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Have you ever voided a warranty for some bizarre reason?

Kitchen products

Cleaning your coffee machine with vinegar, vacuuming up ash and other slip-ups might actually void your product’s warranty. Have you ever been refused a repair because of how you used the product?

Looking into the fine print of product warranties, there are many commonplace behaviours that will void the warranty. How you use it, how you clean it and where you keep it may all affect whether the manufacturer will agree to fix a broken product.

Cleaning your coffee machine

For example, the warranty on your coffee machine could be voided if you use it in a farmhouse, or if you don’t descale it regularly using the appropriate descaler. But make sure not to use vinegar, as that may also void your warranty.

Some coffee machine manufacturers even recommend that you keep the machine’s original packaging just in case you need to send it back for repairs, because any damage that occurs in transit will not be covered by its warranty.

If you stray too close to the fireplace while vacuuming and suck up some ash, or if you’re renovating and vacuum up some rubble or plaster, your warranty on your vacuum cleaner could very well be voided.

Or, if you have a pressure cleaner, some brands will only cover warranty repairs if you’ve used their branded detergent.

Too cold for your freezer

Keeping your washing machine somewhere that goes below zero degrees Celsius – like your garage – may also void your warranty.

We’ve heard from Which? members who have bought a chest freezer advertised as ‘suitable for outbuildings’, only to find when they read the manual that it’s designed to operate in temperatures ranging from 10 to 43 degrees. And this isn’t an issue that only affects the few. Out of 2,605 voters, 85% of you said that you keep your freezer in the garage.

The question is; are these warranty clauses actively referred to by manufacturers to turn down customers who want their products repaired?

Of course, you should remember that you have the option to go to the retailer in the first instance with your faulty product. Still, I’d love to hear your examples – have you or someone you know had a warranty repair refused based on a so-called behaviour clause?


I was a proper banker for over 40 years. This is the point: A guarantee is as good as the people giving it. No more, no less. Some firms often large ones will rely on the law to avoid paying claims under guarantee. American firms use the law either truthfully or not, to avoid their obligations. For many good firms their word is the most reliable. I never worry about guarantees; I know roughly what I can claim on under English common law. ‘Which’ should guide you here it is not very difficult. Do not rely on credit card companies version of the law. This is why I use John Lewis whenever I think I may need to return goods. They are honest.

Paul Reynolds says:
17 April 2016

I purchased a laptop from a company I had done business with in the past. After a few weeks it developed problems and I contacted the supplier. I was told the software was not covered by the guarantee.
I was advised by CAB to send a particular worded letter and after further denials by the company I received the purchase price back in full.

Not so much a ‘product ‘ guarantee’, more of a ‘service’ guarantee. I have paid my motor insurance company for a ‘protected’ no-claims discount (NCD) for many years, without ever having to put it to the test. Recently I had a minor incident where my car suffered superficial damage to passenger-side front wing and front door.
On renewal of my premium, I discovered that my ‘protected’ NCD was NOT protected and my policy premium had increased by more than 51%.
No satisfactory explanation from insure, despite telephone calls and emails leads me to believe that promises of ‘NCD Protection’ are a SCAM. PLEASE BEWARE

I believe that the NCD would apply to the premium you paid for your insurance. Once you have made a claim then it is likely that the premium will increase, whether you stay with the same insurer or move to another one.

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It’s about 30 years since I last claimed on motor insurance except for broken glass, which is why I did not comment about the increase in premium. I do agree that paying the lowest price for a service is unlikely to offer the best value for money.

We purchased an AEG S74010KDX0 Tall Larder Fridge from John Lewis.com. and found that the printed icons and markings on the Control Facia Panel were gradually rubbing off by my finger as we daily adjusted the timer and function press buttons. So we could no longer make ANY adjustments, nor use the countdown timer! My local BrentX John Lewis said they could not assist, as I had bought it online ( not the same company?) John Lewis email Customer Services referred me to John Lewis Technical Support ( case ref 151211-002259) .After many emails back and forth they wrote that :-

” wear and tear is generally not covered under the terms and conditions of the guarantee. The sole reason for this, is on the basis that John Lewis, nor the manufacturer can account for the cleaning, maintenance and cleaning products used in ownership………but there is a possibility your nearest Service Force group might be able to despatch a new label which can be applied to your fridge…. to contact them directly when best convenient as they will need to discuss dates you are available for an inspection, how you clean your product, the location of your fridge and any additional queries which may be raised…”.

