The people who made the appliance are responsible for the quality, or lack of quality. They often make design errors, or are let down themselves by the companies they pay to make individual parts. However, the consumer law puts the onus on the people who sold you the appliance. The manufacturer has no legal obligation under the Sale of goods act other than to honour the guarantee that comes with it. Remember, it’s a sale of goods act. Unless they sell direct to consumers the manufacturer generally doesn’t sell you anything, they sell it to the retailer.
On the face of it this seems unfair, it’s not the retailers fault. If you sell appliances it’s a major responsibility and massive burden. Especially for sole traders or small retailers. However, I can see why it is this way.
Why can’t I complain to the manufacturer? They made it – aren’t they ultimately responsible?
The people you bought it from are the ones you have a contract with. Everyone should claim from the party they bought the appliance from. You the customer claim from the people you bought from, they in turn (in theory at least) can potentially complain to who they bought it from (a wholesaler or the manufacturer). The manufacturer in turn can claim from the people they paid to make the individual part(s) in question or accept the responsibility themselves.
But Dealing with the manufacturer is easier
In many ways it is easier to deal with the manufacturer. They have the engineer in your house who knows exactly what has gone wrong. The retailer will usually just say they can’t do anything until their engineer has inspected it anyway. Some manufactures do indeed deal directly with dissatisfied customers. It makes sense because even though they didn’t receive a penny from you directly they know ultimately you are their customer, and they should want you to keep buying their appliances.
If a manufacturer is happy to deal with you, and is doing so to your satisfaction that’s fine. The main thing to remember is that anything they do regarding free or reduced repairs or exchanging a machine is voluntary. If it goes nowhere you can turn to the retailer who has the legal obligation. Conversely, if a retailer says they can’t do anything and you have to deal with the manufacturer they are wrong. It is reasonable for them to insist a manufacturer or their own engineer inspects the machine to establish what’s wrong though.
A lot will depend on where you bought the appliance from
Retailers competing fiercely on price often run on low profit margins and rely on selling large quantities. They tend to be the worst at failing to honour the sale of goods act and fobbing people off. They often deliberately keep their front line staff in the dark about the true extent of rights so sales staff often genuinely believe they can’t do anything once it’s out of guarantee. A few retailers such as (my favourite affiliate) John Lewis* have long established reputations for better customer service so buying from them usually results in better aftersales care. They also guarantee all washing machines for 2 years, their own brand appliances for 3 years and TVs for 5 years.
In theory it should work well – but it works against us
It should work like this. Anyone who sells a brand or model of appliance that turns out to be rubbish, and gives them nothing but grief from their customers, should stop selling it and the manufacturer would be forced to improve it. The logical conclusion of this is that eventually, shops would only sell decent, reliable products. This is a wonderful theory but alas it doesn’t seem to work too well. Large electrical retailers continue to sell rubbish on a large scale despite substantial conflict with customers and thousands of very dissatisfied customers. They play the numbers game, which means selling poor quality products on a large scale can be profitable. They know most people don’t fight for their rights because it’s so much hassle and potentially stressful, and will just buy another.
If the majority of consumers were more familiar with, and insisted on, their full consumer rights, it could significantly change the way major retailers work. They may well then find it unprofitable to sell poor quality appliances because of all the compensation and small claims action against them. As it is, people are subsidising their mistakes in selling poorly made products and even pay out for expensive extended warranties to give them protection they often already have under the sale of good act. They keep going back for more because of their obsession with cheap prices. Ultimately, the public have mostly themselves to blame because retailers are simply trying to give what the public demand – unrealistically cheap appliances.
Remember, it’s a complex subject, it’s not black and white. We are not entitled to free repairs out of guarantee but neither are we restricted to the arbitrary 12 months or whatever the guarantee period is as retailers so often insist is the case. It always depends on all the circumstances, how much you paid for it, how you’ve used it, what has actually gone wrong and after how long? The articles linked to below will help you understand it more.
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I’m not a consumer expert, the advice in my consumer advice section is my personal opinion based on a week long study on the subject a constant interest and investigation in consumer issues and my 40 years experience in the trade. I recommend Which? for expert consumer advice.
- How to get faulty washing machine (appliance) exchanged
- Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances
- Out of guarantee – even by a long time doesn’t always mean you should pay
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