, and certainly for the “planet” long term.

Not everyone will want this of course – like your landlord – but informed choice is what consumers should be given.

I would like to see Which? invite us to consider whether we need to buy a new product every time it publishes a test report. I got rid of my little used tumble dryer years ago because it was a waste of energy and I have been aware of the small risk of fire for many years. I appreciate that many do have a need for these products.

We have debated environmental issues in various Convos but I have seen little evidence from the magazine that these issues are seen as important by those at the helm of the Consumers’ Association. It might look good but might do little to sell subscriptions. With continuing lack of support, I’m not sure what we can achieve on our own.

What I think I can do on my own is to pursue the issue of being turned away by a retailer. As I explained I will ensure that this is done in writing and probably sign up to Which? Legal with the intention of taking whatever action they deem appropriate. The problems I face are that it is very rare that I have suitable faulty goods to pursue a case.

@afrench, Hello Adam. Does Which? have anything to say on the views being expressed particularly by wavechange ,John W and myself? They do seem to be issues that Which? should be actively interested in, don’t they?

Poor Adam having to read that lot. Maybe we need an executive summary. 🙂

I expect he’s read every post in real time, wavechange, and been making notes.

Bought an electric shower from well known company, from installation it doesnt heat water. contacted manufacturer re problem, they say it may cost £82 for engineer to call. I may be cheaper to replace shower. however more cost to have it fitted. Can i take shower back to retailer and have it replaced. Under 30 days since it was bought. thanks

Unless you bought the shower direct from the manufacturer, it is the retailer who is responsible for replacing or refunding faulty goods, Harry. Your case is complicated because the installation might not have been done properly or the installer may have damaged a component. There is even a chance that the water pressure may not be in the specified range. What did the installer say when he fitted the shower and it did not work?

Whenever product reliability crops up in Convos I bang on about using the Sale of Goods Act (now the Consumer Rights Act) with the retailer if you have a genuine case that is not satisfactorily resolved. I don’t suggest going through small claims if avoidable, simply making your legal rights known to the retailer. Two of your rights are:- 1) if your appliance fails because of a fault inside 6 months you can claim a repair or replacement; after 6 months the onus is on the customer to show the fault pre-existed. This can prove difficult and costly. 2) The Acts also require that a product should be durable – last a reasonable time given the circumstances, including price. The remedy again is repair or replace, or refund pro rata to the use you’ve had.

Your contract is with the retailer, not the manufacturer, and you have 6 years to pursue your rights with them (Scotland 5). I have been told it is not worth using SoGA (or CRA) as you will get rebuffed by the retailer. I have also been told using “durability” is too difficult – hard to assess. I think durability is, perhaps, potentially the most useful option; many problems occur out of guarantee, often just out of guarantee, but certainly before you think a failure is reasonable to expect.

Having spoken out I have just had to put this to the test. Our £300 fridge-freezer failed in just under 3 years. (2 year guarantee, 5 years free parts). I’d expect, from experience, an 8 to 10 year life. So I reported this to the retailer. First response was this was the manufacturer’s problem. No, I am making a claim under SoGA so was passed to another department who were prepared to make a goodwill payment towards a repair if I organised it. Manufacturer sent a repair man who declared it beyond repair. The manufacturer contacted me the same afternoon and offered a replacement appliance but at an unacceptable (to me) price. I pointed out the durability requirement of the Act (although this is nothing to do with the manufacturer) and they passed the information on to another department who would contact me “in up to a week”.

Not wanting to wait I emailed the retailer offering 30% (3 years out of 10) towards a new appliance with a copy of the relevant bit from SoGA.
That same evening I had a call from the manufacturer apologising for the unacceptable life, offering a free of charge replacement. The retailer offered a major contribution towards a 5 year extended warranty. The replacement arrived in 2 days with the old one removed.

We see complaints about poor treatment. I was given more than I expected or asked for. I believe using the Act and dealing with the participants gently (and politely) produced a good result. OK, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but I hope this persuades others to press their cases. I also hope Which? may reconsider how consumers might be helped to explain their legal rights to the retailer. I also hope they will look at developing some way of showing the durability we should expect from different types and prices of product. If we don’t start somewhere we will get nowhere.

Congratulations on your success, Malcolm. Which? has various template letters and a legal team that could produce a concise but authoritative document that might be used by members of the public.

I believe that it is important to be polite (though I’ve not tested the aggressive approach) and to be reasonable when making requests.

