Consumer advice - washing machine repairs
- My repair company only gives a 3 month guarantee on repairs. Is this reasonable / Challengeable?
- If I take time off work and an engineer doesn't turn up, can I claim compensation?
- My (under guarantee) washing machine repair company can't send an engineer until next Wednesday and it's Thursday - can they do this?
- The repair company say the washing machine fault is not covered under the guarantee and I have to pay
My repair company only gives a 3 month guarantee on repairs. Is this reasonable / challengeable?
Some larger repair companies only give a very poor 3 month guarantee on a washing machine repair, which doesn't show much confidence in either the repair or the parts fitted. The point to remember here is that a guarantee on a repair should be little different to a guarantee when buying a new washing machine. That is, it is in addition to your statutory rights. The guarantee on the repair is just a goodwill gesture by the repair company - but it cannot take away your statutory rights, which can be enforced if necessary.
If you paid to have a new part fitted to your washing machine, and the repair company only gave you a 3 (or even 6) month guarantee, and the motor failed after 8 months you could probably argue that it wasn't fit for its purpose and did not last for a "reasonable" time. Within the first 6 months, it may also be possible to argue that the motor had an inherent fault under the new 2002 consumer rights addition (applicable since March 2003) which says if a new product goes faulty within 6 months of purchase, it is assumed that the part must have been inherently faulty from the day of purchase.
The same "merchantable quality" and lasting a "reasonable time" rules that apply to buying a new washing machine should also apply to new washing machine parts. The problems arise when an engineer at your house says, sorry, it's out of guarantee now. If you believe a part has not lasted a reasonable time then you ought to be able to get it replaced. If the repair company refuse, you will need to consider taking them to a small claims court, or getting further advice from a consumer group.
[ Related advice and research: Which? Consumer Rights (external links) 1 month trial offer available to access full reports and all other online consumer help.Go to top of page
If I take time off work and their engineer doesn't turn up can I claim compensation?
My understanding is that yes you can, under certain circumstances. It's up to you to decide whether to accept a fair and reasonable explanation though, these things do happen and we can't be all suing each other for compensation each time. Most of the time it is the engineers who turn up as arranged, and it's the customer who is not in and they don't always charge. However, if they threatened to charge you if you aren't in when their engineer arrives, then surely the same rule should apply to them?
You should ideally inform the company when booking the call that you are taking time off work. In written contracts there is a legal clause, which uses the phrase, "time is of the essence", when used, it's considered a breach of the contract if tasks aren't completed by the stated dates. Although booking a washing machine repair engineer is rarely done in writing, the law still considers such an arrangement by telephone as a verbal contract and if the engineer fails to turn up they have broken that contract. If, as a result, you have lost out financially or been substantially inconvenienced you may be able to claim compensation.
Some large companies may even have customer pledge policies covering this eventuality and promising to pay compensation where they promise to compensate their customers under certain circumstances if they let them down. It may be worth checking if such a policy, or customer service pledge exists.
Ultimately almost all repair companies will refuse to offer any compensation. If you want to pursue it you should contact Consumer Direct to seek their advice. You may need to take the company to the small claims court if you are determined. Please contact me if you have any experience or professional knowledge about this issue so I can more accurately advise others in the future.
I've found this (pdf) leaflet Problems with Goods and Services: Your legal rights which covers this very topic. It says -
"What if someone breaks an appointment to come to my home?
If a service provider misses an appointment for a certain day, they have broken their agreement with you. You may be able to claim compensation if you had to take a day off work, for example. However, this would depend on whether you told the trader this when you made the appointment."
This statement implies you can only claim compensation if you told them you would be taking time off work when making the appointment, which seems ridiculous (although I did specifically mention this in my original article above). First of all, how can you prove you told them? Secondly, why should you only be entitled to compensation for genuine losses if you happened to have researched and found out this clearly obscure caveat? All common sense dictates to me that all you should need to be able to show is that you did take time off work to be able to claim compensation. Surely there can't be a rule that says companies can break their appointments and cause customers financial loss with impunity because they didn't say the magic words?
