I’ve just received the following consumer question about an expensive hob which has only lasted 4 years –
Q: I purchased a NEFF induction hob 4 years ago for £820. Now 2 rings do not work, and the Neff engineer says that the cost of repair would be £600+ so says it is not worth repairing and we have to buy a new one.
We called NEFF when it went wrong and they ‘sold’ us a policy (14 a months for 12 months) whereby if the hob repair costs were less than 250 they would repair it within that policy and then cover for the next year. If the cost of repair was over £250, they would cancel the insurance policy. Do we have any comeback uder the sale of goods act? The hob is used probably 5 days a week but no more.
A: In my opinion yes you do have a case under the Sale of Goods Act. £820 for a hob, which 4 years later is beyond economical repair just because 2 rings have gone is completely unacceptable. Not only should you not expect 2 rings on a quality product to have failed by now but it’s outrageous that they want to charge around 80% of the purchase cost to repair it. It’s also very disappointing that they seem so content to write it off.
I’ve had this argument on another article regarding some Miele repair costs. Any manufacturer who’s business model is selling high quality, superior, very expensive products should find it an anathema to see any one of their products scrapped at 4 years old. Everyone within the company should find it equally unacceptable to have this happen to any of their customers, which undermines their entire business model.
From my observations most people within these companies hide behind the defence of, “most people do have many years of life from their appliance, it’s only small minority of people this happens to”. This is the same argument used when people are killed or their houses burn down due to a badly designed or a faulty appliance, and is simply not on. It’s not the percentage of people affected that is relevant, it’s the severity of the consequences. You can’t dismiss serious consequences simply because they are relatively rare.
What is the point of buying a high quality appliance if it lasts such a short time and cannot be repaired?
There seems to be a small minority of companies making products which claim to be considerably superior to all the others and cost a lot more to buy. But they sell us the idea that “investing” a lot more money in their top quality product will reward us with not only a more pleasurable and sophisticated product to use (which they generally deliver), but one which will last a long time – much longer than the cheap (“rubbish”) ones.
Most people would be likely to feel even if they’d bought the cheapest hob for just a few hundred pounds that 4 years was still disappointing. However, most people would probably feel inclined to reluctantly accept it and even blame themselves for not investing in a better quality one. They’d either buy another of the same or invest in a more expensive better quality one next time.
I think you have a strong case for arguing that the hob has not lasted a reasonable time. However, unless Neff want to try and restore your confidence in their appliances you will need to make your case to the retailer you bought it from under the Sale of Goods Act and if necessary threaten to take them to the small claims court.
At a cost of £820 you should expect a lot longer than 4 years, and I’d be very surprised if a small claims court judge felt any differently.
In my opinion there are only two possible explanations for why high quality expensive appliances are so outrageously expensive to repair –
- They genuinely cost that much to repair because of the higher standards of their aftersales networks, the higher quality of parts, and the relatively low volumes of spares manufactured
- They think a high quality product should be expensive to repair, that people expect it and are generally prepared to pay premium repair prices
If it’s the former, then unfortunately that’s a big flaw in their business model. But they should avoid letting any customers down like this – especially in these modern times when everyone has internet access and knows how to use it. They should subsidise repairs like this and set them at acceptable prices even if it loses them money. Their entire good name depends on the public being confident in investing in their appliances.
If it’s the latter, they need a wake up call as they’ve now taken it so far they are looking like they are selling appliances that may be generally very reliable but are not very repairable and there’s no strong certainty they will last long enough to justify the extra costs.
Which one is it? I honestly don’t know. A third possibility is that in order to keep finished product costs down they are selling the appliances with little or no profit (even though they are so expensive) and hoping to make money on aftersales instead. This is a well known business model (I personally hate) employed by games console and printer manufacturers. If so, it can work, but only if people don’t feel exploited and £600 to repair a 4 year old £800 product is cloud cuckoo land.