/ Shopping

Do retailers guarantee you fair treatment?

Leaking washing machine

When it comes to exercising his rights, our regular Malcolm R knows a thing or two about the Sale of Goods Act. In this guest post he asks if people get a fair deal when something they buy doesn’t last…

Most shoppers rely on a product’s guarantee, where it’s down to the manufacturer to tell you what they will do when something goes wrong. For domestic appliances, this is often just one or two years. But what happens after that if a fault, other than due to wear and tear or misuse, develops?

Suppose you’ve bought a moderately expensive washing machine from a reputable brand and it fails just as the guarantee runs out. As your contract was with the retailer who supplied you, it is they who you should approach; but the consensus seems to be that you should not expect any help. You are probably told you should have bought an extended warranty, something Which? says should generally be avoided as they offer poor value. It is best to save up your premiums and pay for any repairs yourself.

Time limits on your rights

While there’s no time limit for approaching a retailer about a faulty product using the Sale of Goods Act, you only have six years from the date you received the goods (five years in Scotland) to enforce those rights. This does not mean that everything has to last six years from the date of purchase! It is the time limit for the customer to take a claim to court.

During this period, the retailer is legally required to deal with a customer who claims that their item does not conform to contract (is faulty) and decide what would be the reasonable amount of time to expect the goods to last. The six year period is not the same as a guarantee, but it does mean that even where the guarantee or warranty supplied with the product has ended, you may still have legal rights. (It’s worth noting that after six months, it’s down to the customer to prove the fault was there from the start, which could include providing an expert report).

Product usage and durability

What do you think needs to change to ensure that the consumer and the retailer or manufacturer get a fairer deal? Firstly, should the initial guarantee be longer for many products to reflect the minimum expected life of the product before a failure is likely to occur – a life that should be published by the manufacturer – rather than just a nominal one or two years? This may still be a number of years, or a measure of usage such as cycles for a washing machine, miles for a car, or hours for your fridge compressor.

The manufacturer knows how long their products should last – after all, they are responsible for the design, the quality of components used and the skill with which the product has been made. So they could also look beyond this initial guarantee, and offer a “care package” – for a price – where, barring misuse and wear and tear – they agree to repair or replace the product for a fixed time or usage.

I believe the price and length of time should depend on the manufacturer, the quality of the product and its initial cost; so good manufacturers offering good products should offer better, longer and cheaper care packages than for poorer products.

Are you happy with the protection provided by product guarantees or more generally, with the Sale of Goods Act? Should more be done to extend our rights and get fairer treatment if your product fails in an unreasonably short time?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Which? Convo regular Malcolm R. All opinions expressed here are Malcolm’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.

Comments
Profile photo of alfa
Member

A few years ago we bought a Panasonic Microwave Oven that went bang after a week.
We took it back to the retailer and asked for a refund. He initially refused on the basis that Panasonic would not take it back and he would lose out. He wanted to send it for repair which we would not accept. He then said we could exchange it for another one but as he had nothing we wanted, he eventually gave us our money back. He was a small independent retailer who lost a future customer that day as it was not a pleasant experience.

Was he right when saying Panasonic would not take responsibility for an item that only lasted a week?

I have never quite understood why retailers are responsible for faulty goods and not the manufacturer. We buy goods from retailers in good faith. Retailers sell goods from manufacturers in good faith.

Manufacturers need to hold more responsibility for what they sell especially when things go wrong.

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

After struggling for 5 months to hear the vocals on my Panasonic TV, a visit from my son who has excellent hearing îcomplained about it. I contacted the retailer who offered a repair which I declined stating the sound problem had existed from the time of purchase. After much deliberation I finally contacted the manufacturer direct who admitted a consignment had been released with an inherent sound problem but was adamant that it was not a fault! I argued that a problem to my way of thinking represented a fault. I took my case back to the retailer who then agreed to replace the TV with a new one. Clearly the onus in this case should have been on the manufacturer to supply the warrantee and not the retailer.

Could Which? invite people to vote on this issue. Who should provide the warrantee, manufacturer or retailer?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Beryl – Could you advise the model number and any other details please.

Which? when you have the details can you see if there has been a recall notice to stores for unsold, letter drop to buyers who have registered their purchase with Panasonic, or advisory to the retail trade please.

My suggestion of 2013 that interested members record all their significant purchases on a Which? held database would now be a useful tool if members needed to be contacted re duff batches. : )

Not to mention all the benefits of finding out the long term life span of equipment given Which? does not test for smaller appliances. Avoiding the embarrassment of those Best Buys which draw multiple complaints when the product expires after 7 months but the manufacturer continue paying for and advertising the Best Buy status would be a major step forward.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

I also think the name of the retailer might be of interest. We give credit where credit is due !! : )

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

DT: No problem………

The retailer was J Lewis. Model No. Panasonic Viera TX-L32V10B – Serial No. ND-9320844.
Address: Panasonic (UK) Ltd. Willoughby Road, Bracknell, Berks. Web Site: http://www Panasonic.net. Tel: 0844 844 3852. Customer Care Centre: e-mail: customer.care@panasonic.co.uk.

Which? were carrying out investigations on this at the time which prompted me to press ahead with my claim and was the main reason why I decided to become a member. It was very stressful I remember but my perseverance paid off and the replacement TV is still going strong some 5+ years later.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

11/12/2009
“Panasonic has pledged to fix its Viera V10 HD TVs after a Which? investigation revealed a number of audio problems. The company has said that Viera V10 owners can contact Panasonic after Which? highlighted problems with sound playback from model.
Initial tests in the Which? Labs found that the 37-inch Panasonic Viera V10 scored woefully for its audio. We contacted Panasonic, who identified a fault and admitted that it was an issue with a ‘small number of V10s’. Panasonic has since offered to repair any faulty sets.
Which? has re-tested a repaired Panasonic V10, and it now scores more favourably. Owners of Viera V10 TVs that shows signs of poor audio quality should contact Panasonic’s customer care centre on 0844 844 3852.”

I had to scroll through 115 Panasonic mentions as the Which? engine does not see “fault” as a primary marker. I am not OCD I was trying to establish how easy it was to find faulty product mentions/recalls on Which? and on the net. Basically not at all easy.

From that Which? article I do not see anything about Panasonic saying they would be proactive on chasing this up or asking their dealers to do anything. That does seem a bit limp. So unless you read this small article on the run-up to Christmas it looks like the manufacturer got off rather lightly.

Member
Marianne says:
6 September 2014

I bought a Panasonic bread maker Nov 2013 from a large well known retailer, a week ago it became very noisy where it had been really quiet before, it was still within manufacturer’s guarantee and well within the store’s 2 year guarantee. I have carried out complaint procedure by email and asked for replacement not refund. Whilst happy with the service I received the bread maker arrived this morning , Saturday, and courier was supposed to take faulty machine back to store but refused saying they only deliver on Saturdays they don’t collect and they would collect probably Monday. So my complaint is with the courier, I will be out nearly all day Monday, that is if he does come then, I have no idea really. If the machine does not get returned to store I will be charged for the replacement at nearly £140. Advice required please.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Marianne,
Does the courier have a depot you could take your faulty machine to?
If this is Amazon, they have many local places you can drop returns to who will give you a receipt when they accept the goods. Mine was a local garage that made a return very easy.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Marianne – It is up to them to arrange the pick-up – thye have refused it once.

As a gesture of good faith Email them and say you are in on the Xth [could be a Saturday] and they can collect it then otherwise they can collect it from your doorstep any day they like on the following week before you will recycle it. If they offer to pay you to store it thats fair enough but otherwise ask yourself why should you be put out – they sold the faulty machine and have booked a profit.

They employed the courier, as their agent, he refused to take back the machine when you offered it. The arrangements between the store and the delivery company is not your problem

BTW please advise well-known retailer.

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

Marianne: Clearly the courier is acting for the seller and is in breach of the contract you took out with the seller for refusing to take back the faulty bread maker, therefore:

Under Section F4148C Reduction of Purchase Price or Rescission of Contract of The Sale of Goods and Services Act the buyer has required the seller to repair or replace the goods. But the seller is in breach of the requirement of Section 48B (2) (a) if failing to do so within a reasonable time and Without Significant Inconvenience To The Buyer.

I would agree dieseltaylors last paragraph is particularly relevant to your case.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The Sale of Goods Act is not fit for its purpose. If goods break down within the warranty period, some retailers ask us to contact the manufacturer even though the law makes clear that the responsibility lies with the retailer. Outside the warranty period, the standard response from retailers is either that they have no responsibility or that we should contact the manufacturer. If we have abused the product or it is simply worn out then the retailer does have no responsibility but they should never make this false claim without even looking at the faulty goods.

If anyone would like to see how the manufacturers look at the Sale of Goods Act, have a look at the recent Conversation about how long a washing machine should last, where Kenneth Watt reveals all.

Outside the warranty period the owner is expected to prove that goods are faulty when they were purchased to be able to make a claim under the Sale of Goods Act. That term actually applies from the time that goods are six months old and still under a year’s warranty, though I am not familiar with anyone having a problem during this period. Getting an expert’s report to show that a product was faulty at the time of manufacture would be difficult and expensive. The law does not give us protection simply because lots of people have experienced a particular type of fault with the same make and model. Recent examples of this are screen faults on Amazon Kindles and Sony Experia phones, but there are countless other examples of design faults in products, even those from the most respected brands.