My only experience of an expensive item failing outside the guarantee period but within the six year period was a car that developed a serious engine fault two years outside the guarantee period. I had to pay for the replacement, but that was a lot cheaper. Sometimes I have had offers of modest discounts if I buy a replacement but have found that pushing for a repair instead has resulted in a free replacement.

You have experienced the typical response of the retailer referring you to the manufacturer. If Which? does come up with a document, I hope it will make clear that the retailer is not fulfilling its legal obligations unless there is evidence of misuse or excessive use. In the case of a fridge-freezer, excessive use does not apply because it is intended for continuous use.

Good news, Malcolm. I am sure some people get nowhere because they adopt a hostile tone at the outset whereas being quietly persistent can achieve a happy outcome, although there is no doubt that some retailers and manufacturers are unjustifiably obstructive.

I entirely agree that Which? should produce a handout that people can present to the retailer when seeking to exercise their SoGA/CRA rights. If well-produced and authoritative it could take a lot of the animosity out of such events, which in the case of essential household appliances are also naturally stressful. Shops might even like to have a copy at the till or customer service desk to assist staff handling the case and also to use it as a training aid. Having said all that, I think with some companies the denial of rights takes on institutionalised proportions and needs to be tackled with some well-aimed prosecutions to drive home the key responsibilities. Retailers decide whose products to stock and should weigh up whether they can afford to carry certain brands rather than just attempt to abdicate all responsibility and shunt the buyer’s problem on to a disobliging manufacturer.

In the absence of any guidance from manufacturers as to the likely durability of their products at various price points I see no reason why a national consumer organisation with a wealth of knowledge and data at its disposal should not produce its own ‘illustration’ of expectable lifetimes, category by category, brand by brand, and model by model, and defy the manufacturers to disown them. It might even stand up in court.

It is easier to determine reasonable durability with a fridge or freezer, but not with most household items. For example, a washing machine may be used two or three times a week by a single person but with a large family it might be used two or three times a day. With mechanical items like washing machines, a counter that records the hours or cycles would show the amount of use and the design life could be shown with other product information such as energy rating. There are plenty of precedents. Cars record the miles travelled and (non-domestic) products with engines have hours counters so that the users know when maintenance is needed.

When I complete Which? Connect surveys I make a point of asking for the opportunity to state how much use a product has had when reporting my experience.

I appreciate that intensity of use needs to be factored in but a ‘typical’ use profile could be given for each category and people could base their purchase decisions on that guidance. However, I agree that when it comes to making a ‘durability’ claim for premature failure it would be essential to have some data to support the claim and that is difficult in the case of washing machines without some form of recording, although household size and any special requirements [uniforms for example] would be useful elements in the equation. Our washing machine probably does as many cycles and hours as most but it is lightly loaded and well looked-after. It is now over seven years old but I am hoping it is only half-way through its life. I always write the purchase date on the front page of the instruction manual for all electrical and mechanical products so I can see at a glance how they are doing. The purchase paperwork is also filed away for use if necessary.

Some equipment and tools might only have sporadic use and only a technical examination of the moving parts and general condition would indicate whether it had failed prematurely. Since I am still using a power drill from time-to-time with nearly fifty years on the clock I am sadly reconciled to forfeiting any claim for insufficient durability should it go wrong.

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Also carbon brushes that could be the reason for our washing machine packing up. I took the back off the machine and the rubber drive belt looked in remarkably good condition.

I did find out how to change the brushes, but as the machine is over 10 years old, not 100% sure the brushes are the problem, having a new kitchen, white plastic gone yellow, spin was making a noise anyway……. (plenty of excuses for a new washing machine!!!). I do like the challenge of fixing things but on this occasion I am not going to bother.

Thanks, Duncan. I am not going to start looking for problems. The washing machine works perfectly and I have no reason to doubt it will continue to give excellent performance for many years to come. It still looks as good as new as well.

Worn out motor brushes are a common reason for washing machines to stop working. If they are allowed to wear away, arcing damages the commutator, which can become roughened and oval, so replacement brushes have a shorter life. I regularly checked the brushes on my old machine and inspected the drive belt condition and tension at the same time. I have pensioned off the old machine, but have kept it as a spare. In its 34 year working life it had a new motor and a new drain pump, but the drive belt is original and in good condition. There is no yellowed plastic because there was no white plastic.

The white goods industry has been remarkably slow to introduce brushless motors (DC motors with electronic commutation rather than the AC induction motors used in some early washing machines).

