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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?


There can be good reasons why manufacturers have exclusions in their guarantees. Beth’s example of keeping a washing machine in an unheated building is an obvious example. Most washing machines still contain some water at the end of each cycle and if this freezes it could cause damage.

This and other exclusions would apply to many different brands of products. In my view it is vital that the manufacturers tell us of conditions that don’t generally apply to similar products so that we are properly informed when buying a product.

Perhaps we should distinguish between a manufacturer’s guarantee and an insurance backed warranty in discussions about consumer rights, even though these terms are often used interchangeably.

So far I have not had any claims turned down because I have not followed instructions.

I have had a few things replaced where the manufacturer would have every right to say I had tampered with it so my fault.

One was a leaking hosepipe reel. I thought it would be simple to repair but it was impossible to put back together. I phone the manufacturer and told them what I had tried to do, and they were very understanding and replaced the reel.

Excuse me for pointing out a typo in the Intro – fourth para, after second word insert “machine”.

With reference to Graham’s comment in the Intro, wooden sheds tend to be warmer overall than garages as they benefit rapidly from any morning sunshine and retain any ambient warmth during daylight hours. They cool rapidly at dusk and are more prone to frosts but the duration of the cold period is much shorter than that with a garage so the appliance can recover well. Even when connected to or integral with the house, a garage can be persistently cold over much longer periods and the large doorway is rarely draught-proof, indeed it usually lets in a severe draught. If the garage also houses the central heating boiler that helps to maintain a frost-free condition but the boiler will usually be dormant overnight.

The response to the poll/survey is good so far as it goes, but only people with both a garage next to the house and a freezer could answer that question and that is a small minority of the population.

Thanks for flagging John, the edit has been made 🙂

Mike Hindson-Evans says:
2 April 2016

Our freezers and a fridge live in our garage. One half-height fridge (“the champagne fridge”) plus two full-height freezers have lived in our double garage (integral to the house) since we moved in at the start of 2005. There have been no failures within warranty – a freezer dying after eight years has given us the service which we expect; we defrost each one every second year. Perhaps having the full-height freezers (where your items are in slide-out baskets) may have some benefits versus the chest freezers, where you can usually count on finding something old in the perma-frost at the bottom!

You need to make sure that the freezer backs are clear of the wall to let air circulate. Our biggest problem was a mouse nest which formed, a couple of winters ago, under the compressor of one of the freezers – poor thing must have needed the warmth!


My beloved once hoovered up about half a bucket of water with her Electrolux cylinder machine, then wondered why it wouldn’t work. We then bought a Rowenta wet and dry and that still works perfectly. That was 31 years ago.

If we ruin something through our own stupidity we’ve never tried to get it fixed under warranty. Too honest, I suppose, but in the case of our Miele Cat and Dog machine it failed after nine months. That was fixed by Miele under warranty. We assumed it was dog hair causing the damage but a very nice note from the Miele folk asked us not to use it in future for sucking up plaster…

A Miele Cat and Dog Machine? Does it shampoo them or Is it a new remedy for a hangover. I am familiar with the hair of the dog but never the cat. 🙂

I happen to own a Miele vacuum cleaner that is supposed to suck up hair from your carpets but have found it doesn’t work very well on synthetic fibres due to static-electric problems. See:

campaignforwool.co.nz – Anti-Static

I haven’t complained about it as it does a pretty good job on the woollen carpets.

We had two cats so we bought a Miele Cat & Dog vacuum cleaner. Now we have no cats. Could there be a connection? It’s a very good machine and well over twelve years old now. Answers to the name of Moggie. The other v/c is confined to the ground floor and is called Henry. They seem to get on alright with each other.

I am a 72 year old technophobe and dread replacing my mobile phone.
Sainsbury’s mobile phone counter had a sign saying “we find the right phone for you”.
I emphasised my lack of knowledge and my need for simple basics services.
I was offered a phone which I took away.

The instructions, in tiny print proved impossible to understand, defeating all three generations of my family, including a qualified programmer and a 16 year old screen addict. It simply could not be set up.

Taking it back within the week, I was refused a refund as I had not kept the packaging.
I said I had not been told this was a condition of sale and they offered to show me the clause on-line – the only reference they had!
There was no procedure for this department to handle this situation.

Polite persistence eventually brought the the manger and more polite persistence
resulted in him finding a away to get my refund at the supermarket’s main service desk.