My solution is for the consumer to buy products with long manufacturers’ or retailers’ warranties. That has worked very well with cars. Despite the fact that they are expensive and complex products, a three year warranty is the minimum we can expect. With long warranties, the terms and conditions should be fair to both the consumer and the manufacturer. Two year warranties are becoming increasingly common and 3, 5 and 10 year warranties are sometimes available from manufacturers or retailers.

Buying extended warranties is notoriously poor value for money, as Which? has been telling us since the 1980s. John Lewis is at the forefront of providing extended warranties on electrical goods, which is fortunate because JL performed abysmally in a recent undercover investigation about how its stores handled out-of-warranty claims (see the January 2014 issue of Which? magazine).

If manufacturers want to provide warranties that have hour/cycle limits such as we have a mileage/years warranty on cars, that’s fine. We know where we stand and it’s fair that manufacturers should protect themselves from claims from owners of appliances such as washing machines that have been very heavily used.

Congratulations on hosting a Conversation, Malcolm.

Member
Glyn Roberts says:
7 September 2014

What if you buy a printer or scanner and find that the software that is supposed to make it work is totally unfit for purpose? It seems that there is very little remedy in the sale of goods act, and that some firms are getting away with a grossly unsatisfactory service to customers. Do others find the same problem? It would be marvellous if Which could use it muscle to put this right.

Member
Colin says:
7 September 2014

Cars and their oils can’t wear out when not used and the odometer is a reliable indicator of usage. So why are service periods set at a maximum of one year rather than the service life of the oil? If it is other than synthetic, its compound will have been underground for some 300 million years and a little while lying in the sump won’t hurt it! The ever more stringent MOT covers the annual safety checks.
Why is the extent of the warranty period in years rather than miles? I do 4000 miles a year and the warranty on my Mercedes C-Class ran out after 12,000 miles! It’s a diesel and so cost over £1000 more than the petrol version and diesels are capable of multiple hundreds of thousands of miles. After 7 years, an electrically activated door lock has failed and they want nearly £700 to replace it!! But the car is immaculate, has used only 20% of the original brake pads, and still has less mileage than an average 3 years of use – 10-12 thousand miles a year. I regard that component as unfit for purpose, emphasised by the premium cost of the car. There must be a strengthening case for buying a car with extended warranty such as those from South Korea. Parts and particularly labour charges have become prohibitive.

Member
Colin says:
7 September 2014

That latter point of mine chimes with your sentiment, wavechange!

Profile photo of Florence Buswell
Member

As one of the content producers on our Consumer Rights website, it is really interesting to read this conversation and the subsequent comments – the Sale of Goods Act is an integral piece of legislation and often gets over 6000 page views a week on our site.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, goods must be of satisfactory quality; as described and fit for purpose. Durability is not covered – and it can be a difficult point to argue. It is interesting to see this as a focus point in this debate. The difficulty is going to be in the way that people treat their products – for example, in the case of a washing machine, is it doing heavy loads several times a week? Or is it used to do one or two washes? Factors such as how a consumer uses a product can make durability a sticking point.

Another point that I’m seeing in a couple of the comments here is whether you should be getting a replacement, refund or repair with a faulty product. If you notice a fault within a few weeks you do have the right to reject the product and ask for a refund. The window of time to do this is small, but certainly in the case of alfa’s Microwave oven which broke after a week, you should be able to argue that you can get a refund.

After this time period, you have the right to get a product replaced or repaired. You can ask the retailer to do either of these – but they can normally choose to do whatever is cheapest.

For more details, you can take a look at our legislation page on site – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/sale-of-goods-act.

This is a really good debate to read Malcolm – and thanks for writing it. It’s really useful to see what consumers feel about key pieces of legislation, especially one so universal.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Florence – I note your comments regarding durability .The German consumer site tests washing machines for 6 months non-stop and I wondered if one could use their research into machine durability in an English court when claiming under SoGA.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Florence, I have just spotted in your comment the statement on the Sale of Goods Act “durability is not covered”.
Here is an extract from the Sale of Goods Act that I have seen:

“14 Implied terms about quality or fitness..

(1)Except as provided by this section and section 15 below and subject to any other enactment, there is no implied [F11term] about the quality or fitness for any particular purpose of goods supplied under a contract of sale.

[F12(2)Where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, there is an implied term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality.

(2A)For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.

(2B)For the purposes of this Act, the quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods— .
(a)fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied, .
(b)appearance and finish, .
(c)freedom from minor defects, .
(d)safety, and .
(e)durability.”

