Don’t let retailers fob you off with a 12 month guarantee

I recently read an article in the “Your Money” business section of the BBC website, entitled “Five consumer laws you really ought to know“, which confirmed other articles I had read about the Sale of Goods Act in the UK. Essentially goods have to be “fit for purpose”, so if there is an expectation goods should last six years, consumers more or less have a six year guarantee (there are exceptions!), regardless of whether or not the retailer and/or manufacturer is only offering a 12 month guarantee.

Logically, my thinking is that if retailers or manufacturers offer you an extended warranty on any product (usually an additional 2-4 years), I assume they do expect their products to last at least that long, or surely they would not take the risk of costly repairs and/or replacement, despite the fact they will have had some monies upfront if consumers do take up their “offer” of an extended warranty.

In an article published on the BBC’s business website on 14th April 2011 entitled “Extended warranties face study from OFT” it states that “Currently, retailers have to make it clear that buying an extended warranty is optional and not compulsory; that customers can have up to 30 days to buy the extra insurance cover; and that there is a 45-day cooling off period so they can change their mind after buying the warranty.”

The BBC also advises that if say you buy an MP3 player and it “breaks down precisely 366 days after you bought it. The large electronics firm that sold you the MP3 player says that because the one-year guarantee had elapsed, there’s nothing they can do to help you. You’ll just have to buy another one.”

However the truth under the Sale of Goods Act is that electronic goods like washing machines and MP3 players are “expected to last a long time”. The Sale of Goods Act says that your MP3 player must be fit for purpose.

“It must be as described. It must be of satisfactory quality, sufficiently durable, free from any defects,” says Dr Christian Twigg-Flesner, a consumer law expert at the University of Hull. According to the BBC’s business website “If you’ve ignored the manufacturer’s warnings and have been leaving the player out in direct sunshine and wearing it in the bath, then you probably haven’t got much of a case.”

“But if the player has been lovingly treated and has still conked out that suggests something may have been wrong with it at the very beginning. It works like this. For the first four-five weeks you have a “right of rejection” – if the item you’ve bought breaks down, you can demand a refund.”

“For the next six months, you are entitled to replacement or repair of the goods. It is up to the retailer to prove there was nothing wrong with it if they wish to get out of having to do the work. And then after six months, there is still a duty to replace or repair faulty goods, but the onus is on you, the consumer, to prove that there was something wrong.”

“And the key time span is six years. That’s how long goods may be covered by the Sale of Goods Act. It all depends on what “sufficiently durable” means. If a light bulb goes after 13 months, the consumer is not going to be overly gutted. If their washing machine goes after the same time span they are going to be livid.”

The government’s guidelines say: “Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description.”

“And be aware that if you go to the washing machine repairer, spend money attempting to diagnose an inherent fault, and find out you have been using it the wrong way, then you are going to be out of pocket.”

A key fact is that your relationship in the Sale of Goods Act is with the retailer, not the manufacturer.
“The retailer likes shepherding you off to the manufacturer,” says Dr Twigg-Flesner.

Hazlemere Window Company offers all its customers a robust ten year guarantee on all their aluminium and UPVC windows, doors and conservatories. Click here for details


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