It should not necessary to return packaging which is often long been discarded and which may still bear the scars of the vigorous assault so often required to open it.

I looked into possible problems with freezers in garages when I replaced an ageing LEC freezer that I’d kept in the garage for over 30 years. I selected a Whirlpool (available locally at discount) – the spec on their website indicated a minimum ambient temperature of -10degC, which seemed OK since the garage will never get quite as cold as outside – partly due to heat generated by the freezer itself. I’ve had no problems – it got down to -13 on winter 2010/11. Perhaps it’s because Whirlpool is American, where they expect greater extremes of temperature.

There has been a whole conversation devoted to freezers in garages. For freezers on their own there seems no problem in principle. For fridge freezers there is a potential problem in that the fridge shuts off at around 5 deg C and unless there are separate fridge / freezer compressors the freezer will then stop being cooled (BEKO have a way of dealing with this, however).

In view of the contributions and interest to that Convo it would seem useful for Which? to make some sort of a pronouncement on the topic, as it clearly interests many consumers.

We’ve had freezers in an outhouse for many years without problem but your correct Malcolm about fridge freezers. . . They’re engineering does not suit other than normal room temp range because the stat is in the fridge and if the ambient is around fridge temp the unit will not operate and the freezer will thaw
A fridge freezer freezer is not really a proper long term storage freezer anyhow in my eyes

I’m not sure why one would want a fridge freezer in a garage. . .I understand why a large overflow freezer may be needed as once was here to gather up the offers and freeze them

I have avoided fridge freezers since I got the idea that they are not as easy ran as a larder fridge and a separate freezer. . . Chest freezers being best as the cold does not fall out of them when opened
The only down side has been the super hard ice cream from the out and out freezer. . .I cant eat ice cream anyhow and the children are all grown up and as they leave they take a freezer with them it seems
We have stuff in the freezers for some time and most of the combo units were not as cold as we would have wished for. . . .Perhaps the American style ones or others have separate compressors but as best I see they are for maintaining frozen food until it’s used rather than long term or freezing a load of stuff

I have got a washer and dryer lately (both Grundig made in Turkey) and they are operational and the heat pump dryer has it’s quirks but works fine and a load easier on leccy than conventional or condenser types. . .It may be on a par with bulk LPG for costs if one considders that the gas dryer also uses electric to rotate and they are quite sore on leccy for rotation
The washer is also easy on the watts as in watts per hour with it’s inverter drive but there are washes near to 3 hours so one has to be deliberate about choosing a short wash otherwise any savings would quickly disapear. . There is also the loads more miles the mechanicals are doing so we try to keep it short
Note. . . These two machines are out in a switch/control room with waste heat from electronics but also has frost protection and are working fine but the dryer works much better if the door is closed. . .I’ve been experimenting and it seems that the heat pump dryer does much better in a warm space. . . .No surprise’s there
There are far too many options as usual and ironing does not feature on our agenda
We just want dry. . .real dry if possible
Just choose Xtra dry cottons and the moisture sensor and pcb will shorten the time as the clothes dry if needs be
It can start showing over 3 hours but be finished in half that time if the clothes are dry
We dont have enough clothes to be sorting them into different times so the whole lot goes in in one go

I am now trying to sift through the myriad or refrigeration to choose a larder fridge and upright freezer and it’s an uphill battle because price or brand does not assure one of anything it seems

I am taken aback at the cheapness of near everything but I also note that many have in the spec’s for use in a garage etc.. . This is good to a point
I also note that the above dryers are not for use outside but I done my homework and it is operating fine
I would like more info on ambient temp required rather than have to use my experiences to make judgement on such things
Not everyone will have such info/experiences to hand or head but many will understand factual degree’s C. . . .Many garages have boilers in them and are pretty pleasant places and on the other hand I have been in utility rooms that are like a chiller in winter so an actual required temp quote would be good as not everyone see’s “garage” or outbuilding in the same light
My outbuilding is never freezing but it is an outbuilding
My daughters outbuilding has the boiler in it and as it is cavity built with only one door it never really cools down but nevertheless both are outbuildings so the warranty could be in question and really should not be
An actual temp number would also clear up potential ambiguities around warranty claims. . . Maybe the manufactures want to leave a little get out clause or two

A friend has been looking for a fridge-freezer and was told that twin compressor models are being phased out because they use more power than single compressor units. That seems plausible but not if compared with a separate fridge and freezer.

Yes Wave it’s according to what one wants/needs like most things

If one looks at it from purely an energy point of view one could be led off track a bkt like the hot water inlets for washers or the lack of and now a few are re-appearing again due to solar heated water
I know there’s been loads of debate about this but in our old house I would not have a single inlet machine

Lots of large fridge freezers look like they could do the job but the freezer part is not as cold as a proper freezer
We want a freezer that’ll keep things for months on end and we want one that is sizeable we now need upright because of space. . .It’ll be hard to beat a big chest with no drawers
Even the 700 wide one with bottom drawers would get it tight with two turkeys and a few other bits. . . .Our remaining big chest would hold loads of turkeys let alone two. . .Look at the price of frozen turkey after Xmas. . . It’s good value meat

The fridge freezers have very small freezers even the big 50 50 which are not really half and half and are not what we need. . The freezers look like match box’s

The American style have very narrow freezers and are pretty power hungry and although wifey likes the gimmicky ice makers etc my reefer friends tell me they are troublesome and in our local council skip/recycle yard the fancy two door US types outnumber traditional by quite some margin. . so we are back on track for two separate units

We currently have one larder fridge and the last remaining largest chest freezer Hoover made in our kitchen and we dont want to cut down too much

Litre for litre a larder fridge is as good as a fridge gets for power consumption and function. . .
We would like another freezer about half the size of our current one but it’s going to have to be upright. . . .
Too get the size and function we are going to have to go with two units unless we see something appropriate. . . .We still have a little time and are looking in the “big” stores and on line

I done all this puzzling about 15 years ago when we had family and came to the same conclusions and ended up with two big chest freezers that were in an out office and later moved into a new very large kitchen we built. . .This time we dont have the room and that is deliberate to cut costs into the future.
We have set our children up as best we can and this is the price we pay so we cannot have a new 1050 bungalow like some. . .I dont want a new bungalow. . . We want something that runs on a few pence per day not another noose around our necks to pay until we die
To see our children with good deposits for proper houses not some 7/800ft terrace/town house box is nice and worth it in our eyes

I had a Hotpoint refrigerator whose handle broke in normal use. Hotpoint refused my claim on the grounds that the handle was a” decorative item”. Fortunately, i had bought the fridge from John Lewis, and they paid up like gentlemen.

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Gregory – It is the retailer and not the manufacturer that is responsible for dealing with faulty goods, even if the fault is caused by the manufacturer using substandard components.

Graham says:
29 July 2016

We purchased a Hotpoint washing machine from curry’s. Putting aside the whole process was a complete nightmare after a few weeks the machine made an awful noise while in use. I phoned Hotpoint and the gentlemen explained that if an engineer found it was not a fault in the machine there would be £150 call out fee. This effectively makes the Hotpoint guarantee useless as I would have no idea how to diagnose what the fault was. We got our local washing machine engineer who found a pin in the hub and removed it for £50 including call out. Hotpoint now say my guarantee is invalid as another non Hotpoint engineer has mended the machine. We will not be paying Hotpoint again.

If a fault is not down to the machine build or fault then you cannot expect the guarantee to provide cover.

You say a pin was found in the hub? If this was a machine part then I’d suggest you get a report from your engineer to send to Hotpoint to recover (hopefully) the cost and reinstate the guarantee. This may not work as you have done this off your own bat with an unauthorised repairer.

The only way, before you gamble your £150, is to try to eliminate a problem that might be caused by yourself – looking for foreign objects that may have lodged in the pump for example. The instructions should help you make sure it is not something caused by misuse. Just don’t dismantle anything further than instructions allow.

However, a call out charge of £150 is excessive, as you found. There should be some control placed on such charges when a guarantee is in force and when you must use an authorised repairer insisted on by the manufacturer. Perhaps Which? could take this up under one of its “unfair charges” investigations.

Many washing machines are damaged by foreign objects. I once left a pound coin in a pocket and destroyed the impeller of a new drain pump that I had fitted recently. As Malcolm says, it is essential to establish if the ‘pin’ is a foreign object or a part of the machine that has come adrift.

Typically, a call-out charge will include one hour labour. A local service engineer is likely to be a cheaper option, especially if the authorised repairer has to travel a considerable distance.