Durability is a condition of satisfactory quality.
It is up to others to determine what a “reasonable person” would decide was a reasonable time for a product to be regarded as durable. Given the huge range of products that SoGA covers this requires work by the special interest groups, but the law appears to be in place to be used.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Companies have rights too, which is why fair wear and tear is excluded from warranties and our cover under the Sale of Goods Act. Cars are mechanical devices, where the warranty is normally given as X years or Y thousand miles, whichever comes first. Why not use a similar system for washing machines?

I would like to see the length of the manufacturer’s warranty shown on every new appliance, in the same way as we are told about its energy rating. If the manufacturer wants to restrict cover to a certain number of wash cycles, that’s fair enough. The customer can then choose a machine that suits their needs. If the display shows that their machine has exceeded the number of cycles specified, they will know that it is not worth asking for a repair.

Profile photo of jakespal
Member

I think the Act works better via a pressure group like Which? as it’s reputation carries influence that may affect retailer performance. Same as going through the small claims court. But for the every-day person typically apathetic or ignorant of legislation or unable to effectively apply their rights there seems a gulf between the Act and their prematurely broken kettle.

Member

I had surgery in February this year and have been unable to drive at night since – daytime only as the double vision is too distracting and dangerous. I can also see the edge of the lens at night. I was told during my many follow up visits that this was normal and should settle down – it is now September!

After taking much time off work to visit the Optical Express (OE) clinic in Eastcheap, more than 10 visits, I asked each time if I could see the surgeon who operated on me. I was fobbed off again and again. I continued to complain until I was given an appointment at Harley Street in April, it was my belief that my appointment would have been with someone that was an surgeon.

During this visit I was told by OE person, that he works closely with Surgeon therefore he was NOT a surgeon but just an optometrist!

At this visit April this year I was told that it was best that I had the Mplus lens replaced with a single lens. Again I asked if I could see The surgeon before the explant – request declined! Eventually I was giving an appointment July of this year to see the surgeon after waiting five months. How and why should I trust an outfit such as OE if it has taken nearly half a year to get to see the surgeon that preformed my surgery. I cannot trust them and am not going ahead. I intend to see an independent specialist.

How can Optical Express be allowed to treat people in this way

There does not seem to be any sense of responsibility or accountability from OE for those of us that are having problems with these ill fitting lenses. With such serious problems I should have seen the surgeon – not an optometrist from the onset of having problems!!!

Please leave your eyes as they are!

Member
cjB8on says:
13 September 2014

I completely agree with all comments on here! The most concerning to me is the one about the NHS! I can’t believe that you were asked to see a surgeon and were “fobbed off” on more than 1 occasion! Unbelievable!!

Member
cjB8on says:
17 September 2014

I worked for the NHS for many years! I too, can’t believe that you were ‘fobbed off’ so many times! Can you ask to see a SURGEON again? I appreciate that you feel that you have done this already, but this is ridiculous!!

Profile photo of Prochi
Member

We bought a Hotpoint fridge/freezer in August from Currys Model FSFL58G after asking the salesperson 4/5 times if it was Frost-free, We were told Yes. It arrived n we were disappointed to see ice n heavy condensation to the extent that drink can froze, salad rotted etc. went back to Currys to be told they will send an Engineer who came n announced NO FRIDGE in fridge/freezer is Frost free. Back to Currys who got Hotpoint Chief Engineer to talk to Saleslady n me only to be told ALL Fridges Are Frost Free. who to believe. Went again to Currys to buy another brand F/Freezer after paying the difference. Answer NO. Fridge is NOT Faulty. inspite of having taken their
Know How Insurance!!
Any guidance will be appreciated.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

I thought it may have been a case of Misrepresentation but no it appears your engineer was in some way wrong.

http://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/household-appliances/refrigeration/fridge-freezers/hotpoint-fsfl58g-fridge-freezer-graphite-10010560-pdt.html
does show that frosting in fridge and freezer is covered.

My supposition given the freezing of a can is that either you had the friidge thermostat very very low or the thermostat must be faulty. I went online to seek any reports of problems but it does look like it is an expensive Curry’s own designation. I am sure the identical machine does exist for other retailers and probably Hotpoint have an internal code for the machine.

Profile photo of Prochi
Member

Thank you for ur reply. We are at our wits end as they do not believe us. Someone told us the thermostat may be faulty n I asked Currys Manager to get that checked but he said it must have been checked.
It annoys such big firms get away with so much misconduct. I am fed up of going there daily to complain as there is no place to sit down as I have a v bad back. We had a big Zanussi f/freezer for years and we had no problems with it at all.
Sadly we went to Currys as I needed one urgently as Zanussi stopped working and their Engineer n Insurance Co. said cannot be repaired.
Suppose we have to grin n bear it for years now. Your em attchmnt also says fridge is frost free.
Thank you once again for your help.
prochi T.

Member

The fridge section of my fridge-freezer is self defrosting. It is by Miele and is about 15 years old. It does, however, have separate compressors for freezer and fridge.

Member
David Litchfield says:
19 September 2014

Amazon.co.uk specifally state on their website that they will not deal with faults after 30 days and you have to go to the manufacturers.
Can they do that?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

The answer must be they should not be able to palm you off if they have sold it direct to you and not through a merchant. However it becomes slightly murkier if the fulfilment is, as so often happens , is done theoretically from Amazon Luxembourg.

However I am not sure they can duck out of being liable as it must be a sister company. The practical answer in many cases is that the manufacturer’s site has all the technical detail that might help sort out the problem and then you can get technical with them. The Amazon link for AEG is not very helpful in dumping you into the Front page rather than the problems section.

However, this is the fundamental point, how much time should you spend on the problem before it should become Amazon’s problem. They sold it and they are the ones who need to rectify genuine problems.

Perhaps Which? has something to say on this?? And on recovering expenses in rectifying matters.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

With an ever increasing use of Amazon and other online companies, we really need to find out where we stand.

This is one of the reasons why I believe we should be shifting the legal responsibility from the retailer to the manufacturer. There are a limited number of well established manufacturers but retailers, particularly some of the smaller ones, come and go. It is also not fair to expect retailers to pay for repairs to particular makes and models with poor reliability or design faults.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

The retailer makes a profit out of the customer to fund his expenses – including looking after claims on faulty products. They also have the choice as to the makes (and reliablity) of the products they stock and sell you. Since the manufacturer may well be on a different continent it seems perfectly reasonable to me for the retailer to take responsibility for what they sell. However, I would expect they would have agreements with their supplier or the manufacturer to cover them for when a product proves to be faulty or unacceptable in service.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Larger manufacturers are often represented in many countries. I don’t know if the same can be said for retailers.

There is no doubt that the Sale of Goods Act is not working as we would expect it to. Even John Lewis did poorly regarding consumers’ rights after the warranty had expired, as I mentioned above. There is ample evidence that retailers shirk their responsibilities and point consumers in the direction of the manufacturer.

Where John Lewis does well is to offer longer warranties on electrical goods than many of its competitors. It’s good to see that manufacturers’ warranties on central heating boilers are improving and the October issue of Which? magazine outlines what is on offer. I would prefer manufacturers to demonstrate confidence in their products by offering decent warranties, but I’m also interested in retailers’ warranties provided they are included in the price.

Profile photo of Alex Toplis
Member

Hi David,

If your goods are faulty and don’t do what they are supposed to do, you are covered by the Sale of Goods Act. Under the Sale of Goods Act, products must be three things – of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

If you buy an item that turns out to be faulty, your rights are with the retailer and so any claim under the Sale of Goods Act must be against the retailer. In the first six months, it is up to the retailer to prove the goods were of satisfactory quality when they sold them.

For more information, see our guide on the Sale of Goods Act – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/sale-of-goods-act

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

My view is that when I buy a product for what I consider a “sensible” price – not a throw-away cheapo – then I believe I should expect it to last a reasonable time without failure. If it should fail within that time, I expect it to be put right. This, I believe, is the philosophy being the “durability” requirement in the Sale of Goods Act. Unfortunately it is difficult for an individual to pursue. I would like to see Which? focus on this aspect of consumer rights to persuade the supplier to give us a fairer deal without expensive hassle.
I accept that providing longer warranties by the manufacturer will cost money, but this need not be much for a reputable manufacturer with a low failure rate. I’d pay a little more to get such a product.
I believe we have a right to expect decent products to last without costing us hassle and money. Don’t you?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Does anyone know what contractual relationship exists between a retailer and their suppliers – wholesaler, distributor or manufacturer – that allows them to recover the cost of repairing or replacing faulty goods? Whilst I believe a retailer sets and makes their profits knowing what their obligations are, it would be nice to know that ultimately the manufacturer pays for faulty goods.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

malcolm r, that is a question that really needs to be answered and hopefully Which? will know the answer.

A product could be from a manufacturer based in one country, made in another country shipped to another country to a wholesaler and/or distributor then on to the retailer. Responsibility needs to be clearly defined.

There is also the problem of retailers going out of business and where responsibility lies.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

This is an old article in the Guardian – but the law has not changed. It says all we know, but my interest was in the claimed comments from Which? “Argue strongly when a product breaks down within 6 years”.

