Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances?

 There’s been a lot of talk about a new EU directive proposing to give everyone a 2 year guarantee on all appliances. Many articles are even saying this new right is being suppressed in the UK, and that consumers are being deceived by retailers. But we already have better protection with the Sale of Goods Act in the UK.

This ruling only proposes that consumers have a right to claim against a retailer regarding faulty goods for a period of 2 years. However, in the UK we not only already have this right through the Sale of Goods Act if a product proves to have an inherent fault or fails to last a reasonable time, but we have it for a much longer period of 5 years in Scotland, and 6 years in England, Wales & Northern Ireland.

This can be confirmed by the reaction of the Citizens Advice Bureau -

“The limitation on legally required provision of redress to a two year period is an important reduction in protection (my emphasis) for UK consumers..”.

Source: Eu proposals for a Consumer Rights Directive (Pdf)

The UK Sale of Goods Act already offers us protection against faulty goods even when the manufacturer’s guarantee has run out and says that goods must last a “reasonable time” – which can be claimed anything up to 6 years from the date of purchase.

The problem is that what is a reasonable time is subject to much interpretation and is also affected by how much a product cost, and how it has been used. Retailers and manufacturers have always stubbornly refused to entertain most claims for free repairs or compensation after the 12 month period and most consumers have historically accepted this even if begrudgingly at times.

The government’s guidelines (regarding the Sale of Goods Act) say:

“Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description.”

Faulty under 6 months old?

Relatively recent changes in the Sale of Goods Act put the onus on the retailer to prove that a fault on a new appliance within the first 6 months is not an inherent fault. In other words unless they can prove otherwise it will be automatically assumed that your appliance had a fault when it was sold if it fails in the first 6 months, and be entitled to compensation or even a refund. Most retailers will still try to fob you off though. Many have a voluntary exchange policy of something like 28 days during which they will swap an appliance over out of “good will” if it fails inside the period.

This is an addition to your rights and nothing to do with consumer rights at all. They will usually simply say they can’t exchange a faulty machine after this period but if it is under 6 months old and has a substantial fault you need to tell them they sold you a faulty product, which is in breach of the Sale of Goods Act. If it’s only a minor fault though it may be better to accept a repair, in fact they can insist on one if they can show it’s disproportionately expensive to replace it. This little caveat can cause a lot of problems because they might argue that’s always the case though generally if it was a serious fault they’d probably find it better to swap it.

There is no 6 year guarantee

 We do not have the right to free repairs up to the 5 or 6 years in the sense that any faults up to 6 years should be repaired free of charge, but I do think faults that render an appliance uneconomical to repair within the 6 years should be potentially covered (depending on full circumstances). It’s not necessarily unreasonable if a fault develops on a washing machine or other white good within the first 5 or 6 years. Appliances can and do break down and this is accepted in the Sale of Goods Act. However, whilst it might be considered reasonable for a fault to develop on a £200 washing machine after 2 years washing for a family of 4 every day it might not be considered reasonable for a washing machine costing £600 to suffer the same – especially if only washing for a retired couple for example.

Major faults occurring within the first 5 or 6 years (which these days commonly render an appliance beyond economical repair) are a different matter though, and I believe many cases may well be covered. If an appliance breaks down and is unrepairable because of the huge cost quoted to repair it within the 5 or 6 years (especially after only 2 or 3) then I believe there is a strong case that the product has definitely not lasted a reasonable time. You have to take into account how much it cost though, and how much use it’s had. Maybe if a washing machine only cost £200 and did 5 years of heavy washing it could be considered a reasonable lifespan, but one costing £350 and only washing for one person, or a couple, should surely have lasted longer? It’s very much open to interpretation but don’t forget the Sale of Goods Act specifically qualifies the phrase that a product should last a reasonable time by saying “reasonable” is “that (which) a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory”.

A can of worms is waiting to be opened

 Until enough people start to fight for these rights and retailers and manufacturers are forced to comply most consumers may have to resort to taking a seller to the small claims court to get a decision on the true extent of their rights ( Small claims court advice ). If this ever occurs on a large scale it will cause serious ripples because the status quo affords a lot of extra profit to retailers and manufacturers and effectively encourages them to continue to produce or sell poor quality rubbish. They financially benefit from doing so through extra sales when they don’t last, extra repair business, extra sales of spare parts and sales of extended warranties, which mostly cover repairs within the period that consumer legislation says many products shouldn’t be seriously breaking down within anyway – and so shouldn’t be necessary. I’m sure many people take out an extended warranty to protect them from the fear of a major fault developing within the first 5 years, which may well be covered under the Sales of Goods Act.

