Consumer Rights

mf6AI0QUPDATE Some time ago I read an article that has been a very useful source of reference and contained information about my rights which has saved me money over the years. I was reminded of it when I read a similar article the other day and felt I should share it. Since writing this piece I have been in dispute with a very well-known high street retailer over a mid priced washing machine that I bought 2 1/2 years ago. It stopped working, so I contacted them and was immediately referred to the fact that it was out of guarantee. I discussed the issue of consumer rights and was politely told that they would pay half the cost of the repair as a gesture of goodwill but that I had got the Consumer Rights Act wrong.. They gave me the contact numbers of Indesit and I was told that I should contact them. I got the repair done and then went back to the store with the receipt and report of what the engineer had done. Again the same dance ensued but it became clear that I was not going away so easily. The section manager disappeared to copy the paper work and came back to say that they would refund the whole bill again merely as a gesture of goodwill.

It is interesting because although I hadn't said so I was prepared not to accept the half paymeny they had suggested but instead go to the small claims court to test the arguments I have set out below. I can only assume, not that I was wrong, but they have been trained to fob you off as best they can as most customers will accept a donation. I can't blame them because if everybody realised their right it would cost them quite a lot. The most important thing is to speak quietly and not to lose your temper.

How many times have you bought a new house appliance or electrical equipment and been advised to buy the product insurance alongside to protect you from the possibility of failure after the usual one year guarantee has past. I never do because I know my rights and that the one year guarantee is something of a sleight of hand. It is easy to be fobbed off by High St stores who will deny you your legal rights to have faulty goods repaired beyond that one year period. In a recent piece of research of 60 stores and outlets who were contacted about faulty goods just out of their guarantee period only staff in 16 of them accepted that they still had a responsibility to resolve the problem.

The truth is that the Sale of Goods Act 1979 gives consumers limited protection for up to six years after purchase, regardless of store or manufacturers warranties. The Act says that goods must be of satisfactory quality , fit for purpose and meet its description.That means that if it develops a fault at a time in its life when this should not happen then your are entitled to expect the retailer to resolve the problem by either a no-cost repair or replacement. The caveat to this is that the failure must not have occurred as a result of misuse. Essentially you ask yourself the question - Is it reasonable for me to expect a longer working life for this piece of equipment? The general rule is that most hardy manufactured products can be expected to last for 6 years. Furthermore the retailer has to effect a solution in a reasonable length of time and without undue inconvenience.

However, most stores will deny your rights partly because they are unaware of them and partly because they do not wish to enter into time consuming and possibly costly negotiations. Nevertheless you maybe asked to prove that failure of the product was due to inherant manufacturing fault. This is not quite so easy if faced with a persistent denial. My first approach has been one of reasonableness. If that fails then some kind of report from a recognised engineer usually dies the trick. I would always put my course of action together with associated costs that I might incur in writing to the company.

I had one such case with Curry's a while ago when my camera stopped working after almost 2 years. It was one year out of its store guarantee period. Sure enough the shop assistance gave me the line " it is out of its guarantee and there is nothing we can do" I very politely pointed out the error of his ways and escalated the complaint to regional/national levels. In the end I sent the camera back to Cannon who sent me a letter confirming that it was a manufacturing fault. To be fair to Curry's they agreed to supply me with a new camera which was a very satisfactory solution. The message is "Be polite but insistent upon your rights and never bother with product insurance"

As a postscript I heard on Radio 4 this week that very few people relealise that you have the same protection for lost and stolen goods when using your Visa Debit Card as you do with your Visa Credit Card. Apparently, many staff working for banks that issue your card, also do not realise that you have the cover. This only applies to Visa cards not others.

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