Which? seem very reticent about this – reluctant to publicise and promote the “durability” requirement, reluctant to support durability with expected fault-free lives of products, and holding back on pursuing manufacturers when product faults seem to be excessive – Kindle screens, Beko freezers, Sony cracking screens. We need action and help from Which? don’t we?

“Faulty goods? You’ve still got rights when the guarantee runs out

That new TV looked great in the shop, and worked perfectly for the first year. Then it packed up. Phillip Inman explains what you can do when a defunct electrical item is no longer covered
Saturday 25 March 2006 01.06 GMT

Shoppers are being sold short when expensive electrical goods break down. If a TV or fridge packs up just one day after an initial one-year guarantee, customers are told they have to pay for the repair – but the truth is that retailers may be liable for up to six years.

Consumer experts say retailers are exploiting ambiguous legislation to wriggle out of their responsibilities. Ministers, however, claim the law is quite clear. The Sale of Goods Act offers protection against faulty goods even when the manufacturer’s guarantee has run out. The act says goods must last a reasonable time – and that can be anything up to six years from the date of purchase.

Which? – formerly the Consumers Association – says consumers should argue strongly with retailers when a product breaks down within six years. The Sale of Goods Act doesn’t define how long specific products should last, because different products have different life spans. But a survey by Which? of manufacturers into how long they believe different types of appliance should last made interesting reading. All of them said their goods should last five years or more.

But retailers, which should be the first port of call for all complaints, make life difficult for customers who refuse to buy an extended warranty. Even when there is little doubt the fault lies with the goods maker (rather than abuse of the machine) customers are still routinely asked to pay more than £100 for the call-out and a separate amount for spare parts.

Tim Young, a senior researcher at Which? says the problem can be traced back to the sale of extended warranties. “Retailers want to sell extended warranties. Manufacturers know this and they don’t want to rock the boat. So you don’t have to be too cynical to say it is in the manufacturers’ interests to hike up the costs of call-outs and repairs.”

In many cases customers are being told to spend several hundred pounds to restore a machine to working order – when they could instead be entitled to a refund under the Sale of Goods Act.

You can read the rest of the article here: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2006/mar/25/consumernews.howtocomplain

[This comment has been edited – please don’t copy and paste full articles, and try and include a link to credit the article where you can. Thanks, mods.]

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I did not think it fair to edit someone else’s article. Whilst I would normally have provided a link to this article it seemed to be particularly worth a wider readership than that would have achieved in that the views that Which? were then reported to be expressing seem to reflect a somewhat different stance from the one Which? currently takes. Part of my argument in the past has been to ask why Which? seems so reticent about helping consumers with product durability issues outside the guarantee period.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

At present the responsibility for faulty goods lies with the retailer rather than the manufacturer, though like many people I have been told to contact the manufacturer when I have contacted the shops from which I had purchased goods. The last time I purchased from Currys it came with a leaflet stating: “If we refer you to the manufacturer or product repair agent for service or repair, this is because they are our agents for the products and have been chosen because they are best placed to help our customers with product queries.” I have posted this a couple of times in other Conversations and would be grateful if Which? can confirm that they are not facing up to their legal responsibility.

In my experience, retailers (Currys excepted) are generally good about dealing with goods that break down during the warranty period, offering either a repair or replacement. Outside the warranty period I have usually been referred to the manufacturer even where I have shown a copy of their responsibility under the Sale of Goods Act. The notable exception was when the local VW dealer gave me a new engine for a car nearly two years after the one year warranty had expired. That was some time ago, when one year warranties were all you got if you bought a car. This had to be authorised by VW, so presumably they paid for the work rather than the dealer.

Although manufacturers do not have responsibility for repairs if products are sold via a retailer, I have had quite a number of examples where they have supplied spares or replaced products free-of-charge, even after the expiry of the warranty, though certainly not all have been helpful in this way.

In my view, the law should be changed to absolve the retailer of responsibility, so that we can deal directly with the manufacturer if goods develop a fault. I think there is little doubt that retailers are doing a poor job. Furthermore, why should retailers have to fund repairs or replacement if a manufacturer produces a second-rate product? The best known manufacturers sometimes produce some poor products, even if they are a better bet and generally safer than goods from little known manufacturers.

