/ Home & Energy, Technology

Do home appliances last as long as they used to?

broken household appliances

When you buy a home appliance, you expect it to be a reasonable price, excel at its function and, most importantly, last for years.

In our latest reliability survey, we surveyed over 8,000 members to reveal the most and least reliable brands across 16 home appliance categories.

The best brands in many categories can be expected to last at least ten years without developing any kind of fault, but the worst brands have a good chance of failing in less than half that amount of time.

Built to last

As part of an investigation into how old and new products compare, we managed to get hold of a 60-year-old vacuum cleaner that was still working.

When it was purchased, it would have cost the equivalent of £450. Nowadays, you can get a new vacuum cleaner for less than £100, but it’s difficult to imagine any of the models on offer still being used in 60 years’ time.

But this is just one machine. We know from your comments on Which? Conversation that some of you have home appliances that you’ve had for years, sometimes even decades.

Take wavechange:

‘I replaced the motor and drain pump of my 1982 Philips washing machine after about ten years and it continued to work perfectly until I moved home earlier this year. I will offer it to a local museum. My Belling cooker lasted the same length of time and needed only replacement oven door springs every few years. I am still using my late 80s or early 90s Philips microwave oven, which has had one repair and a replacement lamp.

‘My oldest household appliance is a 1982 Electrolux vacuum cleaner, but that is used only for cleaning the garage/workshop and car. I replaced the centrifugal fan when it was about fifteen years old.’

But one thing is clear from your comments. While some of you may have household appliances that have latest the test of time, they have had to be repaired periodically.

Are household appliances less reliable than they used to be?

Yes (58%, 591 Votes)

No (26%, 267 Votes)

Not sure (16%, 163 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,021

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So, is an increase in appliance replacement or failure down to the fact that modern appliances are less reliable and not built to last? Or are we just less inclined to pay for an expensive repair bill when a replacement doesn’t break the bank?

Derek P says:

‘If someone who ought to spend much more than £200 for a heavy duty machine only buys a £200 machine, then they may only get 2 or 3 years use from it – but they still might prefer having a sequence of cheap new machines to the bother of getting a better made one repaired periodically.

‘In my house, I use a medium-priced Zanussi that I bought almost 30 years ago. It has only ever needed one or two very minor repairs, which I was able to do myself. When I bought it from my local Co-op, it cost £120. At the time, that was 50% more than the price of the cheapest machine that they sold.’

So, what do you think? Are products less reliable than they used to be? Or is it just that we aren’t willing to repair things as readily as we used to be?

Comments

Our first double oven lasted almost 20 years, the second around 5 and we just hope that this one – and they were all W? best buys – lasts for at least 10. But I suspect appliances are now superseded rather than simply failing .

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In his introduction, Matt gives an example of goods being much more affordable these days. In our parents’ generation, a washing machine or TV was a major purchase. Nowadays we have some very cheap products on sale and often the build quality is very poor indeed. Unfortunately, paying for expensive products does not guarantee that they will be trouble free. Consumerism demands that we buy new goods and for companies to make profits they cannot afford to design goods that will be durable.

There are good and durable products, not necessarily very expensive, and it should be the job of a Consumers’ Association to make us aware of them. They should also make us aware of those products that are not durable and not repairable. Then we can make more informed choices.

Many more people can now have the advantages offered by cheaper appliances, and whether we like businesses making profits or not, it is to our benefit (employment, taxes). I remember when cars were scarce; now most can own one, with far greater reliability and safety than in the past.

Cars are more straightforward because spares are generally available for a reasonable period of time. With parts used in routine servicing and other commonly used parts, there is often a choice of supplier. Parts that are only available from the manufacturer can be horrendously expensive. Earlier this year I was quoted an absurd price for replacing a headlamp level control, which is no more than a simple potentiometer. Fortunately the engineer inadvertently fixed the fault when establishing what was wrong. I very much agree that cars are far more reliable than in the past, though it can be very expensive if you are unlucky.

I wish that Which? could tell us about repairability but perhaps the first step would be to ask the manufacturers how long they hold spares for.

There is no obligation for manufacturers to provide spare parts at all, period.

Just Google “Appliance Spare Parts Availability And The Law” you’ll find an article I wrote on it a while back and, it applies to cars and more also.

You may also understand why even what a brand may say now, might change.

K.

I’m well aware of this, Kenneth. You have mentioned this in our earlier discussions.

To my mind an example of a consumer driven society is mobile phones. We are encouraged to replace what should be a perfectly good, but expensive, phone whenever a contract expires “without cost”. What many people do not seem to think about is that they have paid for this £500 phone during the short duration of the contract. If contracts were shown explicitly as the service cost and the phone purchase cost separately, would people then cough up £500 every 2 years for a new phone?

There is no need to buy a phone on a contract, though this can be a cheaper option. Companies are keen to see us of an ongoing source of revenue, so keeping us on contracts and encouraging us to upgrade is attractive to them. I bought my phone and will replace it when it no longer meets my needs or when it is no longer supported and it would be a security risk to continue to use it.

Many contracts are for company phones where little thought may be given to how the phone is paid for. My experience of this is they are included in the contract and replaced regularly. No doubt “enhancements” in features and software encourage this.

Data demonstrates that the premise is true, lifespan of new appliances is almost with no doubt whatsoever shorter.

Wavechange is correct however, they are also considerably cheaper and the vast bulk of sales are at the “lower end” of the market. Without sales to support better products the brands die or get swallowed up by others looking to increase market share and actual real choice slowly vanishes. even those left trying to do the right thing are forced by consumer demand to cut in order to remain even remotely competitive.

With demand centered on being cheap rather than good, the market gets what the market demands.

K.

I have checked the current Which? ‘Best Buys’ and there are a couple of washing machines available within a budget of £300. I can understand why many choose the option to buy cheap and replace when it breaks. It would be interesting to compare the cost of ownership of cheap and expensive white goods.

The problem that Which? and other (lesser IMO, if not bogus) reviews cannot determine is durability, longevity and serviceability over the life. That’s very, very hard to do. Often it’s a bit of educated guesswork.

Performance you can test in lab conditions and perhaps a bit of real world testing but beyond that, there’s not much can be done reasonably.

So for example, I can tell you that the ZWF91283, made in Poland, that is £299 and a Best Buy has a sealed tank, completely unserviceable as well as an integrated pump to the tank that cannot be user serviced.

In full on family use I’d reckon maybe three years, perhaps four at most before the bearings collapse and that machine is scrap. I can’t even tell you how much a new tank is, they don’t have any but think about 2/3’s the cost of a replacement machine.

Now for me and, it is my own personal opinion, that does not make that machine a good buy at all let alone a Best Buy but, that’s opinion based on the evidence I have that Which? do not have access to.

The other Zanussi less that £300 is the same platform, same applies.

For me, these are more or less throwaway machines.

K.

I’m very wary of low price Best Buys but in an earlier Convo you pointed out that most washing machines now use sealed tanks. Maybe they use better quality bearings, which is something you will know but most of us don’t.

Perhaps Which? should get advice from those who service machines but with companies buying and selling brand names, past performance may not be a guide to the future.

I’d like information on repairability (or lack of) made clear when purchasing, and particularly by Which? when listing product features. I simply want to purchase knowing what I am getting so I can make an informed choice.

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Surely the market gets what the market believes to be true. And the market thinks machines are built to last.

We know for sure that Which? could set up tests and run machines for 6 months solid. That would very likely root out the rubbish and Which? would not be selling Best Buy logos to go on the advertising.

The reason German gear is generally better is education of the public and serious testing. Which? seems to have absented itself from the market whilst spending £3m a year on a Financial Services arm.

The BBC has reported the decline in machine longevity but omitted to consider reasons and what could be done about it.

I note EBAC up’t North now build washing machines with three different lifespan guarantees – up to 10 years. Anyone interested?

The French consumer bodies have costed additional years of life for fractional increases in build cost. Is there a conspiracy towards making everything of more limited lifespans??

