Is a guarantee transferable when you buy a second hand appliance?

Q: I bought a second hand washing machine from ebay and was told it was approximately 2 years old and came with a 5 year guarantee. The lady selling it was very genuine and said the manufacturer told her the guarantee was transferable.

I rang the manufacturer to check before I bought it and I was told the same. It was only when I rang back after completing the sale I was told the guarantee was not transferable, and was only valid if the machine was kept by the original owner. Can this be legal as it seems very unfair.

Surely they give the 5 year guarantee as the machine cost over £1000 when new and it shouldn’t be subject to who owns it. Would it make a difference if I said she gave it to me rather than sold it?

A: Guarantees are an addition to our consumer rights and can have certain restrictions on them. For example it’s quite possible for a manufacturer to give a 5 year guarantee but only on condition that the customer registers the guarantee. They are likely to limit this guarantee (which is a legally binding contract) to the person that buys it when brand new, because in effect they make a profit when the product is first sold.

If the product subsequently gets sold on, they don’t. However, as you point out, their initial commitment to cover the appliance for the time they stipulate has already been made and paid for. They would like us to believe the guarantee is free, but of course they are built into the price of the product. Therefore there’s no real reason why they couldn’t honour a guarantee no matter who owns it as long as it’s within the guarantee period, and the (current) owner has the paperwork to show it is still within the guarantee period. Presumably it’s simply because they can get out of it (by saying the contract was with the original purchaser) – that they do.

No legal obligation

Consumer-advice There’s isn’t even a legal obligation for products sold to have any guarantee, they are just additional benefits used to give more confidence to a potential customer to help facilitate a sale.

Of course it’s impossible to imagine any product not coming with one these days, and some come with even longer guarantees than the standard 12 months, but the promise of guaranteeing the appliance will be a contract between the manufacturer and the original purchaser. Some guarantees can be transferable, for example a guarantee that comes with double glazing or some building work may be transferable if the house is sold, but generally appliance guarantees aren’t likely to be transferable.

Ways round it?

It may be possible if the paperwork is given along with the appliance to simply telephone for service under the guarantee and pretend to be the original purchaser who’s moved house. It would be a gamble that may or may not work, but as long as you can get an appointment, an engineer would normally only want to see proof of purchase. I’ve never heard of anyone needing proof of identity.

This method may be for the desperate only though. If you ring a service centre up claiming a product is under guarantee they ideally want to be able to find the details of the product and the address through their registration system. If the original purchaser has registered the appliance at their address the manufacturer would get that address coming up and you’d have to blatantly lie and give their name, previous address and claim to have moved. If they happen to have registered more than one appliance and they need to claim under a guarantee later for it they might have a problem if they’d altered the address on their system.

If the original purchase did not register the guarantee the manufacturer may or may not simply just send an engineer who’d just be likely to need proof of purchase.

Buying appliances second hand

If you buy anything second hand and the seller is selling in the course of business you still have rights under the sale of goods act as well as under the distant selling regulations (which give a 7 day cooling off period in which you can request a full refund).

But if you buy something second hand from an ordinary member of the public then you do not have any rights under the sale of goods act or the distant selling regulations other than a right for the product to be as described in the advert, and for it to work as expected. If it subsequently breaks down it’s considered part of the risk of buying second hand, and having no guarantee is part of the reason we normally pay a lot less for a second hand product.

Having said that, in this particular case, if the washing machine was advertised as having a guarantee and it hasn’t, you might be able to argue that it was not as described in the advert and therefore be entitled to a refund, or price reduction as some part of the price asked for was likely to be for the guarantee. ebay has help and advice which may be worth looking into on this page where there should be a link to What to do if you don’t receive an item or it doesn’t match the seller’s description

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