Subsequently they wrote that:-
replacing the Control Panel ” would not be covered within the terms the (John Lewis) guarantee and therefore it would not be possible for John Lewis to arrange for any parts to be dispatched on your behalf.,,,,,,, so it would be necessary that you liaise directly with the manufacturer,,,,,You local approved AEG Service centre Respond Services can be reached on 0844 477 6272, and it would be they who would perform any hands-on work. In order to discuss any queries specifically related to the case, seek advice, or raise any dissatisfaction in relation to the terms of the guarantee you would be best served speaking with AEG themselves on 03445 611611. ”

Then after I retorted …Your comments are intriguing, for I was not seeking the repair you rather cavalierly disqualified, rather a replacement.
Evidently it proved not to have been of merchantable quality; not fit for purpose…. I had also pointed out I expected redress from the seller, John Lewis, and not the manufacturer…………..but this fell on deaf ears at John Lewis.com

they replied ” Your appliance is provided with a two year service guarantee upon purchase; this guarantee will cover the costs of remedying any genuine mechanical failures that occurs during this period. The guarantee does not extend towards any impact or customer induced damage or any cosmetic wear and tear that may develop.

The resulting repair that is required to rectify the issues on your control panel will not be covered under the standard two year guarantee you were provided with upon purchase; should you wish to have this particular part looked into, then please be advised that this will be chargeable.

I acknowledge in your email your request of a replacement; regretfully for the aforementioned reasons, this too is a request that I am unable to comply with.

I can appreciate that it is far from ideal for this issue to have occurred; therefore I would be more than happy to offer a contribution towards the costs of repairing the control unit on your fridge, provided that the inspection is carried out by the below allocated agent.”

Eventually a single phone call to AEG customer Services and they organised an engineer to come and fit a new Control Panel, FOC. Although AEG said this would be as an exception, and the fitting engineer said the markings would rub off the new one also ( so I have put Clear Tape over it!)

Andrew, this is very unhelpful of John Lewis and possibly contravenes the Consumer Rights Act. This expects a product to work properly and to be durable. The part you refer to is not cosmetic, it is functional, isn’t it, and designed to be touched. Therefore it should survive being touched for many years.

However it didn’t come to that fortunately. Glad you got it sorted out. Perhaps if you have used adhesive tape you might replace it with one of those low-tack clear protectors you get on screens and the like, or even cling film, just in case the adhesive causes any problem.

I think this is an excellent example of the kind of case that should be addressed by Which?

1. John Lewis .com being disingenuous with Andrew’s rights
2. AEG providing a item unfit for purpose

This is an absolute case study in what is wrong with retail and Which? needs to write to both parties asking for their commnets on their actions , and of course merchantable quality. Sticky clear tape needed! The solution for AEG is so simple you have to marvel at the stupidity of control markings that erase easily.

This is wear & tear but the controls should be designed to cope with use. I have seen people use abrasive scouring cream on cooker knobs and it is hardly surprising that the lettering wears off. The lettering on computer keyboards often wears off but I have never seen this on any Apple keyboard, however well used.

Wearing of labelling is an incredibly common problem which I first encountered with the Bush radio I was given for passing my O-levels back in 1977. Although I knew what the buttons did, I replaced the worn lettering with Letraset and protected it with clear nail varnish. That was the only problem and the radio still works. I have also used nail varnish to protect lettering that is wearing off.

It’s not just lettering that is the problem with cooker knobs. They are often made from the wrong plastic or not strong enough. The knobs on my 34 year old Belling are still fine.

Which? will offer legal advice if we pay a subscription but it is high time that a member of the legal team ventured onto Which? Conversation to offer advice on issues such as the problem that Andrew has described.

In my experience, manufacturers are better at helping with minor problems even though they have no legal responsibility.

I bought a computer monitor from PC World on-line and it packed up within a couple of weeks (1 year warranty). I returned it to the local PC World shop but they told me it was nothing to do with them, they wouldn’t repair it and that I would have to contact the on-line store (same shop) for service. It was very difficult to get any contact with the on-line technical side of things and I kept getting told to try ringing alternative numbers – going round and round in circles.

I eventually got so wound up by this lack of communication I contacted the manufacturer direct. They were very good and sent a courier to collect the monitor for repair or replacement. After a day or two the manufacturer phoned to say they were returning my monitor, without repair, as it was non-EU standard equipment and I should not have been sold this particular variant in the first place. They said I should return it to the seller ASAP. They also said, due to it not being of standard UK build I should not use it as there could be a risk of ELECTRICAL FIRE!

I contacted Customer Services at PC World and was once again passed from pillar to post for weeks but I was not about to give up, as they were obviously trying to make me do. It eventually took about 3 months of calls, emails and letters to get a full refund and a paltry voucher in lieu of ‘Costs and time’.
PC World . . . . Warranty . . . . Service? Not in the same sentence.

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I’ve just had dealings with the Local Plumbing Company, mid sized plumbing company serving the SE of England. They told me by email and state in their T&Cs that their guarantee is voided if the customer leaves a bad review or takes legal action against them…

An unfair contract term is not enforceable.

Hi Mandy – You might like to tell the Local Plumbing Company that your rights under the Consumer Rights Act take priority over their guarantee.

Are you having any problems that have not been resolved? We might be able to offer suggestions, or your could join Which? Legal for affordable legal advice.