Consumers beware. Manufacturers are using your ignorance of life time builds to generate a faster and faster replacement rate – and you are paying for it.

The last time I wanted a circuit board was for a stairlift owned by a charity. The price was £400. No doubt a field service engineer could obtain a better price but they have to earn a living. We have moved on from the days when household goods were simple and could be repaired cheaply and easily. As Duncan says, it’s a case of replacement rather than repair of modern circuit boards.

I would love it if Which? could tell us which could tell us which products will be repairable at a cost effective price when the need arises, but I cannot conceive of how this could be achieved. Maybe Kenneth can advise.

The European umbrella group for consumers – BEUC – has a policy of pressing for appliances to be durable and repairable, and long term availability of spares. Lets hope it is more than words.Some manufacturers make this happen. I don’t mind some subscribing to a throw-away society as long as they know what they are doing. I hope many will realise the folly of that approach, when they are given appropriate information, and appreciate that it is probably cheaper in the long run to buy a better appliance that lasts longer.

Hi Patrick,

Re EBAC.

Three different warranties does not in any way, shape or form mean that there are three different machines or platforms upon which that they are built.

I have looked repeatedly to find details on that warranty and thus far have found next to no detail. The warranty could cover no more than a screw for all we know or other parts that are unlikely to break in much the way LG’s “10 year warranty” is.

What I can tell you is that, rumour has it, that EBAC service for LDA is through 0800 Repair or JTM Service whatever banner they’ve put it under, a Google of those will reveal insight.

They are in turn owned by Pacifica Group, once again Google is your friend, who are probably insuring the warranty through an underwriter who, I think, were UK General but now trading as something else.

The actual platform the machines are built on will be the same.

To set up a production line you’re looking at millions to do it. To make a different tank which is the main point of difference and, one you cannot see, costs a good chunk of that. Even a mould for a tank or drum can run to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

So, at trade they’re making probably in the order of about £30 or so, in that ballpark. You need to see a huge number to get that investment back.

I appreciate completely that without industry knowledge and the access to information that this would probably never be known, all people will see is exactly what you have and make the same assumption, that there are different machines being made when really, it’s a bit of marketing smoke and mirrors.

But you have to ask, how on earth can they offer a machine of the supposed quality at under £500 when a five year warranty from most costs over a third of that?

That old adage applies I think, if it looks too good to be true….

K.

My parents bought an integrated Toshiba microwave in the early 1980s (before they were a norm in kitchens and my mum realised you couldn’t boil eggs or cook sausages in them). It’s still going strong (touch wood) and has only ever needed the light bulb changing. Meanwhile, I’ve gone through about three of them since becoming a homeowner in 2003. That microwave was definitely built to last!

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I’m still using an old Philips microwave without a turntable. Mine has some sort of microwave distributor at the top of the chamber. A flimsy plastic peg that operated the safety door interlock broke off, so I replaced it with a more durable metal one. When the lamp failed I discovered that it was a manufacturer’s special so I fitted a lampholder and a standard replaceable bulb.

Having had some experience with the better quality of non-domestic equipment, I think Duncan is right, though many products would not be suitable for home use.

“And I looked, and behold a pale horse [deliberately unreliable implements]: and his name that sat on him was Death [waste], and Hell [not recycling/not reclyclable/landfill] followed with him.”

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Good grief. Sophie has me doing Bible studies.

Clint and I share the same sources of inspiration.

I have an 18 year old washing machine that doesn’t rinse very well anymore, or maybe it’s my imagination. I check and clean the filter fairly regularly, I run an empty wash with soda crystals every so often, and I use washing liquid rather than powder, not too much for the soft water we’ve got up here in Scotland. I’ve no idea what’s wrong, so when I do a wash I run the cycle and then put the wash through a second rinse. Seems to work. I wouldn’t want to replace my machine in part because the last time I looked at Which best buys they seem to think that the rinse wasn’t great on any of the machines, not on those I could afford anyway.

I think one issue is that modern machines do far more than older ones. Early washing machines were just rinse, fill, agitate, rinse and empty. Now, you need a course in avionics and low-level programming simply to work one. And, sadly, few are built to be operated easily. Perhaps if Apple built them they might be, but the instruction manuals that arrive with some products seem like entrance tests for MENSA.

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I would not mind an Apple washing machine, Ian. I now have a Miele machine that has some interesting features. Checking the filter is fun because it is not easy to work out how to open the cover that conceals it. The manual reveals that hidden in the detergent compartment is a piece of plastic that can be inserted to prise open the cover. In the door seal there is what I can only describe as a dirt trap, though I believe it is there to catch coins and other foreign objects. When washing dark fabrics I use gel capsules because powders and tablets contain bleach. Several times I have watched the capsule find its way into the door seal and remain there until I stop the cycle and remove it. I think there is a 60°C cycle but if so it’s the one marked 60 rather than 60°C. I chose it because there was a 5 year guarantee/warranty but Miele has not yet managed to sort this out yet, despite calls and emails. Last time I spoke to them they insisted I had bought the machine in 2014 – probably before the model had been launched.

For the time being, I’m holding on to my old Philips machine that served me well for 34 years.

Thanks, Duncan. A pharmacist once advised to rinse the machine with soda crystals not for chalk deposits but for washing product residue as I was having trouble with a skin rash. The pump drains OK as far as I can tell. My hunch is that the problem is a timer/cycle change, though I wouldn’t know about the rest. Wouldn’t a belt slippage be noticeable, audible?

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Sophie – It’s possible that you are using too much detergent if you have soft water.

The hardness of water can change. When I moved home in the early 80s the water was extremely hard but when the company started to introduce river water it became much softer, even though it is still classified as extremely hard. If you have noticed that the water has become softer – very obvious when taking a shower – I suggest you try using less detergent.

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Most Scottish water is soft but England varies a lot:

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Even within the designated geographical areas the hardness of the water can vary quite markedly. Birmingham’s water comes from the Elan Valley in Wales and, to my mind, is rather soft but the map shows it to be in the medium area – and possibly in the red (hard) feature in the middle of the large yellow region. Where we used to live in south Norfolk the water was extremely hard and came from a borehole; now, twenty miles further west, the water is still on the hard side but more pleasant – I think it comes from deep wells. Norwich water comes largely from rivers and is probably my favourite being very drinkable. There is a degree of intermixing these days as trunk mains have been provided to interconnect local extraction points to ensure continuity of supply when a water tower has to undergo maintenance or there is a burst water main. In terms of laundry performance I believe hard water does a better job on hard fabrics [linen, cotton, synthetics] and soft water is kinder to woollens, towels and other soft materials but longer rinsing is required, especially with a generous detergent supply.

It is often claimed that hard water can cause premature failure of heaters in washing machines, but the one in my machine survived for over three decades of being used two or three times a week. I never used a water softener or a product such as Calgon. In our laboratories, limescale played havoc and we had to use a water softener to prevent pipes becoming blocked, but I don’t recall failure of electric water heaters despite the fact that they quickly became heavily coated with limescale. I suspect that premature failure of heaters has more to do with poor manufacturing quality.

From the Which? ideas vertical. Looks like a product design issue and therefore I think still a live matter. Which? going to go after it and investigate if it is indeed a common problem?

Least it could do on a Best Buy recommended machine??

” Samsung ecobubble washing machine – design fault?
I am interested if people are encountering this issue. In sept 2013 we purchased a best buy Samsung ecobubble and were very pleased.
Two and half years after purchase, June 2016, and 5 times a week use it started to emit a banging noise. It happens on any spin cycle and now has become so loud and distributing that the machine sounds like it is about to either explode or break through the wall.
In November a local repair service said plastic grommets on the bolts holding the motor have disintegrated. They have had three similar call outs in the last few months and believe the grommets should be rubber, not plastic.
Due to design of the motor and drum both the front and rear drum needs replacing, quoted at £370.00 (or a new machine).
Samsung won’t look at the machine as it is out of warranty (I forgot to fill in the paper warranty and so missed the 5 year offer, frustrating despite proof of purchase).
Are other people experiencing the same design issue with Samsung ecobubbles? “

It’s worth trawling the web for reports of similar problems if you have a failure outside the guarantee period, or even if you are considering buying new products. Kenneth has pointed out that washing machines are often misused, so manufacturers are not always to blame.

If the machine is not durable then a claim can be made against the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act. (“Quality” / Durability).

You are so right wavechange. Which? will have the posters email address and will be able to establish which machine it is. And perhaps usage figures.

Also the repairman to get a quote on the matter. Yep looks a good clean start to an excellent consumer interest story. Even if it is a bust we will then have Which? telling us that.

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I would like to know if multiple reports of the same problem would be acceptable if a case went to court, ADR or the ombudsman. One of the obvious problems is that fault symptoms can have more than one cause. Service engineers will have a good knowledge of what goes wrong with different models.

It would be great if Which? would get more involved in supporting consumers over goods that fail outside the guarantee/warranty period.

Nope. Sorry, it’s more complex again.

Samsung have an exclusive arrangement with one UK spares distributor (as many do) so they can charge whatever they like as in effect they hold a monopoly.

Something I have bitterly complained about to anyone that will listen, government and Which? included and nobody seem interested in doing much about it.

So the market is not working as a free and fair one and it is monopolistic and it is not in the interest of consumers. Pretty much, that sums that up.

K.

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No Duncan, you likely have four retailers I expect. A retailer outlet is not a distributor and you may well find that two or more are the same business in reality.

Samsung appliances have an exclusive deal with one UK company and I am sorry but that is a fact.

There are some “grey” imports from other sources for sure but, one company has official control of all.

What that means is that the distributor can charge any or all retailers and in turn end users whatever they please.

K.

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UKW is independent, I can say that with authority. 😉

Partmaster is owned by Dixons Carphone, whatever they’re called and is not run by them. It is run by Connect Distribution Services Limited in Birmingham. They also run any number of others also including some manufacturers or brand spares outlets.

What you see and what is are often different.

Most people won’t go to that length you might and source something cheaper, especially for a machine that they can replace for a couple or few hundred quid, they’ll just bin it and buy another.

K.

Hello @wavechange, well we’ve just (yesterday) launched our new Faulty Goods Tool – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product#use-our-faulty-goods-compaint-tool

This tool is to help anyone with a faulty product to get a refund, repair or replacement. The tool ask a few straightforward questions to determine the entitlement to claim and then shares with you a bespoke complaint letter to send to the retailer. Of course, this tool sits alongside our Consumer Rights advice too.

Thanks Lauren. Anything that can encourage people to exercise their legal rights is very welcome. The problem with previous information from Which? has been lack of advice on how to proceed if a problem arises after the guarantee/warranty has expired but within the 6 years (five in Scotland) period covered by our statutory rights. Hopefully this is covered by the tool.

I would love to see examples in the magazine of people who have successfully made claims against large electrical retailers, which are often very uncooperative when something goes wrong. I’m not referring to the minority who are well informed about their rights but people who have simply used the Faulty Goods Tool.

Timberpig says:
25 January 2017

Patrick Taylor – I bought our Ecobubble WF70FSE0W4W Apr 2013 2 years later. It was making a terrible noise and not cleaning clothes properly. The Samsung engineer came to repair it the brackets that held the drum had broken. The engineer said this shouldn’t happen and that he had only previously seen it at a hotel that did masses of laundry. Though he did make some comment about the angle of the drum position. I asked whether this could have affected the machine long term and was told not. Now just 18 months on my machine is broken again.

I also did not complete the warranty and therefore am being told I will have to pay to get the machine checked and fixed. Reading reviews on various websites eg. amazon I do not seem to be the only one experiencing this issue.

I expect a washing machine and a pricey one at that to last longer and am very disappointed with Samsung service.

I’ve decided that something’s missing from my sensory system. It took me 40 minutes today simply to reassemble a brand new Stanley Knife. It would have been quicker to make one. This is the first Stanley knife I’ve bought in 40 years, and they’re still as fiddly and awkward to reassemble as I remember. So no change there, then.

Changing the blade, or turning it round to use the other end, has always been difficult but at least, until recently, Stanley knives were superior to look-alike alternatives and own-brand versions. There are many better knives available now with much sharper and cleaner-cutting blades, however, since I still have over half a dozen Stanley knives, I have not yet tried any of the newer models although I have watched tradesmen using them and they seem to perform much better; how easy they are to take apart and reassemble I don’t know.

Earlier this year I stopped using my HiFi separates when I moved house – an amplifier, turntable, CD player, tuner and cassette recorder, all of different makes. They were well used and apart from replacement of the turntable drive belt a couple of times, they have worked faultlessly since they were purchased in the 80s. My impression is that HiFi equipment is better made and more reliable than most consumer goods.

I have found it is very difficult to buy some parts for many things Electric motor brushes seem to be only available from China but is easy to by a replacement motor that costs more than you can buy an replacement product Buy a complete unit instead of the small part you want is most manufacturers answer to repairing things now Bits can be found if you spend time searching but usually only found to er available if sent from
China etc .A throw away buy new policy exists everywhere

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Thanks to the internet it can be easy to find suppliers of small but essential items such as motor brushes. On a couple of occasions I have made my own brushes from larger ones that I had in the spares box. It’s a messy job and best done outside, but not difficult and worked well for me. It’s very satisfying to keep old equipment going – as long as it has not been superseded by better products.

Agreed Wavechange, it’s very rewarding to re-instate old appliances, and more so if you have to be creative in the process -I’m pleased I’m not the only one who has re-shaped carbon brushes to make them fit. I’ve repaired a good many of my own appliances in my lifetime, and so reduced the burden on the planet. However, appliances are generally harder to repair nowadays in my experience, and the prices of parts makes it harder to justify the effort.

There is no doubt that appliances and other electrical products have become harder to repair, David. Fortunately there are some repairs that can still be done, so I’m always keen to have a go.

These days it seems to be a race to the bottom as far as build quality and durability are concerned.

Would you like an extended warranty with that Sir?

My usual response is that I don’t want the extended warranty because I have my statutory rights, and when they look blank I politely summarise my protection under the Consumer Rights Act.

At one time, electrical stores used to try very hard to push customers to take out very expensive extended warranties and I well remember Which? campaigning to stop this practice, back in the 80s or early 90s. It is years since I have been asked more than once if I want an extended warranty and they seem to be cheaper.

I cannot remember regretting not having an extended warranty. They may make sense for large households that heavily use products.

That is very true Wavechange however, if the product is not designed to last then it could be extremely difficult to prove it wasn’t perhaps as durable as your or anyone’s opinion might like the product to be.

Not to mentioning that doing so to satisfy the requirements may prove costly, more so than a replacement machine.

And that is of course it you want to fight it out with the retailer and/or manufacturer. I expect many if not most people would not over such a relatively small amount. You might as might others on here with the time or that want to on a point of principal but I don’t think many would be bothered.

Manufacturers will admit if pressed that some machines are not designed to last five years before requiring replacement. So, the design life is shorter than the six year rule I presume that you refer to.

In addition to that, we regularly see machines that parts are obsolete on from 18 months old. Logically then you would have to presume that they are therefore not designed to last beyond that.

You even have the like of Swan sold through Shop Direct Group that there are no spares available whatsoever outside warranty, as in absolutely no support. Logically then, you would have to conclude that the design life is perhaps about as long as the warranty lasts and no more. If that.

So if you went to court and stood in front of a judge it is your opinion that the product should have lasted longer versus a wealth of stats and information that says it never ever would. Couple that with low prices and the chances of winning such an argument I suspect would be very low indeed.

The real world reality from what I know and from my perspective is that many of the machines are absolutely throw away and that doing anything about it would be difficult at best and likely prove not cost effective or practical to do for most people.

Until some fundamental issues are resolved that will not alter far as I can see.

K.