What would happen if consumers actually received their statutory rights?

Shops going out of business?

I suspect retailers were made responsible for all problems with the products they sell – even when it’s clearly not their fault – for two reasons. Firstly because the customer only has a contract with the people they bought from – and not the people who made it. They shouldn’t have to negotiate with faceless third parties. Secondly, and I’d like to think this was intended though it’s only speculation on my part, if retailers sell rubbish they (in theory) should suffer financial and time consuming consequences and would either stop selling the rubbish or put pressure on manufacturers to improve quality.

Unfortunately retailers do sell a lot of poor quality products that don’t last anywhere near as long as they should, and of course manufacturers continue to make them. Because most consumers don’t enforce their consumer rights both manufacturers and retailers generally profit nicely from sub standard quality and have little incentive to produce or sell better quality products. Consumers take most of the impact of poor quality goods themselves by paying out extra for extended warranties or by replacing products far too often, or by paying out to repair products within the first 6 years when the retailer may well be liable. Most manufacturers (of appliances at least) own so many brands they don’t even fear people being so dissatisfied with a brand that they don’t buy it again because they own many of the “alternative” brands. ( Who owns who? Who really makes your appliance? )

If consumers en mass started to reject the status quo it would put the cat amongst the pigeons and cause a lot of trouble for retailers and manufacturers. Retailers in particular wouldn’t know what had hit them. In the end they’d have to stop selling rubbish because they could no longer profit from doing so. They would only be able to survive selling products that were good enough to last the “reasonable time” expected.

I wouldn’t try to say that most appliances are so rubbish that the majority of them don’t last (although some might), but there’s little doubt that an unacceptable percentage of white goods appliances do suffer expensive breakdowns well within the first 5 or 6 years and this current situation, which is bad for the environment as well as consumers, is only viable because it’s the consumer that bears most of the financial costs. If the consumer refused to accept this burden it would pass back to the retailer as the Sale of Goods Act intended and guess what – the retailers would ensure products they sold were more reliable.

Would we be better off?

Would we better or worse off?

This paragraph is a little tongue in cheek but believe it or not I would worry about how all this could impact the economy especially in these very tough times for retailers. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the “credit crunch” it’s that our economy seems to be based almost entirely on everyone buying lots of products they do not need, and replacing them way too regularly. As soon as we enter a time when people stop buying things they don’t really need we have mass unemployment and business’s struggle. So if all products were much more reliable it could have a big impact on sales and jobs. It would however be better environmentally and that’s pretty important at the moment.

The cost of products would have to go up because you can’t have very cheap and very reliable. It’s ironic that in a way, all these shoddy goods help keep our economy going. However, the same could be said for crime and vandalism, think how many jobs would be lost if there was no crime – seriously it would be millions. There’s no need for every product to be high quality and there’s plenty of room for a healthy variance in quality but products should still last a “reasonable” time and most people would think a white goods appliance lasting less than 5 or 6 years before a major fault renders it not worth repairing is not reasonable in most circumstances.

Fair Wear and Tear clause

A vital point to realise is that the Sale of Goods act in the UK giving rights to compensation for between 5 and 6 years is not a guarantee or warranty. There has always been a fair wear and tear clause and it has always said that it does not mean that no breakdowns at all should occur within this period -

“Goods cannot always be expected to work fault-free. They can break down through normal use. Buyers cannot, therefore, expect to hold the seller responsible for fair wear and tear. There needs to be a fault that was present on the day of sale even though it only became apparent later on, or a mis-description of the goods, or a lack of durability that suggests the goods were not of satisfactory quality to start with”.

Research further

Related articles Last year I spent a few weeks researching consumer rights and wrote an entire section focussing on consumer rights for washing machine owners though most of the advice should be equally relevant for most appliances and even other products.

John Lewis give a minimum 2 year guarantee on all washing machines, 3 year guarantee on all John Lewis own brand appliances and 5 year warranties on all TVs although they take the form of “free” extended warranties run by an extended warranty company after the first year.

Many manufacturers give 2 year guarantees (such as Bosch) and even 5 year parts and labour guarantees such as Miele or 10 year guarantees (ISE10 and occasionally Miele). The longer the guarantee period the better. However, any guarantee given by a retailer or a manufacturer, as the famous phrase says, “is in addition to your statutory rights”. The Sale of goods Act is a separate right which often needs fighting for and is shrouded in mystery, confusion and denial as well as (to be fair) often over inflated expectations from consumers.

