Here is some consumer advice if you have an appliance that is only just out of guarantee and you’ve been told it is unrepairable. In this example I received a question from someone who 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. It 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 (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 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)
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 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 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? (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 (consumer rights) act too hard on retailers?
- Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances