..but I don’t think I should have to pay for a repair
Guarantees are, “in addition to”, and do not affect our statutory rights. In fact there’s no law that says we even have to get a guarantee although no one would be crazy enough to try it. The guarantee we get with our washing machine is built into the price. It is not really free, and is quite separate from our consumer rights, which state that a washing machine must be “of merchantable quality”, and “fit for the purpose it was made for”. It’s also expected to last a “reasonable” length of time and be free from inherent faults.
If a major fault develops even after the guarantee has expired, you may still be entitled to claim the washing machine wasn’t of merchantable quality and therefore claim a partial refund or damages for up to 6 years (Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances) though you are highly likely to have to fight for this compensation and may need to go to the small claims court.
If the washing machine has an inherent fault
We can claim compensation if a washing machine can be shown to have an inherent fault. This is usually the cost of the repair. An inherent fault is a fault that was present when you bought it. Most faults will be apparent within the first 12 months. So they’ll normally be dealt with under the manufacturer’s guarantee. But there can be inherent faults that are not apparent until much later. An error in design or manufacturing can mean a faulty part was fitted into the washing machine that takes a long time to fail. If it fails unreasonably soon and is serious it might be a breach of the consumer goods act. The fault may not become apparent immediately, but it was there at the time of sale. So the product might not have been of satisfactory standard or might be shown to have had an inherent fault.
That’s alright in theory but..
Words such as “reasonable” and “merchantable quality” are open to subjective interpretation. What is reasonable to one person may not be accepted as reasonable to another. So the courts often have to decide. If any fault occurs outside the guarantee you will normally find the manufacturer and retailer refuse to repair it free of charge. The initial guarantee has expired. As far as they are concerned it’s sad, but tough.
Despite their attitude you could argue that a new washing machine was not fit for its purpose, or it has not lasted a reasonable of time. This will be easier if it was expensive. You might find evidence that hundreds or even thousands of people have had the exact same fault, and that it is a design fault. You may need to take the retailer to the small claims court (or at least threaten to) to get them to compensate you. Many have been successful, but relatively few are prepared for such a confrontation.
Consumer Rights Act (formally the Sale of Goods Act)
UK consumer law allows up to 6 years from purchase (5 in Scotland) to take legal action against a seller. So it’s possible to claim if your washing machine was inherently faulty, or simply not of good enough quality if it suffers a major fault even at 5 or 6 years old – especially one that renders it scrap. Whether you would win or not is rarely certain. It depends on all the circumstances. If your washing machine cost only £200 and you’ve washed every day for 3 years for a family of 4 or 5 it may be judged that it has lasted a reasonable time. On the other hand if you paid £700 for a quality brand and only washed for 2 people it might be judged that it has not lasted a reasonable time.
Fair wear and tear clause
You should be cautious about jumping to legal action unless you are sure of your case. You may need to be prepared to fight your case. Don’t assume that you can take the seller to court over any breakdowns within the first 5 or 6 years. A washing machine (like any other goods purchased) cannot be expected never to break down. Even a break down after a year or two of washing may be considered reasonable depending on the fault and the amount of laundry the machine has been washing.
You have to show that the washing machine had an inherent fault present on the day of purchase to successfully claim under the consumer legislation. Or that it was not of reasonable quality (maybe because of repeated breakdowns).
Related to sale of goods act
- Out of guarantee even by a long time doesn’t always mean you should pay
- Sale of Goods Act gives us 6 years to claim for faulty appliances
- Is manufacturer or retailer responsible for faulty appliances?
- A sideways look – is the sale of goods act too hard on retailers?
All information is is given in good faith and without liability. With consumer issues, always double check advice using the free Government & consumer group’s literature as well.