What I’m after is fairness, Kenneth. Earlier today I mentioned that a retailer is not responsible for damage to chairs if they have been abused. I gave the example of kids jumping on them. I have known of cases where people have taken back products that they have broken. I’m sure you could provide hundreds of examples of abuse by disgruntled customers.

I don’t doubt that it is difficult for customers to take on retailers but a good start would be to put an end to the common practice of telling customers that ‘nothing can be done because the guarantee or warranty has expired’ or referring them to the manufacturer, who has no legal responsibility. I believe that we can win this battle, and I hope you would support action to achieve this.

What follows is hard for consumers, I agree. Consumers would do well to learn about their legal rights and buy appropriate products for their needs. I would suggest that businesses familiarise themselves with this document: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/The%20sale%20and%20supply%20of%20goods_ALL_BIS_GOODS_GUIDANCE_SEP15.pdf

I do think most retailers, certainly one’s I know do try to be as fair as possible but I fear you’ve missed the point I am making.

If the product is only designed to last the warranty period, what do you do then?

How do you claim that the product should have lasted longer the, clearly it was never intended to? Surely that’s like tying to argue that a can of soup should last long beyond its sell-by date just because you want it to?

I should imagine that in the eyes of the law the claimant with their opinion that it should have will be proven wrong and lose.

Damage caused through misuse and abuse is a separate matter and yes, that is a large problem but not the only one.

K.

In my experience retailers have never suggested that the Sale of Goods Act (CRA now) gave me protection for up to 6 years when I have had a problem. However, when I have pointed out the provisions in the Acts we have reached a fair – sometimes more favourable to me – settlement. You need to be aware of your rights but this should be changed. Retailers should display a summary of the Acts’ provisions clearly and prominently in their store or on their website..

How long should a product last? Essentially I consider that a more expensive version of a basic product should last longer than a cheap one. I would like to see real work done into what consumers should expect for product durability, and manufacturers to indicate likely life / cycles or whatever for guidance under normal use, just as they must publish energy information. They should also publish whether or not more routine failure items can be replaced or not – like bearings, pumps, for example – and typical repair costs. I have no problems with people who buy cheap appliances if they know they will have a relatively short life, but many want products to last and should be given information so that they can make a considered purchase.

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My issue is and, always has been, that there is no truly meaningful information in effect available to buyers other than marketing materials.

I’m sure everyone will agree that to be a wholly unreliable source.

There is no legislation around spares or service, it is the Wild West, retailers and manufacturers or brands can do whatever they like without any fear of scrutiny let alone repercussion.

The mechanisms for redress are probably flawed but they are as good as they can be most likely and, better than they are in the USA in my opinion as, there you need to take individual action or a class action and that is a process that takes time just as any action here does. It is not a quick, easy or especially cheap answer. Personally, I’d avoid it if at all possible.

Taking what might be viewed as punitive action against a retailer for a product that hasn’t lived up to expectation often seemingly based on preconceived assumption that will more often than not prove incorrect is likely a fools errand. Apart from that it will likely not succeed it’s the wrong fight to pick if you ask me.

They just sell the stuff. They don’t make it.

Wrong party to be picking a fight with if you want stuff that will last longer.

All you do there is maybe get a bit of something to make you go away and shut up, it’s less hassle than fighting it for the retailer and probably cheaper. Big whoop, win for the customer they get a concession, whoop-de-doo.

Meanwhile the manufacturer, brand owner or producer is sat back without a care in the world totally isolated from all that. Your beef with the retailer probably isn’t even blip on the radar unless it becomes endemic and the retailer is big enough to cause them pain through not selling the product.

Aside that, this action has a zero sum effect.

If you all want to truly change things, pick the right fight to be having.

Battling retailers is in my opinion a completely pointless waste of your time and energy at this moment in time.

Consumer protection in that regard is, given the current state of play beyond that, probably as good as you’re going to get.

As I said before, the products are not designed to last and have a finite life as they all do but, those have been shortened dramatically in the past two decades. All of them have therefore, if you fight on the basis of “it didn’t last long enough” you will lose as all the industry will do is roll out stats to show you’re wrong and, they will be correct.

I’ve tackled government, UK, Welsh and Scottish as well as interacted with the EU by proxy on this stuff and nobody wants to know as it’s too hard. It means changing legislation and it’s a big fight to get the like of access to technical info, parts, ensure parts availability for a set time, publish MTTF figures on the energy labels, force to publish the actual producer and not the brand only, force independent verification of claims… it’s just too hard for anyone to be bothering with and, it costs money.

Flipside is, there’s a lobby of manufacturers et all with very deep pockets that really don’t want to see any of these changes that would actually make a difference so, again not a lot of interest in battling that.

Posting on here often frustrates me as, I get the impression that some think I’m all about “business” and protecting it, not about the consumers when that is patently untrue. I think consumers should be informed, properly. And that they should be correctly protected, often as much from themselves as business that would take advantage of them, usually through the lack of information.

But it has to be fair, honest and balanced.

Now the way things are it isn’t. Manufacturers have a huge advantage as do a number of large retailers in my opinion, a number of them pan-European or global companies and, to fight them, that’s hard.

To change things in any meaningful way, that’s hard, very hard.

But as long as people swallow the PR/marketing claptrap, governments bury their heads in the sand, consumers keep racing to the bottom along with producers and nobody addresses the real core issues that might effect change, nothing will change.

From where I sit in essence, nobody cares.

So long as they get a scrap of compensation from the table if they feel aggrieved to ease the pain a little, it’s all good.

K.

When the original SoG legislation was enacted I remember wondering why the retailers were made responsible for dealing with faulty or defective products. I later learnt that it forced manufacturers into forming arrangements with retailers to deal with returns.

In effect, it’s an interesting practical application of statistical probability. If just a few items are returned / found defective that’s not an issue for either manufacturer or retailer, since no company can guarantee the perfection of any product. But if the tiny trickle of returns becomes a torrent the retailers react in many ways, one being to stop selling the stuff. If the retailer is large enough that hurts the manufacturer.

In terms of longevity, what would help would be if Which? were specifically to test for that, in the ways they used to many years ago. I well remember the photos of the ‘Paint farm’, where panels painted using different brands were exposed to the weather for five years to test for longevity. That sort of testing was meaningful and unique to Which?.

On the 6 years thing, Apple are the only retailer / manufacturer I know of that include that information on their web site. It’s one reason why I’d never buy anything other than an Apple device, since the only failures I’ve ever experienced have been from the Hard drives, which Apple doesn’t make. Apple, however, will repair and replace parts up to the 6 year mark, irrespective of warranty.

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In fact, given what you get with an Apple the cost is on a par with the better Windows machines – but obviously not the cheap stuff. Only yesterday I replaced the failed optical drive in a 2012 Mac Pro desktop. Apple don’t make the HDs or Optical drives, so one expects them to fail. So easy to swap out, though: simply pull, unscrew, replace and push back in.

I have been buying Apple computers for around 25 years, both for use at home and work. I would like to draw attention to two ways in which Apple treats purchasers of their products with more respect than most companies.

1. Where a significant problem is discovered, Apple adds it to a published list so that customers can see if they have an affected product and qualify for a free repair: https://www.apple.com/uk/support/exchange_repair/ Sometimes Apple needs to be encouraged to agree that problems exist, but there are plenty of users in the US to provide that encouragement.

2. Apple recognises that customers in different countries have statutory rights. Here, for example, is the information relevant to the UK: http://www.apple.com/uk/legal/statutory-warranty/ I would like to see all companies put similar information on their websites. Earlier this year I had a MacBook Pro repaired free of charge, three and a half years after I bought it. I have generally bought Apple products direct from the company, so they are both manufacturer and retailer, bearing in mind that it is the retailer rather than the manufacturer that is responsible if I wish to make a claim.

I think retailer responsibility is also a practical and legal matter. Practical because it is far easier in principle to deal with a retailer than it is a manufacturer, who may be overseas, and legally because you have a contract with the retailer, not with the manufacturer. I have asked several times what contracts retailers have with their suppliers – wholesaler, distributor or manufacturer – including recompense for returned faulty goods. No luck to date.