I don’t think it is realistic for the responsibility for repairs/replacement to move from the retailer to manufacturer soon, which is why longer warranties at no cost to the consumer is a better short term solution. Car warranties have improved greatly over the years. Have a look at the current issue of Which? and you will see that gas boilers with a five or even ten year warranty are available. Washing machines with five or ten year warranties are sometimes available. Smaller items that came with a one year warranty are increasingly frequently been sold with two years’ cover and John Lewis offers two years’ warranty on electricals and five on TVs. We are moving in the right direction.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Longer guarantees will be an additional cost to the manufacter and this cost will be passed on to the consumer – you don’t get something for nothing. However, as the intro says, this cost will be less for the better quality manufacturers, and more for the poorer ones, so it will not only benefit the consumer who wants durabilty but help distinguish good from less good products.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

” In my view, the law should be changed to absolve the retailer of responsibility, so that we can deal directly with the manufacturer if goods develop a fault. I think there is little doubt that retailers are doing a poor job. Furthermore, why should retailers have to fund repairs or replacement if a manufacturer produces a second-rate product? The best known manufacturers sometimes produce some poor products, even if they are a better bet and generally safer than goods from little known manufacturers.” Wavechange

I disagree emphatically with this position. To absolve retailers who in the normal course of events are local, from the current position is surely to encourage them to stock profitable tat content that unhappy purchasers would be left trying to deal with very likely an off-shore entity.

It also would mean retailers could be cavalier as to their treatment of the goods for sale. When I worked at the Comet call centre in Clevedon the amount of dented and damaged white goods we tried , and often succeeded in, delivering resulted in a significant amount of calls for recompense or exchane or discount.

This was over a decade ago but my experience suggests that retailers must remain primarily liable even if only to make sense of the body of contract law that governs relationships of buyer and seller.

That we are now dealing with remote vendors like Amazon or their affiliates etc has obviously complicated matters but gradually the consumer is having the law applied to this novel and ephemeral channel. The mystery perhaps is how did the retail trade manage to switch the onus from themselves.

Army & Navy used to sell to the Empire in the Victorian version of remote selling and yet I am sure that Army and Navy stood behind every product that they sold and took the rap if it were faulty.

Perhaps the avoiding of onus by retailers was facilitated by a belief that “consumer law” would be there to protect us no matter what silly purchase decision we took. Retailing companies with names for reliability and quality effectively had one of their main USP’s, reputation for square dealing, taken from them as the general public assumed all stores fundamentally would be the same in terms of risk.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Malcolm – If manufacturers try to up their prices significantly because they are providing longer warranties then they might lose out to those who don’t try to rip us off. It’s fair competition. We need to encourage people to search out products with decent warranties and for Which? to let us know about the length of warranties in their reviews. Few people would look twice at a car that offered only a one year warranty these days. Hopefully kitchen appliances will all have five to ten year warranties before long.

I would love to hear about cases of consumers being supported by retailers because products don’t prove to be sufficiently durable. In my experience, this is not happening.

Brand reputation and customer loyalty have taken a bit of a battering in recent years. Longer warranties could help restore faith. It’s possible that companies could introduce unfair terms, but having looked at some of the current warranties, they seem to be reasonably fair to both the consumer and the company. I’m happy to pay a bit more for an appliance with a decent warranty and in most cases this is likely to be much better value for money than paying for a separate extended warranty. As you say, the length of warranty will provide a useful indication of the quality of goods. No manufacturer is going to offer a decent warranty for unreliable products if they want to stay in business.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

wavechange, I make the simple point that longer guarantees will cost the manufacturer (or other provider) money – and we, the consumer, will pay. Nothing about being “ripped off”, just a statement of fact.
It took 80 years to get longer warranties on cars. I don’t want to see consumers deprived of a fair deal on other products for any longer. While we wait (and wait) for manufacturers to give us adequate product protection we need to look at other methods.
It would be good to hear ideas as to what these might be whilst we wait for longer guarantees

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

We both have similar goals, Malcolm, and perhaps I’m more optimistic about how soon we will see longer manufacturers’ warranties.

Try taking faulty goods apart and have a look at the build quality and if possible the reason for failure. Flimsy construction, inadequate electronic components that run hot and fail prematurely, cases that are glued together so that even a trivial problem cannot be repaired. The fact is that we are being ripped off and nowadays we cannot be sure that buying a well known brand is an assurance of quality.

We will win this battle and it does not matter if we have different ideas of how to go about it.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

I have mentioned it before but perhaps not forcefully enough. The Stiftung Warentest in Germany DOES test washing machines for longevity which does accomplish a lot of what we say we are fighting for. SoGA is hamstrung because consumers , and probably courts, have a hazy idea on what is an acceptable service life.

The 6 months of non-stop washing equates to over 9 years of service life which I suggest strongly is a marker for what is an acceptable minimum life-span for washing machines. Perhaps we the public need to look at the various testing regimes in Europe and where they apply to the same machines make use of the most robust testing.

So it is probably possible for consumers to get decent information. If Which cannot afford it I am quite happy to test the new cheap best buy toaster to see how long it lasts being used 10 times a week. Using membership is not too strange a conceprt

In France Que Choisir used some of its 160 centre network to establish details on 1355 residential homes. That is quite a logistic feat and shows what may be achieved for quick collection of large amounts of data.

