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

  1. Christine Castleman

    Hi all, my Daughter purchased a Samsung American Fridge/Freezer BS53K4400BBC costing £699 for me in March 2017 for delivery in April 2017. On the 8th January 2020 it suddenly stopped working, resulting in all the food being ruined. As you can imagine it was full because I’d bought too much food for Christmas! I contacted Samsung first and they kept me waiting 4 days before telling me there was nothing they would do to help. My Son pointed me to the Which page and I then contacted Currys, stating that the goods were not fit for purpose. They said I had to pay £179 for their know-how team to come out and try and repair it. The engineer said it could be one of two things which he would order and another engineer came out within a few days to try to repair it. He said it wasn’t either of the things they thought it was, i.e heater or circuit board. He said it was an internal encased fault that they couldn’t repair and it was unrepairable, and he would have his report in to the office the next day. Currys refunded me the £179 for the engineers call out as the problem was a Manufacturing fault. They have now offered me £228 as a settlement which doesn’t even cover the cost of the wasted food. There is no way I can afford to purchase a like for like fridge/freezer for that money. Has anyone else had a similar problem with Samsung? In America and Canada Samsung have had to repay customers over a $1000000. Am I entitled to ask for more money that £228 as the fault was obviously there when I purchased it. below is a copy of the Samsung discussion group in America Facebook page
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  2. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    I’m pretty sure you can claim for spoiled food. In legal terms it’s called “consequential loss”. However, you would need to provide proof of the loss such as photos, a video and or sales receipts. Under UK consumer law you should be able to claim from the retailer, not the manufacturer. £700 for an appliance that didn’t even last 3 years is completely unacceptable. A fridge should easily last 10 years or more. A refund would need to take into account that you’ve had some of that expected time already so they would be likely to offer a reduced amount but £228 is equivalent to saying they think it has lasted well over half as long as expected.

  3. Bough an indestructible washing machine direct from whirlpool UK
    4weeks after manufactures warranty (12months ) expired the appliance starts leaking when 3/4 – full load
    Spoke to whirlpool customer services eventually today 28/08/20
    It’s out of warranty a call out for an engineer is £100 or you can buy an extended warranty

  4. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Hello Peter. Just because it is out of warranty, especially only just, it doesn’t mean you have no rights. Unfortunately the retailer and the manufacturer will always tell consumers that once the guarantee has expired there is absolutely nothing you can do. This is completely untrue. However, only the retailer has any obligation, so forget about the manufacturer.

    As far as the manufacturer is concerned it is out of its warranty and they have no consumer obligations whatsoever. Unfortunately the poor retailer who sold it is the one who has the legal consumer rights as discussed in my article faulty appliances and the consumer rights act 2015

    This article also explains about consumer rights that extend beyond the manufacturers guarantee out of guarantee even by a long time doesn’t always mean you have to pay for a repair

    Having said that, retailers hate having to suffer financially because the manufacturer didn’t make a product well enough, so they will usually resist. The only thing I can suggest is that you remind the retailer that under the consumer rights act 2015 you have a right to a free repair or compensation if your appliance has not lasted a reasonable time, or has not been made to a high enough standard for the money that it cost. The latter can be difficult if it is a budget washing machine, but even a budget washing machine should last longer than just over a year before breaking down unless it is doing excessive washing.

    If the retailer refuses to comply you would have only the option to take consumer advice from somewhere like citizens advice (or Which? Why subscribe to Which?) who may contact the retailer on your behalf if you have a strong case. This all of course is assuming that there is a genuine fault on the washing machine that would normally have been covered under the guarantee.

  5. I bought a Manhattan TV Box from Currys for £170 September 2020 it has now stopped working. I phoned Manhattan up and after they went through checks they said it was broken, they said to take it back to Currys. Should Currys replace it as i do want another one or can they say to send it back to Manhattan. Only had it 4 months

  6. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Hello Gloria. Within the first six months if a fault develops it is deemed to have been faulty when it was sold. It’s what is known as an inherent fault. Unless the retailer can prove otherwise they have broken the consumer rights act contract by selling you a faulty product and should ideally replace it. More details in this article how to get faulty appliance replaced

  7. Great site and good advice Andy but I feel obliged to counter the now all-too familiar criticism of consumers’ “obsession” with cheap appliances. If paying more were any sort of guarantee all well and good but it isn’t. Far from it in fact with even ‘top brand’ manufacturers moving to China. In a manufacturing race to the bottom in terms of quality what choice has the consumer got but to buy cheap and buy twice when he knows that doing so will STILL work out cheaper than going for a Miele? A good comparison in fact, because what people haven’t sensed yet is that Miele’s reputation derives entirely from ruthless exploitation of the ‘German engineering’ myth. Unfortunately those ten or twenty year ‘tested to destruction’ guarantees mean nothing. Have a look at the company’s TrustPilot ratings. Their after sales service is shocking. Only buyers needing to get something fixed understand how they’ve been duped by the relentless tide of propaganda and by then it’s too late. I wouldn’t put too much faith in consumer sites either if I were you, most of which (including the increasingly compromised Which?, which has been letting money go to its head in recent years) remain happily under the Miele spell. People pine for Miele products, thinking it would solve their problems if only they had the money to spend on something better. They’re day dreaming of things they’re actually better off without in many instances. Read the horror stories. The arrogance is breathtaking. It’s enough to make you fall in love with a Fridgemaster. :)

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