Manufacturers generally insist that guarantee and warranty repairs are done by their authorised repairers using genuine parts because this gives them some control over costs and the standard of workmanship. As far as I am aware, retailers and manufacturers can charge what they like for call outs because few people will look at these costs when choosing an appliance. Unauthorised repairs, including DIY beyond maintenance covered in the manual, are likely to invalidate a guarantee or warranty.

No normal guarantee or warranty will cover removal of foreign objects, which would be regarded as abuse. Accidental damage insurance may provide cover, but at a significant cost.

Drachma, possibly?

I bought a 10 yr old VW polo for my wife last year. It had only done 7,000 miles and smelt like new inside. It had required a new battery 3 years ago which the owners had bought form the RAC. Due to the low mileage the car did, the battery failed and I had to have it replaced after 3 years at a time we owned it. The RAC refused to honour the 5 yr warranty because the warranty was not transferrable to the new owner. This struck me as ridiculous as there was nothing we had done differently to the other owner that would have lead to failure. I was upset at their stance and thought it unreasonable.

I tried to have a 6 month old Lenovo laptop repaired under John Lewis’ 2 year guarantee. I was told that it was accidental damage and that I would have to pay for the repair. I am a Fellow of both the British Computer Society and the Institute of Electrical Engineers and am sure that the laptop had been given careful treatment. However, I have no means of proving this and so paid up, a fairly reasonable cost of £84. I note, on searching the internet that an lady of 77 had the same treatment from John Lewis with a similar fault with the the same make of laptop. She persisted, took John Lewis to court, and won. I am ashamed to say that I did not have her patience or energy. I now believe that, with John Lewis acting as judge and jury, one cannot rely upon their 2 year guarantee.

Does your repair have anything to do with one of the hinges to the screen breaking? If so, we have the same problem and seems to be a very common problem with Lenovos.

I’ve been told that Lenovo make some great “business grade” laptops, but I bet John Lewis only sell less expensive “home grade” ones.

As a PC enthusiast, I’ve never actually bought a Lenovo, but I have used some products made by one of their pre-cursors, IBM. I also prefer to do my own repairs, but it seems to be getting harder and harder to dismantle and repair modern laptops and tablets. Five or ten year old ones are much better from that point of view.

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duncan, my Sony laptop is now 9 years old, used everyday, but I fear that one morning it will just not wake up. So should I replace it with a “conventional” PC (I don’t need portability) rather than another laptop? If so what make is reliable? I don’t remember seeing Which? report on PCs – they seem to now concentrate on laptops. tablets and all-in ones (I may have missed it though).
Sorry Which? if this is off topic.

Duncan, I agree that desktops are vastly superior. They are also easy to build from components, in which case one becomes the manufacturer and can readily give oneself a lifetime warranty 🙂

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Alternatively, you can always buy Apple and avail yourself of the best warranty – 6 years (contract law) – and published on their website. That way you don’t need to worry about Intel this or Nvidia that, as Apple provides everything you could want including a suite of outstandingly easy to use programs and reliability that’s always at the top of the table. In cost terms they may seem a little dearer but like-for-like they’re not.

Laptop computers are more likely to get damaged, like anything that gets moved around. The all-in-one computer is fast replacing the desktop for home use. My first all-in-one was a Mac Classic II with a diminutive 9 inch screen.

Thanks for the help, Duncan and Ian. 🙂 🙂

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I bought a nearly New Vauxhall car where the dealer fitted a non Vauxhall approved two bar. When an electrical fault arose I was informed by the repairing garage that the electrical warranty for the whole car was invalid due to the two bar. Vauxhall only approve one two bar…their own. It took six months to sort it out which was done by replacing unit with Vauxhall two bar.

Hi L Jeffreys,
You have me puzzled – a two bar/ one bar what ?

Andrew Collier says:
16 April 2016

I purchased a miniature portable dab radio from Argos and decided to buy their extended warranty, because living in my pocket, this device gets a lot of wear and tear and previous versions had often suffered from the earphone socket malfunctioning.

When after a few months I needed to claim on the warranty, I was told that yes, I could have a replacement but only if that same model remained available and also that the warranty was limited to just the one replacement, so that if that version also failed, i woud no longer be covered. Astonishing.

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It’s worth looking at the terms and conditions of the extended warranty. They may impose a limit of one replacement or even terminate the warranty if the goods are replaced. If this is the case, Argos was right to warn you that this is the case but I don’t think it is acceptable that you would not be covered if the same model was not available. In this case they should find a mutually acceptable solution such as an alternative model or a partial refund, taking into account the time you have had the radio.