Here’s what the government advises retailers regarding their obligations

I’ve highlighted some phrases in bold.

“If a customer rejects faulty goods within this ‘reasonable’ period, they’re entitled to ask for their money back. All customers can claim compensation at any time if they choose. If you sell to consumers they can ask for a repair or a replacement immediately (instead of asking for a refund) at any time until six years after purchase.

If you’re dealing with a consumer, any repair or replacement you arrange must not cause them too much inconvenience. You may have to pay for other costs such as transportation. However, if a replacement is impossible and the goods cannot be repaired economically, or vice versa, then you can offer a full or partial refund.

In law you have a responsibility to your customer for up to six years from the date of purchase (in Scotland, five years from discovery of the problem). During this period, you are legally obliged to deal with any claim of breach of contract.”

“If faulty goods are involved and the purchase was made a reasonably short time ago, you should offer a refund. Although they won’t usually do so, the customer may claim compensation from you – either immediately following the sale or up to six years afterwards. If they do so and it’s a reasonable claim, you can either offer to repair or replace the goods, or to provide an appropriate sum in redress”

Source gov.uk/

My article here gives examples of how even years out of guarantee we may still have rights – Out of guarantee doesn’t always mean you have to pay out

Related Consumer Links -

I’ve read all the consumer advice about washing machines, I’m thinking of taking them to court (This page contains a link which allows you to pursue a small claim online, without even having to leave home. The article is about washing machines but the link can be used to pursue any small claims court action)

My Consumer advice section.

The above link includes many links to consumer booklets and guides as well as looking at many related FAQs regarding white goods and repairs. One of the most useful guides available is written for retailers. This is a valuable guide for retailers, but as consumers it is very useful to see what retailers are being told are their responsibilities by the Department of Trade & Industry.

The Law Relating to the Supply of Goods and Services – A TRADER’S GUIDE (pdf file)

UPDATE: 16/10/2009

I’ve just found a useful BBC news page Five consumer laws you really ought to know. There are several references to washing machines and white goods in the article and the comments below it.

UPDATE: Sept 2011

Thinking about it, retailers have nothing to lose by simply denying any responsibility (apart from goodwill and reputation of course – which you’d expect they’d be more caring about). If approached by a customer with a valid case and they pay up it costs them a certain amount of money. If they fight it all the way, most customers give up. In the rare cases where customers don’t give up and eventually win, the retailer only pays out roughly what they would have in the first place. It’s a no-brainer for any retailer that isn’t overly bothered about happy, life-time customers, and thinks there’s plenty more fish in the sea..

As I say they’ve nothing to lose except their reputation and future custom of the customer and their friends and relatives. Their arrogance, and complete lack of concern about losing another customer implies they are concerned primarily with immediate profit. That’s why shopping at places like John Lewis and possibly the Co-operative Electrical who generally have well earned reputations they are proud of and try to maintain makes a lot of sense. I believe they are more likely to genuinely try to resolve any genuine issues than most other retailers.

Update May 2014: How The Sale of Goods Act puts leaves the manufacturers with little or no consequences for making rubbish.

I’ve now written another article looking at why the current Sale of Goods Act doesn’t really work very well. It works only for the very determined and stubborn, but not for the majority. Here’s why Is the sale of goods act too hard on retailers?

(I have affiliate relationships with John Lewis & Co-operative electrical but the above paragraph still represents my sincere opinion. I also have affiliate links with most other retailers but choose to promote the ones with best customer service records).

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Comments

  1. As a retailer I feel very frustrated by the mixed messages we seem to be getting on the above issue.
    Only last week I read a leading trade paper that stated that retailers were not bound by a 6 year warranty period set down in European legislation.
    Like us, most retailers want to keep exsisting customers and would not begrudge going the extra mile to keep our customers happy. What would help on this issue would be a definate piece of Uk legislation on the matter to clear up once and for all the mixed messages that retailers seem to be getting.

  2. Thanks for your contribution Nick: Retailers are bound by the UK’s 6 year period (5 in Scotland) defined under the Sales of Goods Act. It’s not a warranty period or guarantee period though, the only “guarantee” we get is from the manufacture which as we all know, “does not affect our statuary rights”.

    It’s just the period in which a consumer is entitled to take a retailer to court if they believe the goods they bought were not fit for purpose or haven’t lasted a reasonable time.

