Here is an example of an appliance out of guarantee and deemed unrepairable. I received a question from someone who had bought a Zanussi fridge freezer 14 months previously. It was now 2 months out of guarantee. It had broken down. The engineer had advised that the fault was due to an internal gas leak. It was unrepairable. The customer asked me what her rights are. She had paid £630 for the fridge freezer.
Note that although this specific question relates to a fridge freezer, the situation should be relevant to any white goods appliance.
Just out of guarantee and unrepairable
The manufacturer’s only obligation is to carry out repairs under their guarantee period, which has now expired. If it was repairable and they were quoting for an expensive repair it might bring up other consumer rights issues (out of guarantee doesn’t always mean you should pay). But as the appliance is not repairable they are washing their hands of it. You would think that as they made the appliance and you are one of their customers they would offer to replace it themselves. They commonly don’t. As far as they are concerned you didn’t buy it from them. They didn’t get your money (although they obviously do indirectly) so it’s nothing to do with them. They will usually tell you to go back to the retailer. This is of course technically correct (Is manufacturer or retailer responsible for faulty appliances?)
Retailer is responsible
I advised that they should contact the retailer and request a replacement under the sale of goods act. This one hasn’t lasted a reasonable time (or it was not fit for purpose due to it’s short lifespan). Under the sale of goods act if an appliance cannot be repaired – and it has not lasted a reasonable time – then the retailer is responsible. Ironically the first thing they are likely to do is ask the manufacturer for credit to replace it. If the manufacturer refuses to give them credit a retailer will often try to limit their costs by refusing to replace something. They claim there’s nothing they can do because it’s out of guarantee. This leaves the consumer with both retailer and manufacturer claiming there’s nothing they can do. If a consumer has a valid right to compensation or a replacement under the sale of goods act then they are wrong to do that. (Out of guarantee – even by a long time doesn’t always mean you should pay)
Do you automatically get a brand new appliance if the old can’t be repaired?
It will depend on the age of the appliance. Theoretically, a retailer can try to reduce their costs by asking the customer to pay a contribution. The logic is that you have already enjoyed a certain percentage of an expected lifespan so shouldn’t be entitled to a complete replacement free of charge. This does make logical sense, but whether or not they would try this is dependent on the circumstances and the retailer. Hopefully most retailers just can’t be bothered with the potential complexities involved, and certainly in this case where the appliance is only 14 months old they should hopefully just swap it for a new one. It may be quite different though if an appliance is not so close the guarantee expiry date.
Here’s how it would work
It’s complicated. In order to ask for a contribution towards the cost they need to work out what percentage of life you’ve already enjoyed. They would need to say how long the appliance would be expected to last on average. These figures aren’t easy to know or agree upon. Say for example they claim a fridge freezer would normally last 10 years (which is 120 months), they could say you’ve enjoyed 14 of those months which equates to just over 10%.
Using that logic they could ask a customer to contribute 10%. I’m not aware how often – if ever – this happens. To be fair it’s hard to argue with the logic as long as they use fair expected lifespans to calculate. As I said though it seems unlikely many retailers would bother when an appliance is only a few months out of it’s guarantee and in this case, further correspondence from the consumer confirmed that the retailer did exchange the fridge freezer without any quibble.
What if the appliance was older and couldn’t be repaired?
If an appliance has been deemed unrepairable by the manufacturer but it is further out of the guarantee period then things may be quite different. If an appliance is a year out of guarantee – or maybe even 4 or 5 years out of guarantee then you may still have rights under the sale of goods act. There’s usually little point in complaining to the manufacturer although it has been known for them to accommodate customers out of goodwill (and clearly this makes sense). However, it is the retailer who has the liability under the sale of goods act.
The critical point here is that the appliance is unrepairable. Therefore however old the appliance is at this point this is exactly how long it has lasted – so the question becomes – is this acceptable? (Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances?)
What if the appliance is out of guarantee and repairable – but it is going to be expensive?
This is far more common, and much more complex. If an appliance is only days or possibly a week or so out of guarantee then you would hope that out of good will the manufacturer would offer to repair it free of charge. But they aren’t obliged to, and often won’t. If this is the case you need to remember your rights under the sale of goods act are against the retailer who sold it to you. You may still be entitled to a free repair depending upon the circumstances.
You would need to contact the retailer and you would need to show that your appliance has not lasted a reasonable time, has not been fit for purpose, or it had an inherent fault at the time of sale. Whether or not you have any justification in such a claim will depend on all of the circumstances – how much you paid, how long you’ve had it, whether it has been nothing but trouble or previously trouble-free, how you’ve looked after it, and how much it has been used. Some of the elements in this calculation are subjective and not clear-cut. This is why you may have to seek consumer advice from someone like Which? (Which? £1 offer – what’s the catch?) and why sometimes a small claims court judge may have to decide.
More related information
- You might find it interesting to read my article here, which explains why retailers are commonly reluctant to help us when we have a case Is the sale of goods act too hard on retailers?
- Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances