Cold comfort in faulty fridge
“ALL I want is what I bought in the first place – a fridge freezer that works,” a fed-up mum complained to Crusader after her hopes for a repair were dashed six times.
With a two-year guarantee for her £350 LG appliance and a 10-year one on the compressor part, Sally MacDonald felt reassured that she had ample cover when she made her purchase in September 2016. But a host of difficulties arose after it failed in July last year. “Basically it has been sitting empty and useless in my kitchen for months,” Sally told Crusader. While having guarantees undoubtedly protects most consumers, with a retailer and a manufacturer in the mix plus options for a cash refund or replacement, when faults occur the situation can be less straightforward than people realise. Sally’s situation was especially difficult. Her fridge freezer, which had received good independent reviews, suited her family kitchen. A like-for-like replacement was no longer possible and in her view the substitutes offered were not as good.
A refund was less attractive as prices had risen since she first purchased 22 months before from Currys online.
Because of her component cover, after the first breakdown Sally reported the problem to LG and a compressor fault was diagnosed. But then things got messy as repair appointments she made were either missed or cancelled.
An engineer did appear but didn’t have the right tools. Then in November a sixth appointment was cancelled by LG and she was told records showed her problem had been sorted.
Consumer rights regulations involve both the retailer and any manufacturer, so we highlighted Sally’s plight with LG and Currys and also asked solicitor Joanne Lezemore of advice site consumer-genie.co.uk. While products must be of satisfactory quality there is no set time as to how long goods should last although “generally speaking the reasonable person would expect a fridge freezer to last a lot longer than two years,” she said.
Any claim under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) is against the retailer, and claims can be brought for up to a period of six years after a sale. But due to the time Sally had owned her appliance it would be down to her to prove an inherent defect.
Retailers and manufacturers are not legally obliged to offer a warranty or guarantee, but a manufacturer’s one is legally binding. This means consumers can claim against the retailer, the manufacturer, or both.
A retailer cannot oblige a customer to rely on the warranty. “However, you can only claim under the warranty for what is covered – and very often, these do not offer the same level of protection and rights as afforded to consumers under the CRA,” warns Lezemore. According to Sally’s LG warranty, a repair or replacement is carried out at its discretion.
But if neither happened she would be entitled to be compensated for breach of warranty.
“Any refund can be reduced to take account of the amount of time a consumer has used the product,” adds Lezemore. “Courts would look at the actual financial loss suffered, but rarely take account of the time and inconvenience caused.”
With Crusader backing her, Sally elected to try for another repair appointment, and this time it did happen and the fridge freezer is on fine form again.
Currys, which did try to offer several alternatives, recognised the inconvenience Sally had experienced and as a goodwill gesture sent £100 to cover the value of the spoiled food.
“I felt so lost, but I am much happier with this outcome, your intervention was crucial,” she told Crusader.
SHELF LIFE: Fridge freezers should last longer