Goods should be fit for purpose but on the other hand, both the extended warranty or your legal rights under the Consumer Rights Act do not cover wear & tear or abuse. An expert opinion would be needed to establish whether the build quality is adequate.

To minimise the risk of future failure, select earphones with an L-shaped plug, which will cause much less leverage on the socket if the cable is pulled sideways.

Warranties are only as good as the business behind them. How many times do we get offered apparently excellent, wiude ranging warranties, only to find that the business has folded when we need to claim? All warranties offered should be required to be backed by a counter indeminity from a bank, in case the business fails. Warranties from suppliers could then be relied upon.

hello i bought a multi cutter for my hedge /stoke pruner/strimmer,i had it nearly 18 months before it was opened due to my health. i opened it on the third of april 2016 to find out it was not as good as describe buy the seller. after contacting both the seller/manufacture both denie it is their ploblem. so as up to now locked in legal dispute.

Goods have to be checked or used soon after purchase. It is unfortunate that you were unable due to ill health to try out your new multi-cutter but it would be unfair in my opinion to expect the seller to be liable in that event, and eighteen months is an unreasonably long time before claiming. Although the product’s performance might not have been as good as you felt entitled to expect, it presumably does work after a fashion and cannot now be rejected as unfit for purpose; it is also presumably in ‘as new’ condition and could be sold on to recover some of your loss. My feeling is that your health is more important than a garden tool and that pursuing legal action might not be helpful in the long run.

I purchased a new Nissan Juke, and was persueded by the salesperson to pay for the first three services upfront. I duly did, and received the first service with no problem. However, the car was then stolen, so I am unable to make use of the second and third service that I have already paid for. Although the insurance company have paid me out for the car, so I will never see it again, Nissan customer services inform me that I cannot have a refund as the service pack is sold to the car, so the thief, should they be so stupid, could take it to a Nissan garage and have it serviced. Moral of the story? don`t pay Nissan upfront for a service pack.

Many service packs offer good value so your unusual and unfortunate experience cannot be used to condemn the practise, surely? No more than if you’d just filled the tank with fuel.

Concerning guarantees in general; my Toyota car has a 5 year guarantee. A modern car is far more complex than any household equipment yet the usual guarantee of such goods is 1 or 2 years. Which? should campaign to get such guarantees increased.
Bob Smith

I have made this point in several discussions, Bob. The reason that the guarantees have become longer is because they appeal to many car buyers. For many household products such as vacuum cleaners and white goods the technology does not change quickly like it does with mobile phones, so we need to push for longer guarantees. Unfortunately, Which? still does little to promote products that come with longer manufacturers’ guarantees or retailers that include additional warranties ‘free’ in the price.

What Which? has helped achieve is extended (insurance-based) warranties that are better value than they were in years gone by, but these are not as good as having decent manufacturers’ guarantees.

As a Trustee of the Phoenix Men’s Shed, here in Halifax, we wanted to set up a fully fitted kitchen and bought a n electic cooker and ceramic hob from B&Q. However, they classed us as a non domestic and therefore industrial setting. The hob didn’t work straight out of the box, so we claimed a replacement, which they qibbled about until we waived the Consumer Rights Act under their noses. The problem with warranties is that the conditions are black and white, there is no grey area, and the staff at B&Q have no remit to deal with a group that is basically a charity that will be using equipment a whole lot less than any domestic situation. Thank heavens for the common sense of one of their staff. I shudder to think what happens if any of the kit breaks down again.

Non-domestic use is not covered by the Consumer Rights Act, as far as I am aware. I do not know what legal protection your organisation has but I am very surprised that anyone would quibble about replacing goods that are faulty at the time of purchase.

I worked in two universities and with very few exceptions I received wonderful support from the companies I dealt with, but most goods were purchased from suppliers that did not deal with the public.

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Slightly different – When buying a Panasonic LED TV at Hughes, I said I chose this one because of the 5 year guarantee offered with it. Hughes said that although it was widely advertised everywhere, Panasonic might not give me the 5 years warranty. A long discussion ensued where I pointed out that the law considered this “an inducement to buy” and they could not back out of it.
I finally got the 5 years by complaining to Panasonic, as Hughes would not shift.

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