Is manufacturer or retailer responsible for faulty appliances?
The 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.
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?
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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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.