Alfa’s mention of yellowing plastic reminds me that this is a common reason for replacing appliances that are still working. It’s more of a problem with cheaper appliances but not uncommon on expensive products, and there is no way of knowing whether there will be a problem at the time of purchase.

i brought a high chair from tesco got it home used i structions to put together and put baby in it at dinner time to feed her a d it colased with her in it hurting her legs . i took it back to tesco and complained and they said i can have my money back and that’s it as it’s not their fault it’s the compnah that made it .had contact from company and they said i should have known it was faulty and it’s not their fault i chose to put my baby in it . my daughter got hurt because i brought a faulty product and i’ve. it even had a sorry

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So long as you received a full refund you are not entitled to anything more I’m afraid, Lisa. The retailer is not obliged to provide a replacement product. In any case, you are probably better off without the same product in view of the potential risks. I am surprised at the manufacturer’s attitude; I am not sure how the buyer can know that the article is faulty if they have assembled it in accordance with the instructions and it didn’t look faulty. An infant’s high chair is designed for feeding an infant in and that is its essential purpose, so if it collapses on first use then the goods are not fit for purpose. However, your consumer rights lie against the seller and Tesco have complied with their legal duty to make a full refund.

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Consumer law (explained) says:
Consequential loss
If a customer suffers personally because of a problem with an item, they may be able to claim damages (money to make up for it). This is called consequential loss. One example would be if a customer had to pay out more money (perhaps to hire another item) because of a faulty item that you sold them.
A more serious example would be if they suffered injury or damage because of a faulty item.
A customer who claimed damages for consequential loss would be expected to have tried to resolve the issue with the retailer first. Claims for consequential loss do not normally cover distress,
inconvenience or disappointment.”

If you had evidence of injury and can prove the product was faulty and you had followed the assembly instructions correctly then you could take it up with Tescos. They should have dealt with this directly with you in the first place as your contract was with them. The next step would be advice from Trading Standards if you wanted to pursue it. Presumably the injuries to your baby were minor but the product may have an inherent defect either in the instructions or the design and, if so, this should be taken further to prevent others having the same problem.

Yes, Duncan but first you would have to get the case into court. The mother could make a court claim [small claims procedure], obtain a medical opinion, determine an amount of compensation she was looking for, and go through a mediation or alternative dispute resolution process with Tesco’s representative sitting alongside. If that failed, the claimant could apply for a hearing, by which time Tesco [or their insurers] would have made an ex gratia confidential offer that might or might not be acceptable. All this costs money, time, stress and uncertainty. On the basis of what we have been told I would think that, if Tesco allowed it to go before a court, the judge would be sympathetic and award some compensation and costs – but at what a price? Attacking Tesco might give some sense of retribution but it will not heal the baby’s wounds or make life any better for the family while the action grinds on. If Lisa’s baby had been seriously injured requiring medical treatment with permanent scarring or damage to the bones it might be different but we have not been told that is the case.

Hi Lisa,

Sorry to hear about your baby girl and subsequent treatment.

Would you be able to share the make and model number of the high chair? Had it been recalled?

Look forward to hearing from you.

I brought a brand new caravan last year it has started having problems with the roof when it’s frosty they have been out twice to repair it and are coming back out again but state they can’t guarantee that will solve the problem what rights do I have

In addition to your rights under any manufacturer’s guarantee, you have statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act, Joanne. Whoever took your money – the retailer – is legally responsible, so I hope that you have not been referred to the manufacturer. Many of us would be happy to allow a retailer a couple of attempts to repair a large item such as a caravan but my understanding is that a retailer is only allowed one attempt to carry out a repair. The fact that two repairs have been attempted is an acknowledgement is that a problem existed, which would help if you had to go to court. If a repair proves unsatisfactory, the retailer could provide a refund taking account of the use you have had of the caravan, which could mean that you get back significantly less than you paid.

I suggest you look at the Which? website for advice and trawl through the various Conversations on the Consumer Rights Act and the previous Sale of Goods Act, which it replaced in 2015. It might be useful to show the retailer a copy of this guidance: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/The%20sale%20and%20supply%20of%20goods_ALL_BIS_GOODS_GUIDANCE_SEP15.pdf

The best approach is always to be polite and professional and try to get what you have been told in writing. You could discuss the issue with Citizens Advice, which is likely to refer you to Trading Standards. It might be worth the subscription to join Which? Legal and get professional advice. Please let us know how you get on.