“From January 25 to February 22, 2014, 118 local associations of the UFC-Que Choisir volunteers have visited anonymously 1,355 residential facilities for elderly dependent people and were able to bring an accurate assessment on each of them.” Bing translation

It seems to me compiling a reasonable accurate database on products from Which? members might make consumers feel more in control as what is and is not reasonable performance. As it stands we consumers are often unable to find the data that might make SoGA more useful.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

dieseltaylor, I totally agree. I would have thought that seeking fair protection for consumers when products fail in an unreasonably short time should be a priority for Which? I would happily see resources diverted from some other topics to focus on this one. If some European consumer organisations look at this problem, as you say, then why don’t we, and why don’t we use their information to help UK consumers?
Which? Connect has a large base of interested consumers. Could they not be used to report on product longevity and problems so we can see what reasonable lives are being achieved, as a benchmark for pursuing claims?
Previous polls have suggested minimum lives of 6 years for some domestic appliances. In my view this is the minimum we should expect. Products should also be designed to be economically repairable to save both our pockets and the planet’s resources.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If we have a product covered by an extended warranty the product is usually repaired or replaced unless the fault is not covered under the terms and conditions of the warranty. Occasionally there are problems, particularly if spares are no longer available, but the process usually works. Compare that with trying to make a claim on the basis of the Sale of Goods Act.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Extended warranties are usually paid for as extra by the consumer and are generally poor value – cheaper to pay for repairs when they happen. What I want is for the consumer not to have to pay for the repair of faulty goods. This may be achieved by a manufacturer’s sensibly long guarantee, it may be information to support consumers in pursuing a lack of durability claim with the retailer, or whatever. I just don’t want a consumer to be penalised financially when a product they buy at a sensible price does not prove to be as durable as it should be.
We should be proposing options that may achieve this – how can we? not why we can’t.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Not so long ago you were rejecting my suggestions regarding longer manufacturers’ warranties. 🙂 It’s good that we can now agree on this, and hopefully Which? will encourage consumers to consider warranty length when buying goods. Warranty is certainly an important factor in helping people choose which cars to buy.

I am keen that goods are durable and repairable, but less clear about how we can make this happen. I would like to see Which? using its legal team to support members pursue claims under the Sale of Goods Act where products have not proved to be durable. Once we have been given some good examples of success, Which? members could go on and do the same, hopefully without need for support.

I’m keen to learn about other ways of pursuing the durability issue but feel that our greatest chance of success is to push for extended warranties instead.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

wavechange, “Not so long ago you were rejecting my suggestions regarding longer manufacturers’ warranties”.
I have never rejected the aim of longer guarantees from manufacturers. On the contrary I am totally in favour of them. However, I still have the view that this will be unlikely to happen quickly. We need a workable approach in the meantime that gives consumers a fair deal – that is what this conversation is aiming to explore.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I am more optimistic. An increasing number of washing machines and other kitchen appliances are available with more than the year’s warranty that was the norm, not so long ago. Often these are a special promotion, but hopefully they will become standard. The current issue of Which? magazine carries brief information about the length of warranties available on gas boilers, which I find very encouraging in view of the decline in reliability of these products over the past 20 years. Retailers, especially John Lewis, are offering us longer warranties than their competitors.

Once more people start demanding better warranties on major purchases, those manufacturers that have been holding back will be forced to join in or their share in the market will decline.

There are various options that we can pursue to improve consumer support but I see improved warranties as the most likely to succeed because it is easy for consumers to understand.

Member
Kitchen disaster says:
9 December 2014

We recently had a kitchen manufactured and fitted by Smallbone of Devizes, the installation was due to take 4 weeks after 7 weeks they left the site so I assumed they had finished and I complained to the Chairman that the kitchen was unacceptable. They quickly came to view and agreed it was unacceptable, they took away all the shelves and doors and said 3 weeks to replacement and repainting, 6 weeks later it was handed over with chipped and scratched glass, scratched sink and paint marks over the wooden floor. They still had to come back. They handed over again 3 weeks later. I asked for a refund they offered 40% discount off our next order!! Obviously we will never be using them again, but surely we are entitled to some recompense for a 4 month installation and loss of use of our flat?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The most disappointing products I have owned have been pressure washers. In the past fifteen years or so I have purchased three and each has developed a problem soon after the guarantee has expired. 🙁 By carrying out my own repairs I have kept them going for about five years. From speaking to neighbours and friends, I know that I am not alone in having problems with pressure washers.

I’m pleased to see that Karcher are now offering 2-5 year guarantees depending on model and Bosch will extend their guarantee from 2 to 3 years following registration.