We like to keep our freezers stocked up, especially when we’ve taken advantage of special offers. So if one breaks down, they are often filled with more food than we can reasonably use before it goes off. Sometimes hundreds of pounds worth of food is at risk of spoiling.
You might be able to claim for lost food on your home contents insurance (more on that later). But if a freezer is under a manufacturer’s guarantee, or breaks down due to a fault that breaches the consumer rights act 2015, we should have a claim against the retailer. The legal term for this right is, “consequential loss”. This is financial loss caused directly by the break-down. However, there are caveats.
We can’t just let all food go off and claim compensation
We are expected to take all reasonable measures to mitigate any loss. We can’t just shrug our shoulders and leave the food to go off, then try to claim hundreds of pounds. What we need to do, is to reduce the amount of lost food, by taking various reasonable steps.
Save as much food as possible
It’s not always possible to save all food. But if you can mitigate most – if not all – of any food loss it will be a lot easier. Claiming for food loss can be difficult, and can be stressful, particularly if you don’t have any “evidence”. We might have a legal right to compensation, but many retailers can be stubborn and unhelpful. Having said that, if you have a valid claim, you should pursue it.
If it’s not too late, read my separate article on how to save food if you discover your freezer isn’t working, and return to this article if you still need to make a claim.
How to claim for lost food
If you are claiming from the retailer under the consumer rights act 2015, you will need to have the freezer looked at by a refrigeration engineer (preferably the manufacturer), to establish exactly what has happened. No one will consider compensation for food loss without finding out what has failed. It could be, for example, a fault on the wall socket, which is nothing to do with the appliance.
Take photos – keep packaging
They will usually insist on proof of loss, which many people don’t have because they instinctively throw the wasted food away. Take photos of food you can’t save. Within reason, save the spoiled food as evidence. However, not food that will go off, smell, and cause a health hazard.
Food sealed inside sealed plastic packaging within a box might be able to be kept as evidence to show a repair engineer. Otherwise, or alternatively, take out all the food that is spoiled, take photos and then throw it away, but keep the cardboard packaging. Receipt’s may also be very useful – or even essential – and will at least show the value of food items.
Retailers may be suspicious of claims for a freezer full of food claim
It’s less common to discover a freezer has totally defrosted and 100% of food is lost. We tend to be in and out of them several times a week. Many of them also have audible alarms when the temperature gets too high. Even if you unplug one, if you keep the door closed, a full freezer can keep things frozen for up to 48 hours.
100% food loss does happen
You might come back from holiday, for example, and find 100% food loss. If this happened, explain why the claim is so high.
What if the freezer is out of guarantee?
If the freezer is out of the manufacturer’s guarantee, you may still have a claim against the retailer if it is under 6 years old (5 in Scotland).
The younger it is, the stronger the claim. But be warned that once outside the manufacturer’s guarantee, the default position of many retailers is to try to fob consumers off onto the manufacturer. Very often they are breaking the law by doing this. They often tell consumers there is nothing they can do because it is now out of guarantee. However, there are plenty of examples where people have made a valid claim under the consumer rights act 2015 – sometimes years after the guarantee has expired. (Examples: Out of guarantee – even by a long time doesn’t always mean you should pay for repair).
Can you claim for lost food under household contents insurance?
It’s possible that your home contents insurance will cover the loss of food inside a freezer. Many policies do cover this, although it is common for it to be an optional extra. You might want to check your policy. If it is covered, it should be a lot easier to make a claim through your insurance. If you try to claim against the retailer, they may well encourage you to do this because it means they won’t have to.
However, claiming on your own insurance may cause your policy to go up. You may have an excess, which means you will only get some of the money back – or none at all if the excess is higher than your claim. You need to look into this, and make a decision. Ultimately, if you have a valid claim under the consumer rights act 2015 then it is the responsibility of the retailer to compensate you. If a freezer has breached the consumer rights act, and in doing so has caused you consequential loss, you should not be left out of pocket.
The easiest scenario is if you can save most or all of the food. But if you can’t, and you have lost a lot of money, then seek consumer advice from somewhere like citizens advice or Which? (Why subscribe to Which?)
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