    In my opinion any major product costing hundreds of pounds should not suffer a major breakdown within 6 years, especially one that renders it uneconomical to repair. The problem is that some products are so cheap one could argue it is naive to expect them to last more than 6 years anyway.

    If you buy a washing machine for £200 and use it to wash for a family of 5 and the main bearings or motor fails after 5 years it could be argued that it’s still “reasonable” considering the work it’s done and the relatively small amount it cost.

    In cases of “cheap” products it may need a small claims court to decide. I doubt there would be so much uncertainty though if a consumer has purchased an expensive product and it breaks down needing very expensive repairs within 5 or 6 years. The chances are though that the consumer will meet great resistance from the retailer and would need to be extremely insistent, stubborn and prepared to use the small claims court to get their “rights”. At the moment the majority of consumers don’t either realise the extent of their rights or aren’t prepared to fight for them.

  3. Thanks for your help on this issue. I fear this will continue to be a sticking point within the industry. I have an example of a problem our company faced 6 months ago.
    One of our customers bought a creda freestanding cooker from us 3 1/2 years ago. when she contacted us 6 months ago she told us that rust marks were appearing around one of the hob hotplates. She had contacted Creda to get the machine exchanged. As expected Creda point blank refused stating the machine was out of its warranty period. The customer then got back to us asking for us to remove the damaged appliance and provide her with a replacement free of charge, which as reputable dealer we gladly did at our own expense. We tried to get Creda to take the appliance back from us for credit and surprise surprise they point blank refused to help us aswell. Now i could take this matter further and try and take creda to court but frankly is it really worth all the time and effort to do so.We are now left with a 3 1/2 year old appliance which cannot be sent back being left to gather rust and dust in our warehouse.

    My point here is that if creda are supplying us with a machine that has gone rusty within a 3 1/2 year period of time why does the small retalier have to bear the complete loss on supplying the replacement appliance to the customer. Surely Creda or any other manufacturer that makes appliances must hold some responsabilty for the products they supply and should help the retailer if the applinace becomes faulty within a reasonable period of time. Small retailers cannot bear this loss alone and will need help from the manufacturers. Until the manufacturers are forced to take responsabilty for the long term quality of the products they make i fear small retailers will the ones who lose out the most while the people who make these machines get away scott free.

  4. Hello Nick: It sounds like your company is reputable and defends its reputation even at cost to itself. Your customer was very lucky to get the cooker exchanged, which wouldn’t have happened with a larger retailer I’m sure. After using it for 3 and a half years, if she was entitled to a refund it would be a refund minus the value of 3 and a half years use. This would have to be worked out by trying to find the average life expectancy of the product.

    A retailer isn’t obliged to replace the product unless it’s unrepairable, only to repair it or offer a refund minus the appropriate amount for the use the customer has had from it, or to offer some amount of compensation if still usable and they accept compensation instead. It all depends on the exact circumstances.

    Your example highlights a major flaw in the Sales of Goods Act, which is that it gives rights to a consumer to be borne by the retailer but gives no rights to the retailer who is not responsible for the quality of the product. It’s one of the reasons I got out of selling finished goods and cannot imagine ever selling them again because of the unfair burden on retailers – particularly small ones. Having said that though, the retailer is responsible for choosing to profit from selling the goods they sell, and so one argument is that this is why they are fair game. If a retailer profits from selling rubbish then they get what they deserve don’t they? In practice though this is a simplistic view as most of the problems are caused by products not being so rubbish that no one will sell them, but being of just the right sub-standard quality to make them viable – as long as customers and retailers bear the main consequences of the lack of quality – instead of the manufacturers.

    A small retailer should have exactly the same rights as a consumer regarding the quality of products but they don’t. In theory the customer demands recompense from the retailer and in turn the retailer, who is only a customer of the manufacturer, demands recompense from the manufacturer. That way everything gets sorted. The problem is that only the end consumer can quote the Sales of Goods Act, which (as far as I’m aware) does not apply to the retailer who can quote nothing.

    National retailers have great clout, they don’t need to quote anything, just threaten to stop stocking their product. The manufacturers often dance to their tune and believe me the major retailers do have power over the manufacturers.

    The middle and lower retailers though have little or no clout and can’t make demands. The most they can do is stop retailing a product but as they are so small it’s as a flea bite to an elephant. Small retailers are often just grateful a manufacturer even allows them to sell their products, or are so small they can only buy through third party wholesalers where their power is just as weak.

    Small to medium sized retailers have no obvious rights and have no influence over giant manufacturers. The most they can threaten is to stop retailing a brand which they usually don’t want to do so they end up bearing the costs and the hassle themselves. The only people I can think of that could be a help to small retailers in this situation are the Federation of Small Businesses who have a legal helpline as part of the benefits of (paid) membership. I have emailed them asking for their take on this.

    I’ve just added a new paragraph to my original article entitled “Fair Wear and Tear clause” which you may find interesting. The quote is from the The Law Relating to the Supply of Goods and Services – A TRADER’S GUIDE (pdf) which offers a vital insight to a retailers responsibilities as advised to them by the Department of Trade & Industry.

  5. The life of Fridge-Freezers
    I bought my L~G fridge-freezer less than five years ago from a reputable local retailer (RLR).
    >> It started running madly the side (and later the back) of the casing >> heating up. Only way to stop it was to switch off at the mains.
    >> I rang RLR who said they would send a man round for the standard call-out fee.
    >> He came, offered four equally unsatisfactory explanations:
    >> 1. I had been leaving the door open
    >> 2. the door-seal had Failed
    >> He then removed the grille at the back
    >> 3. it needed re-gassing
    >> 4. the capillaries were blocked. I asked what with. “With solids”>> I queried this, how could it happen in a liquid/to gas/to liquid/to gas >> system. He gave no reply., but re-fixed the grille (8 screws)
    >> He then recommended I buy a new one – which would get me a £20 reduction >> of his bill, which he wrote out for £46 plus VAT.
    >> I gave him my cheque as in duty bound, but know I had been swindled

  6. Fair wear and tear is a valid exception to the 6 year rule but if your fridge needs replacing after less than 5 years how can that be fair wear and tear? Most people would agree that a fridge should last much longer than 5 years so if it is truly beyond economical repair you have a case for arguing it has not lasted a reasonable time.

    The problem is that honouring these consumer laws will cost retailers a fortune and they are trying to dodge the responsibility. If the people you bought it from refuse to offer any compensation you have no choice but to go to the small claims court and let them decide.

    If they decide in your favour though you will not be entitled to a full refund because you’ve had use of the appliance for almost 5 years. It could be decided for example that it’s lasted around half as long as it reasonably should have and therefore you should get half your money back.

    There are some useful links in my Washerhelp consumer section I’ve read all the consumer advice about washing machines, I’m thinking of taking them to court

  7. Of course I agree that after five years I should not expect my money back.
    What I do expect is a correct diagnosis, and trhe replacement of whichever component has failed.
    Repair would not have cost the retailer anything since I was under the illusion that I would pay the price of that component in the same way as I paid the “engineer’s” call-out fee.
    Was this man ‘qualified’ only to con elderly women into buying a new appliace because the old one must be written off?

  8. Have just read (under the Repaircare heading) contributions by someone whose his fridge-freezer needed only a “pcb” replacement.
    What is a “pcb” please.
    My appliance’s compressor and gas were working; was it a “pcb” fault that the “engineer” should have diagnosed BUT DID NOT?
    Incidentally I DID carefully study the “handbook” that came with the appliance. Very limited “trouble-shooting” advice. Nothing whatosever about running on and on apparently out of control.

  9. Lilly: PCB is a Printed Circuit Board. It’s a board full of resistors and microchips etc.

    I’m presuming from your description that there wasn’t enough gas in the machine due to a leakage. This meant the fridge could never be brought down to temperature and would run continuously.

    It sounds like the machine is beyond economical repair and so the question is has it lasted a reasonable amount of time? Most would say not. You need to go to the small claims court if the retailer refuses to offer any compensation. You can do it online easily and cheaply (links available on my consumer section links in previous comments above)

  10. Thanks for your latest.
    No, when I ran the fridge experimentally it cooled from 64deg room temp to 40deg (“Normal” setting) in a couple of hours, so presumably gas and compressor were OK. It’s juist that the motor wouldnot stop running… …
    Hence my question about pcb – or what about thermostats, are they indepednet, or incorporated into the pcb?
    I assume purchasing one of these would be possible and MUST cost less and be QUICKER than going to a small claims court?
    As usual, L.

  11. Lilly: The way I see it is –

    Either your fridge is beyond economical repair in which case you need to decide whether to accept this, or claim in the small claims court (which is actually pretty simple) against the seller under the Sales of Goods act.

    Or, your fridge has been misdiagnosed and is repairable. Unfortunately you can’t know this for sure without getting a second engineer out. Although I appreciate you are trying to find this out without getting an engineer we can’t get bogged down in trying to diagnose individual appliance faults.

    The best I can do is say that the diagnosis of not having enough gas because of a leak and therefore the appliance is not worth repairing is feasible. If a pcb or stat fault was causing the fridge to run continuously all the milk should freeze and it would get very cold indeed. On the other hand if there isn’t enough gas in to allow it to reach the required temperature it would run continuously because it can’t get cold enough to trip the stat.

    If you suspect the fridge is repairable you need to get another engineer (I’d recommend an LG dealer). If he confirms it’s not worth repairing you should be able to claim his costs as part of your compensation claim.

    If he says it is repairable for a reasonable cost you can try to claim back the money you paid for the first engineer and also decide whether to accept the repair as reasonable, or try to claim it is unreasonable to need this repair after 5 years or so in which case a small claims court judgement in your favour would be required.

    Unfortunately all this is a lot of stress and hassle which is why most people don’t bother and why most legitimate claims under the Sales of Goods Act don’t get pursued.

  12. I have just one month over the year guarantee Acer pc, I have contacted Acer as it has a fault they have told me since it is now out of warranty, I will have to pay £51.99 for collection and then pay for the repairs, I did state this EU directive but they insist they only have to give one year, do I have any rights I purchased the Acer from QVC should I go back to them, any help would be appreciated.

    Regards

    Paula

  13. Paula. Although your query isn’t regarding a white goods appliance the principles should be the same. The phrase, “we only have to give one years guarantee” is a bit of nonsense really because they don’t have to give any specific guarantee and many manufacturers give 2 year, 3 year, 5 year – 10 year warranties. And, as they are all forced to point out in their literature, the manufacturer’s guarantee “does not affect your statutory rights”.

    The statutory rights they mention are government imposed consumer rights written in The Sales of Goods Act as discussed in this article. The guarantee’s they give to us when we buy a product are, “in addition to your statutory rights.

    The statutory rights say a product should last a reasonable time before breaking down. What’s reasonable depends on the cost and how much usage it’s had but I would have thought most people would say a month out of guarantee isn’t reasonable especially if it’s an expensive fault.

    Your only redress is with the people you bought it from but they are likely to fob you off. The manufacturer has no responsibility whatsoever so don’t waste your time with them. Unless they decide to do something out of good will (which can happen) they are just not obliged to do anything even though they made it.

    Unfortunately (for the retailers) the retailer is 100% responsible but they are likely to fob you off too. Most retailers probably think it’s unfair that they are responsible and I have a lot of sympathy for that. But we should all be entitled to our rights without a fight (they buy products too don’t they?)

    The chances are most of the front line staff at most retailers will genuinely not have been trained about these rights and genuinely think once a product’s out of guarantee it’s just bad luck. Therefore anyone who believes they have a strong case may have to fight their way past them.

    All you can do is either shrug it off and accept it, or take advice from the consumer advice people with a view to taking them to the small claims court where a judge will decide if it’s reasonable that it has broken down so quickly or not. You wouldn’t be entitled to your money back but to claim compensation to cover the costs of repair.

    You need to read all the advice and booklets linked to on this article and the consumer help pages. It’s a lot of messing about, and most people won’t pursue it because of the hassle and stress, and there’s no guarantee of winning, which is why nothing much changes. However, the small claims court is supposed to make it relatively easy and cheap for ordinary consumers to take a company to court and it can even be done online – Taking a company to the small claims court.

    Retailers can’t afford to suddenly start compensating many thousands of people when products break down under 6 years old (5 in Scotland) so most will dig their heels in and refuse to do anything unless forced.

    As my original article points out, no one has a blanket 5 or 6 year guarantee under the Sales of Goods Act, people need to read the article and the links from it carefully to understand what their rights are. The UK Sales of Goods Act just sets out the maximum 5 and 6 year terms beyond which it’s too late to use the courts. We have a right for a product to last “a reasonable time” without breaking down and to last a “reasonable” time before needing replacing. What is reasonable is subjective, and all circumstances must be taken into account.

    I think products just out of guarantee have a strong case and I definitely believe any expensive product under 5 or 6 years old that breaks down and is beyond economical repair is also a strong case. However, if it’s been flogged really hard and was a budget brand things start to get cloudy.

