Who is responsible for faulty appliances?

WhoThe manufacturer is responsible for the quality, or lack of quality of the appliances it makes. But 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.

Is manufacturer or retailer responsible for faulty appliances?

On the face of it this seems unfair, if an appliance is rubbish it’s not the retailers fault (unless they are knowingly selling poor quality products). But the consumer rights act of 2015 replaced the long-running sale of goods act. Unless they sell directly to consumers the manufacturer didn’t sell you anything. They sold it to the retailer. If you sell appliances then dealing with consumer rights is a major responsibility and massive burden – especially for sole traders or small retailers.

Why can’t I complain to the manufacturer?

Contract 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 that you have to deal with the manufacturer they are wrong. However, it is reasonable for the retailer to insist that a manufacturer or their own engineer inspects the appliance to establish what is wrong.

A lot will depend on where you bought the appliance from

National retailers competing fiercely on price often run on low profit margins and rely on selling large quantities. They can be poor at honouring the consumer rights act (previously the sale of goods act) and very good at fobbing people off. They often deliberately keep their front line staff in the dark about the true extent of consumer rights so sales staff often genuinely believe they can’t do anything once it’s out of guarantee.

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 at all. 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 still be very profitable as long as they don’t have to give most customers compensation, free repairs, or replacement appliances.

They know that most people don’t fight for their consumer rights because it is just so much hassle, time consuming, and so potentially stressful. They 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. As it is, people are subsidising them to sell poorly made products.

They even pay out for expensive extended warranties to give them protection that they often already have under the consumer rights act. Consumers keep going back for more because of their obsession with cheap prices, unaware that is cheap appliances are in actual fact more expensive in the long run because you have to keep replacing them so often. There is definitely an argument that ultimately, the public have mostly themselves to blame, retailers are simply trying to sell 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 per se, 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.

In particular you may find the following article of great use in understanding exactly why it is usually so hard to get retailers to replace a faulty appliance, or admit that it is not of satisfactory quality, or has an inherent fault – Is the consumer rights act 2015 too hard on retailers?

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14 thoughts on “Who is responsible for faulty appliances?”

  1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Hello Robin. Yes I have highlighted in some of my articles that I think Miele have fallen in quality over the years (are there any downsides to Miele ) but I know for a fact that they are still of significant superior quality to the vast majority of the washing machines. But sadly I have witnessed myself that many Miele parts are now almost indistinguishable from a common washing machine. Parts like water valves, pump, drive belts etc. look and feel virtually the same as other brands. At one time this would have been inconceivable to Miele. But of course they are affected exactly the same as all other manufacturers in the sense of trying to keep prices down when everything is going up, so presumably they have had to make compromises.

    However, if you look at the quality of their drum, and drum bearings (the latter of which are considerably larger in size than any other I know). And look at the quality of their drum spider, the drum weight, which is made of cast-iron (instead of concrete) and the quality of the doors, and the main cabinet and paintwork they remain vastly superior. But I do wonder how long Miele can keep going without further drastic change because I agree they are losing their reputation.

    Sadly I have witnessed quite a few cases where a Miele appliance has has not lasted anywhere near 20 years because the cost of repairs was ridiculously high. But currently I still have faith that if you want to buy the best washing machine that is made – you cannot beat Miele regardless of how relatively poor they are these day compared to the good old days. But I agree that you can no longer guarantee that one of their appliances will last for 20 years. In fact they themselves state (although not very visibly) that the 20 years is not literally 20 years any more. It is 20 years worth of washing which some people may exceed and use up several years earlier. However, when I did my calculations I worked out that the majority people should meet the criteria and only people who use the washing machine quite excessively are likely to be affected. It is definitely possible to buy a Miele and regret it because it didn’t last anywhere near as long as you thought but I’m pretty sure that the average person gets way more life out of one than they would out of an ordinary washing machine. I myself have Miele washing machine that is now about 15 years old. It still sounds like a new washing machine and has never broken down once. :-)

    Regarding Trustpilot I have read an article recently where it attempts to explain why some companies seem to get a lot of bad reviews when they have otherwise quite a good reputation. One explanation is that if a company has joined Trustpiolot then their customers get prompted to write reviews all of the time. If they have not joined them they don’t so people are more likely to make the effort only if they are dissatisfied in some way. Another issue is that people have very high expectations of certain brands and when something does go wrong, because of the high expectations and the higher price they pay they tend to be a lot more angry or likely to give bad reviews. On the other hand if they have paid a premium price and received a premium product they tend to have just got what they expected anyway and are less likely to write a good review. But at the same time I am quite willing to accept that Miele are in no way the same exemplary standard that they used to be perhaps 20 years or more ago.

  2. Natalie McDonagh

    I recently had a major carbon monoxide leak and it was found by a gas engineer to be my Kenwood Gas cooker .
    The cooker is under a year old and within warranty.
    Who can report this dangerous cooker to does anyone know .
    I will be getting a replacement but I feel people need to know is this right .
    Or should I just get replacement and move on .

    It seriously endangered my family and I and being such a new machine I did not think it could be the cooker-but it was.

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hello Natalie. It’s hard to comment without knowing more details. For example, what did the engineer say had caused this carbon monoxide?

      There was at least one incident several years ago that killed 6 people :( However, the manufacturers said that the gas cooker had been operated with the grill on—but with the grill door closed. That was apparently explicitly warned against in the instruction manual. (Carbon monoxide warning – gas cooker)

      I don’t know what happened in that case, but as I pointed out in the article about it, if people could die from carbon monoxide poisoning if the grill door closes while the grill is on – how the hell is that even possible?

      Surely any gas cooker, that can cause fatal carbon monoxide poisoning if the grill door is closed, should have a safety cut-out designed into it? They have cut-outs on the glass lids for many years. I’ve seen many a gas cooker and hob with a glass lid, and if you close the glass lid while any of the gas hobs are lit, then the gas is instantly cut off. So the same should apply with a grill door.

      Please let me know exactly what caused your carbon monoxide leak.

      1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

        Hello Natalie. Since replying to you, I’ve had another person report a similar thing, and they said that their engineer told them that the carbon monoxide was definitely caused by an actual fault on the appliance. I’d previously only ever heard of carbon monoxide being caused by blockages in the flue, or by misuse, etc.

        So if your carbon monoxide incident is definitely caused by a fault on the gas cooker, then I believe that under the consumer rights act 2015 it is the retailer that is responsible because it has developed a serious fault.

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