Appliance just out of guarantee and unrepairable

Questions answered What if you have an appliance that is only just out of guarantee and you’ve been told it is unrepairable? In this example someone had bought a Zanussi fridge freezer 14 months previously. It was 2 months out of guarantee and had broken down. The manufacturer’s engineer said the fault was due to an internal gas leak and was unrepairable. The customer asked me what her rights were. She had paid £630 for it..

..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

Under UK consumer law, 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 against the retailer (out of guarantee doesn’t always mean you should pay). But as the appliance is not repairable the manufacturer is 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 (Who is responsible for faulty appliances – manufacturer or retailer?)

The retailer is responsible

I advised that they should contact the retailer and request a replacement under the Consumer Rights Act (previously sale of goods act).

This appliance hadn’t lasted a reasonable time (or it was not fit for purpose due to it’s short lifespan). Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 if an appliance cannot be repaired – and it has not lasted a reasonable time – then the retailer is responsible…

The retailer is unlikely to be helpful

Ironically the first thing most retailers are likely to do is ask the manufacturer for credit to replace it, which is commonly denied. If the manufacturer refuses to give them credit a retailer will often try to limit their costs by denying any responsibility. They may 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 Consumer Rights Act then the retailer is wrong. (Out of guarantee – even by a long time doesn’t always mean you should pay)

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Unfortunately most of us will have to fight for our consumer rights. Front-line staff are commonly untrained on the full extent of consumer rights and may genuinely believe you have no rights. You may have to go to their superiors or even enlist help from consumer advice bodies. Hopefully if you make sure they know you understand you have rights and won’t be easily fobbed off they will comply. The retailers know very well that most people won’t. In this case, after insisting on a replacement, the customer confirmed that the retailer did exchange the fridge freezer without any quibble.

Do you automatically get a brand new appliance if the old can’t be repaired?

It will depend on the age of the appliance. 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. This does make logical sense, but whether or not they would try this is dependent on the circumstances and the retailer.

Here’s how it would work

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%.

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 Consumer Rights 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.

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? (Consumer Rights Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances?)

What if it’s repairable but very 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 Consume Rights 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? and why sometimes a small claims court judge may have to decide.

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23 thoughts on “Appliance just out of guarantee and unrepairable”

  1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    By the way Steve, it has to be said that if an appliance is broken down after just over two years it doesn’t automatically mean there is any claim against either the sale of goods act or the consumer rights act. Neither of these consumer protection laws say that nothing should ever break down. The key issue is whether it has lasted a reasonable time before breaking down or not. And that very much depends on how much the appliance cost, how much it has been used and how well it’s been looked after as well as what has actually gone wrong.

    Just for example if an appliance has broken down after 2 1/2 years and it was basic budget model, and has been used with a family of seven, and say the fault isn’t even that serious, then there might not be a legitimate claim. Conversely, if the appliance had cost £750, was marketed as a high quality product, and has only been used with a family of two and has broken down it might reasonably be seen as unacceptable, and not of good enough quality. It’s all quite complicated and subjective, which is why it is such a minefield, and why retailers can quite easily bamboozle many people putting them off quite easily. I hope you get yours sorted out okay, it sounds like you’ve been persistent enough to get results and that’s how to do it.

    1. Hi Andy yes I understand what you are saying but oven was used maximum twice a week and cost about £350 i explained this to the consumer services they confirmed it should be repaired at the very least I still only have a verbal agreement for them to repair still waiting for the email to arrange it so I’m hoping that they are not pulling a fast one have a good weekend thanks again Steve

  2. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Yes Steve. Fingers crossed for you. I was just trying to make it clear for anyone reading in the future.

    1. Hi Andy final follow up I received the email withe the old gesture of good will but at least it’s sorted many thanks Steve

  3. ive had 3 fridge freezers in 4 yrs that have broken. they start freezing fridge food then the freezer goes. the first was replaced after 8months, then it was around the same time scale again so this one must be about 2 1/2 years old. surely this isn’t right?

  4. in the kitchen.
    ive ended uo paying them to come out. the door had dropped and there fore it wasnt closed properly he said. turn it off for 48hrs.

  5. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Thanks Marie. I ask because if it was in a cold environment that could explain why they all didn’t work. Especially if kept in a garage. It sounds like yours is currently severely iced up. 48 hours seems a long time however, much of the ice that is causing the fridge freezer to not run properly is packed right inside behind the plastic wall at the back. If you just unplug it long enough so that all of the ice visible has gone and plug it back in the fault will re-occur.

    It needs to thoroughly defrost which can take a long time because of the insulation. You probably could get away with a shorter period of time if you can apply some gentle warmth inside the fridge such as from a fan heater but you would need to be very careful not to have it hot, or too close. You don’t want to melt anything. If the fault was caused by the door being left open and the fridge freezer has become completely blocked with ice then a thorough defrost should fix the fault.

  6. Sandra chesters

    We’ve had our under counter fridge/freezer for 18 months it’s working perfectly but getting a bad fishy smell from the back we switched it off andcleaned the drain then switched it back on but it’s still smelling the plugs not getting hot

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hi Sandra. Every time I’ve had a bad fishy smell it’s been caused by electrical overheating. I’ve had it twice in a kitchen, which turned out to be a loose wire inside the wall socket. And I’ve had it once in the garage, which was a light socket overheating.

      In my experience the plastic that they make wall sockets and light fittings smells of fish when it burns.

      I would get the wall socket checked out first. However, we can’t rule out the possibility of something overheating in the appliance.

      This type of smell is quite pungent so you might be able to detect where it’s coming from by carefully sniffing around.

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