Can I claim for spoiled food when freezer breaks down?

Food defrosting in freezer

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

take photos with phone

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).

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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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6 thoughts on “Can I claim for spoiled food when freezer breaks down?”

  1. my freezer packed in over the week end i am insured with post office i phoned them up because my access is 350 pounds i have to pay this first and the food that is spoiled is only 100pounds worth so it is no good claiming i tried to claim for a new fridge freezer but they say i am not covered is this correct regards H Isaacs

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hi there. Yes I mentioned this in my article above. It’s usually not worth claiming on house insurance. This is why if a retailer suggest that you do it is extremely unfair on you and you should pursue the retailer under the consumer rights act 2015 instead.

      I presume you are talking about house insurance? It’s a bit disingenuous of them to say they cover the loss of food from the freezer but have an excess of £350 because this would mean that it’s almost always pointless trying to claim. House insurance doesn’t cover replacement of products that break down. It only covers them if they are damaged by fire or flood etc.

      The only way you could claim as if you have a valid claim under the consumer rights act 2015 if for example it was still under guarantee, or if it has not lasted a reasonable time etc.

  2. I have Samsung fridge freezer, 11 months old.
    The freezer compartment broke down overnight which we discovered the next morning via a flooded kitchen floor. We lost a substantial amount of food. Samsung customer services advised this is not uncommon and to reboot which we did and 4 hours later the freezer was working as normal.
    Samsung have emailed me stating:
    ‘With regard to the consequential loss of food, we would not be able to compensate this as we are not a compensation based company’.
    We have photographic evidence but can Samsung get away without any responsibility for this issue?

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hello Mark, that sentence, “we would not be able to compensate this as we are not a compensation based company” would be funny if it wasn’t 100% nonsense. It makes no sense on any level at all. To be honest, I’m astounded with the disingenuous cheek of it. Paying out compensation is something people are obliged to do by law when they have been responsible for a third parties financial losses, and not something anyone could possibly opt out of.

      Having said that, whether or not they are responsible is a different matter. So they should only be talking about whether they are responsible or not. There is no such thing as a compensation-based company or a non-compensation based company.

      So to be fair, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 it is only the retailer that is responsible when things break down (even though it’s obviously the manufacturer that carries out work under their guarantee). Unless they have recently carried out a repair that has failed and caused this issue, your rights are with the retailer.

      One problem I expect you are going to have is that if the appliance is now working perfectly okay and has been for some time after the incident it’s very difficult for you to prove what went wrong. I also don’t recognise their assertion that this is a fairly common thing to happen. How can it be “normal” for one of their appliances to occasionally and randomly just defrost all of the food? Again it makes absolutely no sense. If they genuinely believe that this does regularly happen with no obvious causes and all you have to do is unplug and re-plugged back in then there is something seriously wrong with their product.

      One possible cause of such a problem, which may be they are suspecting but haven’t made clear to you, is if your fridge-freezer is in an environment where the temperature can drop too low. This is a particular problem with fridge freezers that are placed in a garage or conservatory. However, in some people’s kitchens it may be possible for temperatures to drop too low overnight, and this can cause the freezer to start to defrost. It should be quite rare though.

      The best thing that I can suggest is that you carefully check out the following links to see if it is possible that the freezer defrost and because the room it is in was quite cold for several hours. If you can discount this possibility then the fridge freezer must have gone faulty unless by any chance there was some sort of a power cut or the door was left ajar.

      Unfortunately if it is now working perfectly all right it is going to be very difficult for you to convince a retailer that it broke down, unless it happens again.

      Check this article (even if it’s not in a garage – it’s about a cold environment) Fridge freezers in garage or cold environment

      Also check this article to work out if your fridge freezer has a climate class that says it might not work properly under a certain temperature Fridge climate classes UK


  3. Many thanks for such a prompt response. I was also amazed at their response, for a company the size of Samsung to respond in such a manner is not acceptable. I ran through several cold environment scenarios with their customer services team and eliminated each potential area that may have caused the problem. Like you, I was amazed the CS rep said 90%+ of freezer defrosting issues are resolved by a reboot. I assume their incoming calls are recorded so they can check (I doubt they will) on my claim.
    The freezer has an alarm to notify when the door is left ajar and this is now working fine, we would have certainly been aware if the door was open.
    We paid £1,700 for the appliance, its so disappointing when a ‘blue chip’ brand refuses to take any responsibility at all, and responds in such a poor and disengenious manner!

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hello Mark. Wow, £1700 for a fridge freezer is insane. I just bought an excellent separate tall freezer with a 3 year guarantee and it was only just over £500. I’m sure you can get equivalent tall fridges for similar price. It seems that these combined units are extremely expensive indeed. It would be considerably cheaper (and more reliable) to just buy separates and have them side-by-side but that doesn’t look as good :-)

      Anyway, your original query said that the fridge freezer is only 11 months old. This means it is under warranty. I don’t understand how it is possible to pay £1700 for an appliance, and for it to completely break down under the guarantee, but the company that makes doesn’t think they need to come out to check it over.

      You could be forgiven for suspecting that if the company has a stock answer to such an incident, and casually advises that all you need to do is restart it, that maybe they know there is an issue, an anomaly, or a problem with their appliance? It is definitely not normal for a freezer to completely defrost without some identifiable cause. I have never ever had a freezer completely defrost for no apparent reason, and neither do I know anybody that has. If it is not related to a very cold environment, or some fault at your house such as a faulty wall socket or an interrupted electrical supply, then it must have been caused by some fault, albeit maybe intermittent?

      As an engineer I do appreciate that any fault that occurs and then apparently rights itself can be very difficult to diagnose. But the fact that they said that this does happen, and it should be okay once you have restarted it, is strange. They seem quite familiar with this. Maybe they know of an issue, or maybe they are genuinely puzzled?

      If you haven’t done already, I would have a good search online to see if other people are complaining about this issue. I know for a fact that Samsung have already produced one of these fridge freezers in the past that had an inherent fault in it and caused widespread problems. Eventually they had to produce a modification.

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