However, as we all know common sense doesn't always figure in rules. You need to take advice from consumer groups to sort this out if you didn't tell them when making the appointment that you will be taking time off work. I have a feeling this could and should be irrelevant but proper advice needs to be taken from places like Consumer Direct before acting on either my, or your own feelings.
My (under guarantee) washing machine repair company can't send an engineer until next Wednesday and it's Thursday - can they do this?
If you were free to choose your own washing machine repairer, you would almost certainly not book an engineer with a company making you wait so long. With washing machines under guarantee, or covered by maintenance contracts and extended warranties, you are often a captive customer. If most of their customers could go anywhere else, these repair companies would quickly go bust. Many people are unaware that the standard of service received through an extended warranty or guarantee can be quite poor (depending who carries out the repairs) If it's a big national company or manufacturer, they can make you wait days or even over a week for an appointment.
If you have a washing machine under the manufacturers initial guarantee you cannot go elsewhere, but with extended warranties, check the small print to see if you can use a local independent repair company. Which? have usually found that independent repair companies routinely give better service than large national ones. Also check the small print for any promises from the repair policy that an engineer will visit within so many days. The relevant consumer rights here is that, service work must be "finished in a reasonable time". You may argue that waiting for a week, without a washing machine (if the washing machine is unusable) is unreasonable.
You can research Which? Consumer Rights (What do I get when I take a trial?) immediately (not just about washing machines) and benefit from their highly respected opinions and experience of consumer issues. Also receive the Which? magazine as part of trial.Go to top of page
The repair company say the washing machine fault is not covered under the guarantee and I have to pay
In my experience as an engineer working on washing machines under a manufacturer's guarantee, as many as 50% of all calls may be to faults not covered by the guarantee. The most common by far is obstructions from items (usually coins) left in pockets blocking the pump. Under these circumstances, an engineer is entitled to or even expected to charge the customer. Often they will get commission on all money collected as an incentive. Examples of such calls are listed here Is the washing machine really faulty?
In practice, a substantial percentage of customers do get away with these false guarantee calls for the following reasons -
- The engineer doesn't want the hassle and stress of a potential argument so he makes something up which is covered
- The company has a goodwill policy of not charging (usually for first incident only) This is much more likely if you bought the washing machine from the company who have sent out the engineer
- The customer has an extended warranty policy, which covers "accidental" damage and the fault (coins left in pockets) comes under this cover
- It can't be proved that the customer is to blame
- The engineer can't find a fault and just puts down something for the paperwork
- The customer is using the washing machine incorrectly or doesn't understand certain aspects of it and the engineer just advises them (goodwill again)
There is no guarantee you would not be charged though. If you negligently leave coins inside pockets and damage the washing machine you can't logically argue you should not be charged. If you don't read the instruction book properly why should a company pay for an engineer to come out and educate you? It's worth remembering that engineers can earn commission on all chargeable work and some are not afraid to charge.
Are you covered by your house contents insurance? Coins can virtually write off many modern washing machines because they can punch through the plastic outer tub resulting in a repair bill that may be very uneconomical. If your washing machine has been damaged by coins, you may find the repair company want to charge you as this clearly isn't covered under the washing machine's guarantee. If you took out an extended repair warranty, then you may be covered for accidental damage (check the small print). If not, and you have household insurance that covers accidental damage you may be able to claim from that policy.Go to top of page
More on next column...
All information is meant to be fair and balanced. All advice is given in good faith and without liability, and is meant as a general guideline only. With consumer issues, always double check advice using the free Government & consumer group's literature as well.
Related consumer advice
Consumer advice on Washerhelp is written to specifically relate to washing machines but should equally apply to other products and services.
Which? have lots of consumer related advice and researchWhich? are a not for profit consumer group and a registered charity and have a website where you can research immediately online (not just washing machines) and benefit from their highly respected opinions and experience of consumer issues. ( Which? Consumer Rights (Which? consumer advice 1 month trial offer available)
The Department of Trade & Industry have produced a downloadable (pdf) guide - for traders. It's very useful to see because it's what the sellers (should) go by.