Joanne, as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to your purchase I would go to the official guidance published for this. You can find it here: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/The%20sale%20and%20supply%20of%20goods_ALL_BIS_GOODS_GUIDANCE_SEP15.pdf. If necessary you can use the Act itself that you can find on line.

If you have agreed to allow the retailer more than one repair then that is your choice. If the retailer did not explain that after one failed repair you have other choices explained in the guidance then they have been remiss and could be liable.

I bought my tv in the sales 31/01/2016 but the tv did not arrive to my house until 02/02/17 (41 days later)the tv is fault can I ask for a full refund?

As I understand the Consumer Rights Act, if you can show the fault was present at the time of delivery, and it is within 30 days of delivery, you can choose to reject the goods for a full refund, or you can choose a replacement or a repair. Your choice, not the retailers. Just quote the CRA 2015. If they deny your rights they are acting illegally and can be prosecuted.

I think there must be some discrepancies with your dates and timescale, Chris. Did you mean you bought the TV on 31 December 2016 and delivery was 33 days later? Regardless, the effective date was the delivery date when the retailer fulfilled your order. If the TV is faulty you can certainly reject it and claim a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You have thirty days from 2 February 2017 in which to act so I would urge you to report this to the retailer now. You can, if you choose, ask for a replacement TV instead of a refund but your statutory right is to a refund and you are under no obligation [and should not be put under any pressure] to accept a replacement.

I bought an Acer 11.6 inches Laptop for my 9 year old daughter from Tesco Direct,just used it for less than 30 days ,it just went blank on the screen but with Christmas holiday I could not manage to call the Tesco direct customer care but manage to get thru on the 24 January 2017 but they referred me to Acer Support which they are requesting me to pay £206 for repairs or £37.20 to return unrepaired laptop…….because they claim it as “accidental damage” which I don’t understand…. as we send it back as new no scratch or wear

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There are simple rules about gadgets: always buy from the supermarkets like Tesco – ALWAYS take them back to the store if there’s a problem, even if there’s a note with the product telling you not to….these stores have huge leverage on the manufacturer.
Last year I bought a new laptop from Tesco and after a while realised that I liked my 12 year old one better. I took the new one back to Tesco and told them this and they offered me a refund, so I then bought a Microsoft tablet – after a few weeks it went pop so back I went again. They were very helpful, again a refund was no problem so bought I a Samsung tablet,
again I was told “any problem, bring it back”. So far so good it seems as reliable as a hammer..
I think that talking to people on telephones is the kiss of death in these cases – presenting yourself at the customer desk in a supermarket is a no-brainer because they don’t have the time nor the inclination to to negotiate – they just want a satisfied customer.
I took a bridge camera back to Asda after 2 or 3 months because it was eating batteries (I’ve since learned they all do) and the assistant barely glanced at it before giving a refund. I showed her the enclosed slip saying “do not return to store” and she said that the reason for it was simple – the second she processed the return the supplier’s account was debited…..
These things are usually guaranteed for 12 months – they sold you it and they must honour this one way or another.

Hello I bought a top of the range kitchen from german kitchen company Rational after about 5 years some of the white doors and drawer fronts have gone yellow. The kitchen now looks terrible . The kitchen is out of guarantee as ive now had it for over 10 years , I want to get the doors replaced but not sure if I have any rights . some of the kitchen doors obiously have an inherent defect as some of them are still white ? Can anyone advise ?

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It is also out of time for legal redress, Joe. The Sale of Goods Act allows a claim for up to 6 years (5 if you are in Scotland) and you would then have to prove a fault existed when new, or try the “durability” (lack of) route. I would be pessimistic because cosmetic changes are not normally covered.

If the company is still in business I would approach them explaining the problem, with photos. You might get a good deal on replacement doors and drawer fronts. I’d suggest you need to replace them all for them to match. If you get no luck, an alternative is to approach one of the companies that specialises in supplying replacement doors and drawer fronts,or you could try painting them.

I think Joe was writing about a top-of-the-range kitchen rather than about a range cooker (see Duncan’s comment above), and was referring to the cabinets and cupboards where the doors and drawer-fronts have discoloured. I’m just guessing, but I suspect this is due to the affect of light. Modern paints, and especially white and light colours, are more prone to yellowing but mainly in dark or shaded areas – which might explain why some of Joe’s doors and drawer-fronts have changed colour but others have not. It would be interesting to know whether those in the shade are the worst affected.

I brought a security camera and dvr box from Maplin 2 years ago, the camera has stopped working and Swann inform me they can’t replace the camera as it. Is now obsolete! Where do l stand!