  14. avatar Ken Gorman says:

    In our case, we bought replacement doors and side panels for our kitchen units. We assumed they were oak veneers. It transpires they were what is termed ‘foil’ (resembles vinyl wallpaper) glued onto MDF. A boiling kettle will over time melt the glue, loosening the foil, creating a bubbling effect. After 4 years, this has happened to us, but as we have no washing machine or tumble-dryer, this must have happened to others within 2 years. Indeed the retailers admitted (verbally) to at least one such problem. Trading Standards said we had a claim within the 6 year rule. The retailers would only replace ‘at cost’, i.e. at cost to us, but in any event they had nothing which we could accept. They ‘do not pay compensation. The original cost was £600 plus about £1400 labour, as drawers had to be made to replace the originals. Replacement with what are apparently more durable surfaces, ‘laminated’, will cost about £650 plus £300 labour. We have taken the claim to the Small Claims Court, for an amount between £950 and £2000, as we do not know the actual cost for certain.

    On the advice of a solicitor, as we paid our joiner for the goods, who had paid the retailers, we have to sue the joiner, the retailers, their suppliers (and as these suppliers have brought in the manufacturers as an extra defendant (having initially declined to give me their details)), the manufacturers.

    As the retailers had not submitted their Acknowledgement
    of Service in time, I posted my claim for judgment on 29th December, 1st. class. The Court says they do not have it. Meanwhile the retailers have declared their intention to defend, which is being allowed, as it would be, the court says, even if they had received my claim for judgment.
    The three dealers are limited companies, so have to use a solicitor, the same one in this case. It appears important to them to continue to sell rubbish.
    I’m doing my bit against shoddy goods. Is anyone else?

  15. Please keep us informed on your case Ken. Although it’s not directly related to appliances it’s interesting to see how people get on when taking a trader to the small claims court.

    Your case sounds a bit complex but if you buy kitchen doors they must be for for their purpose, and one of their purposes is to be fitted to the front of the cupboards above the kitchen worktop. Everyone knows kettles are normally used on these worktops so presumably any kitchen cupboard door should be designed to withstand the steam from a boiling kettle.

  16. avatar Joe Haugh says:

    Hi,

    I have read through your different posts, and all are of interest. I have been reading a lot around this subject, purely from a business I am starting up ( have not mentioned it here as don’t want to be accused of jumping on the bandwagon as such, if people want to know I wil post another piece with its details, it will be of use to people who commented here on this post.).

    I am interested to know of all those people when you returned to the retailer or manufacturer with their particular product issues, did you have the following :

    (A) Receipt, and where you asked for it?
    (B) Knowledge of guarantee length and expiration?

    This will help me understand more the issues that consumers are having with manufacturers and retailers, as this will help me fine tune the service I am working on.

    This website is a great resource for consumers,I will follow it more, and thanks for this very informative post.

  17. hi i purchased a slimline dishwasher in March 2008 from an online store, i had it fitted by a corgi regisyered gas fitter/plumber. i live alone so it is only used every 2/3 days, last week it kept switching itself off a few minutes after starting, and i had to unplug it and wait to restart it, but still same. i have had a plumber/ white goods engineer out today who says the pump need replacing, it has been leaking,maybe since fitted, as inside of area has lots of rust, says he will get price on pump, but maybe over £100, then it still may need new circuit board, but will not be able to tell until fitted new pump. i have contacted the retailer who says all appliances sold are brand new and carry 12 month warranty. i live on the isle of wight and paid £45 for delivery, so do not think the retailer will have engineer to call here. do i contact Belling, or the retailer to sort this out?

  18. Linda. As mentioned in the article and comments after, under the sale of Goods Act it’s the retailer you would need to complain to if you believe it’s not been of reasonable quality and has not lasted a reasonable time.

    Whether this is the case or not is far from clear and may need to be tested in the small claims court. There’s little doubt most retailers will fight you but that doesn’t mean they will win. It just means probably 99% of people will begrudgingly accept what they say. I can’t imagine any retailer accepting responsibility for a repair out of guarantee unless you fight, they will simply say, sorry, it’s out of guarantee there’s nothing we can do. However, this is not true. They are responsible under the Sale of Goods Act if you can show the appliance was not fit for purpose, or not of reasonable quality or has not lasted a reasonable time.

    Having said that we can’t say no appliance should ever break down at all out of guarantee so it depends on looking at all circumstances. If a minor fault develops maybe most people would accept it, but if the repair costs are going to be very expensive – and as commonly happens these days – beyond economical repair you probably have a good case that the appliance has not lasted a reasonable time.

    It doesn’t matter how rubbish a product may turn out to be, the manufacturer didn’t sell you the appliance, the retailer did, and the contract is between you and who you bought it from. It’s up to the retailer to take it up with the manufacturer if they have to pay out compensation.

