Repairs are covered under the supply of services section of the sale of goods act and have to be carried out within a “reasonable time”. When free to choose our own repairer we don’t have to wait that long, we’d just go to someone else so it isn’t an issue. But with appliances under guarantee, or covered by maintenance contracts and extended warranties we are captive customers, and that’s different. Many people are unaware that the speed of service received through a manufacturer’s guarantee or an extended warranty or guarantee can be slower because of the nature of their business models – and you can’t go elsewhere.
Big national companies or manufacturers often can’t fit you in for several days or worse in busy periods. They don’t do it on purpose, they just usually take on big work loads or don’t have the budget for enough engineers, and they don’t have the same commercial worries about people not using them if they don’t come quickly enough. Many engineers or repair companies working sub contract for manufacturers or warranty companies are working on very small margins. They don’t get paid much per job and often cover very large areas. This affects the level of service they can give. For example, they may only come to your area every Wednesday, so if they need to return there can be a weeks delay each time.
If you have a washing machine under the manufacturers initial guarantee you cannot go elsewhere, but with extended warranties, check the small print to see if you can use a local independent repair company and claim the costs back (probably rare these days though). Also check the small print for any promises from the repair policy that an engineer will visit within so many days. The relevant consumer rights here are that, service work must be "finished in a reasonable time". You may argue that waiting for a week, without a washing machine or a freezer (if they are unusable) is unreasonable.
The chances are they won’t agree with your definition of reasonable but everything depends on individual circumstances. For example if you just paid over £1000 for a fridge freezer and it broke down within days it’s surely unreasonable for you to have to wait a week before anyone even looks at it – with no guarantee they won’t have to order parts and leave you waiting even longer. If on the other hand it’s working, but making a strange noise or has some other minor issue it’s not so bad waiting a week. Cases need judging on their own merit using common sense but if you feel you have a strong case and the appliance is new you may try demanding a replacement instead. This may at least hurry them up a bit.
If under an extended warranty you are at their mercy, which is one of the disadvantages of them. If they give very bad service you can look into claiming compensation but would need to take advice from a consumer help group.
Which? members can phone a consumer helpline
You can research Which? Consumer Rights for expert advice (What do I get when I take a trial?) immediately (not just about washing machines) and benefit from their highly respected opinions and experience of consumer issues. Also receive the Which? magazine as part of £1 trial and speak directly to a consumer expert about your issues.