On the other hand, one product may be sold by dozens of retailers, some of which may no longer be trading when help is needed. Many products are bought online because prices can be substantially lower. I wish more manufacturers would follow Apple’s example and sell directly to the public. As it stands, we are required to deal with the retailer unless there is a safety recall, which are usually handled by the manufacturer. Manufacturers are often happy to help with small problems even if they have no legal responsibility for doing this.

Information about contracts with other companies would be regarded as confidential commercial information and not something that they are likely to divulge.

When I rejected our cooker as not fit for purpose, the retailer contacted the sales rep who thankfully agreed to take it back.

If my experience is typical, retailers are generally very helpful when goods are new or within the guarantee period.

On a couple of occasions I have been able to reject products on the basis of incorrect information provided by the retailer. If the retailer provides incorrect information or gives wrong advice on its suitability for a purpose, this would be treated in the same way as manufacturer’s information in the event of a dispute provided that the buyer had evidence.

It can be useful to take a photo of shelf labels. If in doubt, I look at the instruction manual so that the goods can be returned unused if the information provided was wrong.

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CRA for business:
1. The goods must be of satisfactory quality
What counts as satisfactory is determined by what a reasonable person would think is satisfactory, looking at all the relevant circumstances. These include, but are not limited to:
 any description of the goods including what the consumer was told about the goods by you or your employees
 the price paid for the goods, and
 any public claims made about the goods by you or the manufacturer, (for example, in advertisements or on the labels of the goods) – see below for explanation of when public statements might not be relevant.
“2. The goods must be fit for a particular purpose
If a consumer makes you aware, before the contract is made, that they intend to use the goods for a particular purpose then the goods must work for that purpose.
This covers both the consumer telling you the purpose expressly, and where the purpose is implicit from other things said or done. This applies even if the intended purpose is not the usual use for the goods.”

duncan, I presume retailers do have contracts and/or legal rights in their contract with their supplier. I have just not had anyone supply details. Some commenters in the past have suggested the poor old retailer should not take the flak for a failed product. My view is they choose to retail the product and must bear responsibility for selecting it and selling it to you, they make a profit in selling the product and I would be astonished if they did not recover redress from their supplier. But it would be nice to hear.

Companies as well as retailers do go out of business, but this is not the norm. Online protection is covered by CRA. As far as I know Apple have stores so act as both retailer and manufacturer but I might be wrong. But if your Samsung washer goes wrong and you have to deal with South Korea, different laws to ours, that’s hardly practical for many people.

CRA affectively spells out the contract a retailer has with a customer. I’d expect a similar generic arrangement to exist between retailers and suppliers. Not confidential.

Most commercial contracts are subject to non-disclosure Malcolm and are sensitive, sometimes very sensitive.

You will never get access to those.

There is no similar arrangement that is CRA like for B2B transactions, some or many elements of the SoGA apply but in a reduced capacity. And just as with end users, what the law says you can do and what you practically can do within financial reason are often worlds apart.

If the supplier is outside the UK or worse the EU there is no protection for the retailer or importer whatsoever unless by contractual arrangement, which you will never gain access to as it is a private arrangement.

K.

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Apple sells its products online, Malcolm, so they are both manufacturer and retailer. I have never bought anything from and Apple Store.

I don’t understand why it would be necessary to deal with South Korea because Samsung provide UK support. As far as I know, if you buy through the website of a company trading in the UK, UK law would apply in event of a dispute. I am pleased to see the following on Samsung’s website:
“PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS WARRANTY IS A VOLUNTARY MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY AND PROVIDES RIGHTS IN ADDITION TO, AND DOES NOT AFFECT LEGAL STATUTORY RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS UNDER APPLICABLE NATIONAL LAWS RELATING TO SALE OF GOODS.” I see that Samsung has a Royal Warrant, but only for TVs and AV products, not washing machines and assume that the Queen has staff to do the washing or it is sent to a laundry.

I don’t believe that Samsung sells directly to the public.

But what about manufacturers that do not have a UK (or currently EU) base? It makes far more sense to deal with the consumer’s supplier – the retailer. They deal with the manufacturer so they can exercise their rights in turn. If a retailer sells rubbish goods they should cease selling it.

Let’s say I wanted to buy a compact camera and looked at Which? Best Buys for inspiration. Currently there are about seven brands, all familiar names, and I expect that most of them have a UK office. On the other hand, there are hundreds of retailers of these products and Which? lists many that I have not heard of.

It does not really matter because at present we are expected to deal with the retailer because that’s who our contract is with. I have strongly criticised Currys for refusing to help and telling me to contact the manufacturer but perhaps it’s the best thing that can happen – provided that the manufacturer does help.

My Sharp 800W microwave oven has been in daily use since 2002 and only needed two replacement light bulbs in all that time. A Whirlpool AWG765 washing machine I bought in 1995 retired in 2013, and I sold some of the parts for over £100 which helped towards the cost of a new (Which? best buy) machine. Over its lifetime, I replaced the door seal, a door hinge, a door latch, one power switch, one set of motor brushes and a failed circuit board (luckily replaced with a second-hand one). The spare parts were reasonably-priced.
My Whirlpool fridge and freezer, both bought in 1995, were replaced in 2014 and 2015 because the spare parts were no longer available. It seems that nowadays the cost of parts and service visits often makes repair uneconomical for the user, and modern designs mean that you can’t just replace e.g. a faulty bearing – you have to buy a large sub-assembly at considerably higher cost.

My Sharp 500W microwave was bought in about 1984 and is still in regular use.

My Zanussi FL 812 washing machine was bought in about 1987 and in still in regular use.

In my experience, unless abused, most Windows PCs (or PCs that originally came with Windows) will give a service life of about 10 years.

After that, they are more likely to be retired because they are no longer up to the demands of modern software than because of terminal hardware failures. Just as Ian notes with his more expensive Macs, optical drives and hard drives do sometimes fail, but are easily replaced.

Technical question: over time do electric motors lose their efficiency?

Kind of through general wear but aside that, not really no.

Things around them can though so in the like of a compressor seals can start to fail internally over time leading to extended run times, inefficiencies etc.

K.

Thank you. Interesting…

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I did not encounter brushless motors until the early 80s and that was not in household products. If brushes are allowed to wear out the commutator can be damaged by arcing and new brushes may not last as long. Most people realise that their cars need periodic servicing but would not think of checking the brushes on their washing machine motor. Fortunately brushless motors are becoming more common.

My Philips steam iron is between 15 and 20 years old, and has been well used. The heat-proof flexible cable wears and I cannot remember how many times I have replaced it.

Since I got a tumble dryer, I expect my iron to last many, many, many years.

🙂

I wonder how many appliances are scrapped unnecessarily. When I bought a house the vendors said that they were scrapping the Bosch dishwasher, which was around 11 years old and did not work properly. The owners had moved out so I had a quick look and could see that the holes in the lower spray arm were blocked with limescale. I asked them not to dispose of it because it might be repairable. Clearing the holes in both spray arms took a few minutes and the machine has been working perfectly for months.

Manufacturers and retailers are keen for us to buy new products on the basis of improved energy efficiency. I have little doubt that fridges, freezers and ovens have improved over the years, but it is difficult to find reliable information.

I am suspicious of this information, which is provided by Amdea, a trade association that represents manufacturers: http://www.t2c.org.uk/chilling/new-case-study-of-20-yr-old-fridge/ Despite having hundreds of offers of old fridges to test, they chose to focus on one example, explaining that it was not always possible to confirm the age of appliances. The chosen example might have had a worn compressor or a door seal in poor condition. We don’t know. For Amdea’s claim to be credible, they would need to have tests carried out independently and on a sufficient number of fridges to produce statistically significant results. I am a bit wary of Which? testing too. We know it is done independently but the number of items tested is rarely mentioned.

My advice is to think hard before replacing products that are still working well and do the job adequately.

Yep and most of what you see is lies and spin.

The purported savings in energy use are often wishful thinking at best with the number spun to make people think that they will save a fortune on electricity etc and, they won’t.

Who’s going to check it?

Even if someone does, who’s going to do anything about it?

Should you wish an interesting time, challenge some. Call up the manufacturer and question the validity of their claims and you’ll almost invariably be referred to a PR dept or company, to answer a technical query?

That tells you a lot though does it not?

The numbers or at the very least how they are presented are dreamt up by PR and marketing to sell stuff to the people that haven’t been wise enough to look into it and properly research what it is they are being sold. Which would be most people.

Once sold, the chances of a challenge of the claims is so low as to be irrelevant. Even if there were a claim made, it’s so prohibitive to bring a claim nobody will bother so, you don’t need to tell the truth if you don’t want to as a producer.

Largely because, nobody cares they just swallow the spin and there’s no penalty for lying about it all.

A few years back DEFRA caught a number of hem lying, bare faced lying on the energy labels and they did the sum total of nadda about it. The brands got a slap on the wrist and told to behave.

A few moths later, it’s all forgotten abut and life gets back to normal.

All these companies that got caught will be AMDEA members and AMDEA did what exactly about this?

Bet you can guess.

This the same organisation pressing for public money to subsidise the sales of new “energy efficient” appliances under a scrap page scheme a few years back based on figures that, at best were dodgy at worst were just wholly untrue.

Just some examples but I think it might help demonstrate how reliable I regard information from AMDEA to be.

K.

I have no faith whatsoever in Amdea, Kenneth. I can’t remember if you told us about this before or if I learned about it elsewhere. A trade body representing manufacturers might not be the best place for the public to look for unbiased information. I don’t suppose the Advertising Standards Authority would be interested in false claims made by trade bodies.

I think I have done so but cannot recall.

No information from AMDEA I would not say would be without some bias at best.

ASA won’t be interested as it’s not under their remit because it isn’t an advert it is the opinion of an organisation and even were the ASA to take an interest, they’d have to be prove the advert/statement wrong and to be factually incorrect to do much of anything about it but, guess who has all the data.

Most of the data that any number of claims are made on or about is not in the public domain so, you could be told stories that would rival those of Hans Christian Andersen and most people wouldn’t have a clue they were completely false.

On investigation you might well find many currently are so.

K.

Here is an example of misrepresentation by Amdea, taken from their 2014 Guidance on Customer Care, an odd document that seems to switch between advice for customers and businesses. Referring to the 6 or 5 year period during which customers have statutory rights, it says: “This term is not a guarantee of how long a product should last but gives consumers a period of time in which to complain to a retailer if they believe that a product was faulty when they bought it.”

Sorry Amdea, a product does not have to be faulty at the time of purchase for customers to make a claim.

The claim they can make is, using the Sale of goods Act or the Consumer Rights Act under the “Quality” “Durability” contractual requirement. This is a difficult one to decide without information on how products in different categories and price bands should be expected to last. Someone should start investigating and reaching agreement on appropriate lifetimes before a significant repair might be necessary. Could that be a key job for a………..Consumers’ Association?

I think it would be simpler for Which? to encourage us to look for goods that offer decent guarantees and affordable extended warranties. No need for experts’ reports, or even negotiate with the customer services manager.

Most people are familiar with taking back faulty goods when they are new or during the guarantee period. I want a system that is simple and will work for everyone, not just those like us who have the knowledge and confidence to challenge retailers.

Which says, about the CRA 2015 under “Consumer Rights”:

Six months or more
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.

Find out more about how to return a faulty item and claim a refund, repair or replacement from a retailer.

You have six years to take a claim to the small claims court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and five years in Scotland. This doesn’t mean that a product has to last six years – just that you have this length of time in which to make a claim if a retailer refuses to repair or replace a faulty product. ”

Possibly “misrepresentation” (really erroneous information) from Which? as well as amdea? Perhaps this misleading statement is a lack of understanding or a way of avoiding the criterion many people face, whose products fail early, say just out of guarantee? At the Which? AGM I had a discussion with a Which? member of staff whose washing machine failed after 3 years. Too early in their view but they simply bought another one. If Which? don’t take up issues on durability themselves, what hope is there for the rest of us?

We’d all like longer guarantees – seems unlikely in the short term for many products – and affordable extended warranties. Perhaps Which? could do a report on extended warranties, including multi-appliance ones – to see if they are worth having. I bought an extended warranty for a dishwasher that took it to 10 years repair or replace for £148. On balance I thought it worthwhile. I also recently extended a fridge-freezer warranty from 2 years to 5 years; the warranty should have cost £96 which, for an appliance that was not particularly expensive , was a no no, except for reasons I’ve given elsewhere the retailer chipped in £64 towards it.

Manufacturers longer guarantees, as part of the purchase price – and I’m thinking >5years – should encourage more durable and, hopefully, repairable products to minimise their post-sale costs. If insurance companies offering extended warranties took into account a particular makers reliability (maybe they do already?), we might also see an improvement. But it should all start with better products, better design, more durable components, serviceable with availability of spares. Not for everyone – some will want cheap disposable appliances. The key is giving the consumer the information they need about the product at the time of purchase so they can make a properly considered decision.

With small electricals, I’m happy with a two year guarantee but prefer longer cover for more expensive products. A friend was recently looking at dishwashers and Miele wanted £349 for an eight year warranty in addition to the two year manufacturer’s guarantee. That’s quite a lot of money, bearing in mind the high cost of the machine, probably because a second company (Domestic & General) provides the warranty.

I’ve been saying for years that better guarantees should result in more reliable and more repairable products. If a company has to foot the bill they won’t be able to stay in business if they have to pay for repairs. Obviously this will push up prices to some extent but it might put an end to cheap junk, which is no good for the environment and has a greater cost of ownership thanks to a short working life.

Sorry but I am afraid that this is the correct interpretation of that legislation.

As Malcolm points out quite correctly below, after six months the burden is on the customer to prove the goods were faulty from new or had an inherent defect, which is most often not practical to do if possible at all.

It does not serve as nor was ever intended as a warranty or measure of the quality of the goods and it applies to all goods sold, even those that will never reach nor were intended to reach that age.

It does not cover general failures, wear and tear, abuse, misuse and a host of other things I’ve seen people assume that it does cover them for.

It is a generalised term in the legislation that is so, so often misunderstood or misrepresented in order to attempt a claim. I can assure it has been attempted many times even when there’s no grounds whatsoever for it and, both retailers and manufacturers are mostly well clued up on this and what it means.

To successfully bring claim under that rule you need solid, hard and incontrovertible evidence that your position is correct and be prepared for a fight over it.

Retailers with high margin and incentive to retain your custom may bend or offer some concession but that’s about the best you can hope for I imagine.

But once you factor in depreciation and recession to any claims made on appliances and many other low cost goods what’s left as any repayment is usually considered a derisory sum.

K.

No, Amdea is not correct. The law makes provision for claims for poor durability, even if it is difficult for consumers to do this. I am well aware that misuse and fair wear and tear would invalidate a claim, just as it does with a manufacturer’s guarantee.

It’s mainly Malcolm who has been pushing the durability issue. I support him, but I prefer an easier life and look for longer guarantees and affordable warranties. That’s an option available to everyone and is simply taking advantage of what retailers are offering.

Which? has reported some successful claims for products that have not proved durable, but I can’t recall any articles about white goods.

I’ve argued this with judges, solicitors and even government departments wavechange, it is correct. 100% correct, no doubt about it whatsoever.

The five/six year rule does not cover anything at all other than inherent defect from new and, after six months it’s on the customer to prove that was the case. It is not a measure of durability at all, regardless of how it might be promoted by some.

Check with Which? legal or anyone else familiar with consumer legislation and you will find this to be the case.

Where anyone gets anywhere with this in any other form well, they’ve won a watch and probably come up against a retailer or manufacturer that is unaware of what the legislation actually means.

Trying to prove poor durability is possible and it is in the legislation but, I’d say, it’s virtually impossible to prove one way or the other with certainty in a good many cases. This as you need that good old solid, hard and incontrovertible evidence to support your claim, not just your opinion as that simply will not cut it in a court in front of a judge.

No proof, no case.

We’ve discussed warranties at length previously.

K.

Durability“:
quality of goods includes
– appearance and finish
– freedom from minor defects (such as marks or holes)
– safe to use
– in good working order
–”Durability” is explained in the guides to the legislation and it is clear what it means in principle to most people.
durability – the durability requirement is that the item should work or last for a reasonable time but it does not have to remain of satisfactory quality. For example, a pair of wellington boots should stay waterproof but does not have to keep its brand new appearance.

A washing machine that cost, say, £600 that stops working after 2 years of normal use without misuse is clearly not durable. It should not be necessary to “prove” it had a defect from new – that is not the meaning. A bearing may simply have worn out – maybe down to a poor quality component, for example; not a “fault” in the normal sense. In fact, the legislation does not refer to “fault”, it refers to non-compliance with the contract requirements of SoGA and CRA.

Durability may be a more difficult concept to deal with but it is a requirement by law, and certainly there are obvious cases – elsewhere in these Convos- where it appears consumers have had products that lacked durability. Retailers have a legal obligation to deal with this fairly.

The consumer should not end up paying for deficiencies in products. Work on acceptable durability and, if necessary, making claims on that basis, could eventually lead to a better realisation by manufacturers that there goods need to reach the standards reasonable people have a right to expect.

Amdea is not correct, but neither is Which? Until we get a grip on consumer legislation – do we need a super campaign and an effective consumers minister to make this happen? Let’s hope Which? update update their advice and start thinking about how to deal with durability. Small steps – start with products that fail just after their guarantee runs out.

This is why I stated quite clearly earlier in this conversation that my opinion is, you’re picking the wrong fight to have.

In effect trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted.

What you end up with is a hotch potch of advice and legislation that is trying to cover a very broad scope that may well not allow it to be applied effectively. Sound familiar?

In practical terms, AMDEA is right. Others might be as well as, the law can be open to interpretation until tested and, it’s rarely tested in this area as the value of claims brought is very low.

To use your example, a two year old machine at trade is worth perhaps £20. The value of a new replacement will be many times that but it’s easy to demonstrate second hand values using Gumtreee, Ebay and such.

So a claim might yield more than that but probably not a lot more.

All this as the goods are so cheap. For the most part it’s not worth the trouble.

K.

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A 2 year old machine that should last 6 years should – and legally probably would – be due a 66% redress, by addressing the amount of use you actually got, but should have had.

You are right, it is a difficult area. But not all goods are “cheap”. You buy a BMW, a Mercedes, a £1000 Miele dishwasher, and they fail catastrophically just after a 3 year warranty expires, and I think the customer deserves help or recompense. A product that should be durable, but that does not last, is down to the manufacturer; the consumer cannot be liable (unless it has been abused or misused) and should not have to “grin and bear it”. If it is an otherwise decent product that has suffered a rare failure, a decent supplier should realise they have an obligation to meet.i

Maybe it is just a difference in philosophy but I expect consumers to get fair treatment. No one should be allowed to hide behind a law just because it might be difficult to enforce. If Which? (and BEUC) put some real work into establishing reasonable durability times it would be much easier to claim redress – and without having to go to law. But maybe we want an easy life?

It’s not just about shoddy goods, Duncan. Sometimes well made products break. Maybe not very often but if you have paid a lot for goods and looked after them, I believe that it’s fair that the customer should be offered a repair or other remedy.

I would like to get shoddy goods off the market because some companies exploit the poor and ignorant but we don’t have the backing of the law.

Trouble is Malcom that you need to be able to demonstrate that in the same use, same circumstances etc that the product would have lasted. An impossible task for most I expect. Certainly I’ve never seen a successful claim on such premise.

Either that or, it’s just the buyers opinion that the goods should have lasted and you’re back to, no proof, no case.

Most often these things come down to, from the consumer side, mere hearsay and opinion with little to no supporting evidence. Facing a manufacturer or retailer with boatloads of data to back their case and, in fairness, they will often be correct.

I say that as many of the claims I’ve seen if not all, are often ludicrous or just completely unwarranted as most are unreasonable in the end.

For most people it’s cheaper, less hassle and more effective just to pay for a maintenance contract or, buy a better product in the first place.

With better product you will usually, although not always, get a better warranty and support but, they will be more expensive.

Then I loop back to what I said before, you come back to not enough information for buyers and certainly not enough good info. And what info is there, could be complete garbage as it’s not subject to any scrutiny at all really.

Being told honestly and fully what you’re buying I’d think far more important and would likely mitigate so, so many of these issues. Sadly we live in a world ruled by marketers that play to what customers want, so they say.

K.

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I don’t follow what’s happening in America, Duncan, so cannot make useful comment. Nevertheless, we have discussed several issues where the US is doing more for consumers. Suffice to say that I have long been appalled by government paying more attention to business than its citizens. I think it is morally wrong that political parties are allowed to receive funding from business.

A much more objective way of proceeding is to use a wattmeter or smartmeter to see if you old fridge (or other appliance) is consuming an excessive amount of energy relative to what a new one might use.

On this basis, I replaced the deep freeze at one house but kept the fridge.

Years ago I bought a simple wattmeter for £10, similar to this photo on Wikipedia:

If the compressor of a fridge or freezer is running frequently that is an indicator that it will be using too much energy. When I bought a new fridge I was concerned by how much the compressor was running. I discovered that the interior light was not switching off when the door was closed. More recently I noticed that the compressor on the old freezer in the garage was running a lot in hot weather and the wattmeter confirmed that it was using a lot of energy. It was still maintaining temperature, but obviously the compressor was worn after use for over 30 years.

Duncan – I don’t think commercial law has ever been subject to oversight by the government in an active sense. It has always been necessary to use the courts to enforce it if all else fails. The government’s duty is to provide a useable legal framework to protect consumers and this is achieved by contract law [which is largely developed by the courts] and consumer rights legislation [which is voluminous].

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is a comprehensive and powerful piece of legislation but relies for its efficacy on people ultimately taking traders to court, and this does not happen enough to influence retailer or supplier behaviour. Sometimes it is because the parties come to a settlement avoiding court action or because the claimant gives up before entering a court claim. The process is relatively straightforward and not particularly expensive but is perceived to be daunting. Citizens Advice will assist if there is a good case but for whatever reason the public have not caught on to that service sufficiently and don’t realise how it can help anybody, not just necessitous cases.

I am not familiar with the statutory consumer rights situation in the USA, and it possibly varies from state to state, but one thing that is different there is the number of lawyers who are prepared to take on cases against companies on a conditional fee basis and advertise their intended law suits in order to garner additional claimants thus lessening the cost per claimant. In its turn this has probably had a positive influence on commercial conduct, although I have a feeling there are some dodgy dealers there as well and that all is not what it seems from this side of the ocean.

Another aspect of American life, although I don’t know how widespread, is that the major domestic appliances often have to be included in the sale of properties for the benefit of the new owner. This leads to two advantages: first the products tend to be better built and more durable, and second they tend to be better maintained; delinquency on either count can become an impairment on the property so the incentive is there to provide good ones in the first place and to look after them. People in the UK shy away from having maintenance contracts and seem to prefer to replace rather than repair defective white goods so the market has responded by pricing them accordingly with the corresponding compromise on durability.

I have made three claims to retailers for goods that have failed, in my view, too soon. I dealt with them politely, quoting the requirements of the Sale of Goods Act, and in all three cases a fair solution was attained without acrimony or any need to even consider further action.

The better-quality manufacturers should respond well to durability claims because they should expect very few early failures, so the expense of dealing with them should not be significant. No doubt they can, if they choose, insure against such risks but I doubt they need to.

I am pleased we agree on giving consumers more information that is relevant. If I am told that my washing machine cannot be repaired if a bearing fails, or no replacement pump is possible, for example, and that its likely life is no more than 3 years of normal use, i know where I stand.