    As you’ve found, retailers are reluctant to deal with this aspect of the sale of goods act and they’ve got away with it for so long they’ve all but forgotten about its implications. They are just not geared up for dealing with and more importantly paying out for thousands of claims under the Sale of Goods Act on appliances under 6 years old but outside of the manufacturer’s guarantee.

    Therefore only people prepared to go to the trouble of fighting for their rights and of course taking a chance they might lose the claim will pursue anything past the first brush off from the retailer and so nothing much changes. Generally, if you can show it hasn’t lasted a reasonable time you can claim compensation, which often may be the costs of the repair and of course your (minor) small claims court costs. If the appliance is beyond economical repair you may be entitled to claim a refund minus an appropriate amount for the use you have had from it prior to the fault.

  19. avatar Joe Haugh says:

    Linda,

    I think a very good response has been posted to your query, as pointed out the retailer is obliged under law to help in these circumstances and getting your problem fixed. Have you got any updates for us, always interested to know what has been said and what further action is been taken to rectify the situation for you.

    Sincerely,

    Joe

  20. Thanks to the information and advice provided by Andy I have at last had the defective fridge-freezer removed, and replaced by a Beko model of similar size at a cost of about £148 (free collection and delivery)- roughly half list price.
    This is rather more satisfactory than the “engineer’s” indication of £20 off his bill if I bought a new appliance! (See eearlier entries on blog above).
    Thanks again, Andy, for the moral support and effective help.
    Lilly.

  21. Many thanks Lilly.

    Anyone following this article might be interested to know I’ve added a few paragraphs to the original article quoting advice given by the government to retailers and linking to a business advice site run by the government. It’s down near the bottom under the heading “Here’s what the government advises retailers regarding their obligations”

  22. avatar Miss J Hunt says:

    Thankyou for the information on here. I have a faulty hotpoint fride freezer only 14 months old purchased from currys, and thought I didnt have any rights as the manufacturers guarantee was only 12 months and I couldnt afford extended warranty.
    I now intend to go down to currys and argue my case with them.

  23. Thanks, please let us know how you get on.

  24. avatar Miss J Hunt says:

    Went down this morning, the manager was very nice, but obviously well versed in the trading laws. He said he was unable to authorise any sort of refund or compensation, and the best chance of me getting anything of that sort would be to write a hand written letter to Customer Services, Currys, the parkway, Sheffield, when I have had an engineer come to look at the appliance and diagnosed the fault. If it was a faulty part that was either faulty from purchase or had become faulty without any sort of mis-use on our part, then Currys ‘may’ pay for the repair and refund the cost of the engineers call-out / labour.

    The problem with fridge/freezers is: When one breaks, you need another replacement immediately, and unless you have a garage or large house with enough room to store the old one, theres nowhere to put the broken appliance while the engineer comes. So either way I have had to buy a new one.
    I assume the small claims court will also require proof of the fault by an engineers report, in which case I cannot claim as I have nowhere to put the old appliance, and cannot now afford to lay out money for an engineers callout now I have had to purchase a new fridgefreezer (we walked straight OUT of Currys and into Comets !)
    Lesson learned for me, I have purchased a 5 year warranty on my new samsung fridgefreezer…..

  25. Miss J Hunt: You highlight one of the problems with this situation. No retailer will just give us a refund because we say an appliance has broken down. They need to have their engineer or the manufacturer’s engineer check it out first. This is reasonable. As you point out though, with most of our white goods appliances we don’t have time to wait around and let this drawn out process happen.

    In your case though, as you have a Hotpoint appliance, you can get the Hotpoint engineer to repair it for £104.97 which includes parts and labour – So you don’t need to buy a new fridge!

    Either they will repair it for the £104.97, or they will say it’s not worth repairing (if by any chance it’s something serious). If they repair it, for £104.97 you can put in a claim to Currys for compensation of the cost of the repair under the Sale of Goods Act by claiming it hasn’t lasted a reasonable amount of time.

    If the Hotpoint engineer said it wasn’t repairing of course you’d have definite proof that it hasn’t lasted a reasonable time to take to Currys.

    The important thing to remember is that it is the retailer who sold it to you that’s responsible for compensation and not the manufacturer although some manufacturers may occasionally offer to replace appliances or do a free repair.

    If you decide to buy a new fridge immediately you would need to get Hotpoint or the Currys engineer out to look at the old one as soon as possible but they may well find out it’s easily fixable and you didn’t need a new one after all.