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What happened some time ago, under both the Blair/Brown and Coalition governments in response to concerns raised by the business community, was a ‘bonfire of the regulations’ which stripped away vast numbers of minor [but not necessarily insignificant] requirements which were seen to be handicaps and impediments for small businesses and sole traders. There was also a notion that the ever-thickening statute book of regulations was causing the UK to be uncompetitive internationally, and especially by comparison with other European states. Big businesses also benefitted from these dispensations.

Individually the changes were not controversial and certainly have lessened the burdens on businesses of all kinds, but whether that has converted into consumer benefits is a moot point. The theory is that laws like the Consumer Rights Act and its subordinate regulations use a broad brush to provide a landscape for fair trading rather than a detailed prescription for every situation. This is backed up by government guidance to retailers and service providers but, as I said previously, the impact of commercial law is not actively monitored by government so it relies on representations from commerce and industry and from consumer organisations and special interest groups to draw attention to weaknesses in the legal framework.

The UK government also believes that its promotion of alternative dispute resolution, the expansion of Ombudsman services, the sharper regulation of the financial sector and various monopoly industries, the enhancement of the ‘small claims’ court process, and its bolstering of Citizens Advice have been a counterbalance to the power of big businesses. To what extent these developments have succeeded will depend on the individual’s experience. Personally, I think too much was thrown on the bonfire and the intended safeguards have not matured into effective restraints on the power of commerce.

A particular grievance I have is that it is no longer possible when going into a pub to see the prices for drinks sold at the bar, yet there was virtually no objection or protest when this harmless measure was ditched. I am of the opinion that all governments side with business, it’s only a matter of degree that separates their policies, and that so long as there are ministries stuffed with civil servants diligently attending upon the business community [perhaps because they can see future career opportunities], whereas there is barely a desk for consumer support, this will prevail.

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John – I feel sorry for Margot James. Minister for lots of things including consumer affairs, on top of looking after her constituency. My feeling is that keeping on top of consumer affairs is more than a full-time job.

In some respects the Consumer Rights Act has given consumers considerably more protection, but we are no further forward regarding goods outside the guarantee/warranty period.

Maybe we are barking up the wrong tree with goods outside guarantee. A faulty appliance or other product would have to be inspected to identify the fault and if this has been caused by abuse or fair wear & tear. Most retailers won’t have the facilities to do this on site and with a large appliance would require a field service engineer to come and examine it. If the retailer rejects the claim then the customer would need a report from an independent expert, who would have to visit the owner’s home in the case of a large item. Then negotiation starts and might go on to involve the ombudsman, ADR or go to court. What Kenneth has said about the outcome of court cases does not surprise me.

I will continue to deal with companies that have provided substandard goods and services, including problems of premature failure, but we must, in my view, help those who don’t have the confidence or knowledge to do this themselves. That’s why I’m in favour of finding and publicising longer guarantees.

If you have knowledge and some evidence of corruption, Duncan, why are you not reporting it to the authorities?

Long guarantees or paid for warranties are the simple solution, but still open to abuse and I wonder how much attention those providing them will pay to this when assessing a claim, otherwise they will be overpriced. Inevitably they will add cost, whether to the selling price or as a customer add-on. And decent longer manufacturers’ guarantees seem a long long way away.

The best answer is still to avoid the need to use a long guarantee or extended warranty by offering a choice of products of a higher standard that will last, and be economically repairable. As Which? has told us in the past it is very often much better to save the money you would spend on an expensive extended warranty and use it in the event a repair needs funding. Of course, repairability needs to be economically possible and this is all about appropriate deign and keeping spares available.

I do not believe corruption is an issue in the UK or the EU for that matter, there’s far too much scrutiny to get away with it.

What you do see however are paid lobbyists who represent manufacturers or businesses to further or protect the interests. That does happen for sure.

In much the same way that the like of Which? lobby, anyone can do so should they wish and, have the resources. If you ban one you have to ban them all, apply rules to one, you have to apply rules to all and so that would affect Which? as much as anyone.

To get back to the topic at had though, I am fond of asking people to show me a politician that will get up and tell the public that they will have to pay more, replace less and that they can’t have shiny new toys all the time.

I bet their career at that point will be near an end.

More so as government will lose VAT revenue from sales, taxation from retailers and so on not only the above but it would lower GDP even although bar a tiny percentage, all these goods are imported.

Due to that, you will see price hikes now and much more in the coming months as stock is replaced due to the drop in the value of the pound as appliances and parts are traded in USD or Euro making price rises inevitable, wholly unavoidable. Most within the trade anticipate 10-15% price rises as we have seen on some things already.

Point is that government aren’t really interested in my opinion as they have a stake in this and, in fact, are the largest beneficiaries in terms of revenue as they get a 20% cut for doing nothing then collect a chunk of the profit on taxation to boot. The businesses even collect it for free on their behalf. And government holds no liability either.

That is of course if they’re not big enough to put in place some form of avoidance, which almost no smaller business would get away with and, as they don’t have a squadron of solicitors on tap to defend their interests they’re the ones that get harangued by HMRC et all.

I digress but it will help with some context here more around environmental concerns but also with the topic to hand.

According to ONS figures in 2004/5 there were 1.4 million washing machines sold in the UK.

Industry sources say they expect this year to be about the 3 million mark.

That’s only washing machines.

We’ve not doubled the population. There are not twice the number of homes.

So how come we’re using double the amount of machines in little over a decade?

And, who cares, who’s doing anything about that as it’s clearly a problem and a monumental one as it holds true through the EU and despite the comments re more durability in the USA and Canada, holds true there also.

Manufacturers and retailers sell stuff, they don’t much care what stuff all they care about is selling more stuff as that’s the business that they are in.

Governments collect tax on all that.

But it’s all fine apparently as the new machines use about 1-2p less in electricity per cycle so the polar bears will be okay.

Like I said, going up against the retailers is a waste of time, it’s the wrong fight to pick. All they’ll do is adjust to the terrain, comply with the law as best possible and that’ll be it.

Proof of that, just look at the effect the CRA has had.. virtually none.

Battling retailers won’t solve the problems if you ask me, at best it’s a band aid for a bullet wound.

K.

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Wavechange – I also feel that Margot James is under a most onerous burden and possibly has inadequate support from officials. Indeed, I think her nomination as holding the consumer affairs portfolio was a bit of an afterthought. A few weeks ago I looked on the government website to try to locate this responsibility and it was absent; a reference to Margot James came up in Which? Conversation and I looked again and a place had been found for the word “consumer” in the long list of her responsibilities thus: “consumer and competition (including energy retail markets, competition law and Companies House)“. The use of “consumer” instead of “consumers” or “consumer affairs” suggests it was a bit of a hasty erratum requiring minimal amendment of the website.

I was not suggesting that you report your suspicions or evidence on a website, Duncan, but directly to the police or the Parliamentary authorities if you have evidence that a person in public office is being bribed or is open to other inducements. I agree with Kenneth Watt – I do not think there is much actual corruption but there is a lot of legitimate lobbying, although whether it has the desired effect I know not. If you make general statements on an open website like this to the effect that you have a list of well-known people who are “at it” (as you put it) there is a risk that other readers will accept that as a matter of fact and part of the way of life in official circles. I feel you should either report what you know to the proper authorities or withdraw your wide-ranging condemnation of the political system in this country.

If you look at the enormously costly financial mistakes made by central and local government it seems that scrutiny is sadly lacking, that great incompetence is at work and it is hard to believe no one involved has profited – corruption.

People buying more expensive machines gives more vat income. I think it is rather sad to imagine that no consumers in the UK want to buy quality durable products and to classify them all as only wanting cheap stuff is, I hope wrong. “retailers sell stuff, they don’t much care what stuff ” – is something that I hope will change through pressure – lobbying – from a more discriminating section of the public. But it can only happen if the facts are known.

This is not a “battle” with the retailers. The rules are already laid down in consumer legislation. It is seeing them properly applied that matters.

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