Much as businesses don’t really have ‘kill switches’ to shut down your property so you have to buy items all over again, the fact remains that from white goods to electronics, things just don’t last as long as they used to. Yet what’s even more frustrating is many of these goods are virtually impossible to repair. So to counter that, the ‘right to repair’ law has come into force, bringing us in line with the EU’s similar legislation.
The new rules – which applies to appliances bought from 1 July 2021 look to tackle issues of products deliberately being made so they break down after a certain period, encouraging consumers to buy replacements rather than seek for them to be fixed. They apply to white goods such as washing machines and fridges and goods such as lighting and televisions, but not smart phones or other tech devices.
Right to repair
The new rules have been introduced as part of the EU’s drive to make the things we use eco-friendlier and are part of a wider system of changes around energy efficiency. They set minimum ‘durability’ spans for items ranging from around seven to ten years. So in plain English, the items shouldn’t pack in within these times – and if they do, you have a right to repair.
Now all this sounds lovely, but nothing is ever perfect. It doesn’t mean ‘free’ repairs. Your product will still need to be within warranty or guarantee to ensure that. But even if you have to pay cash, the rules mean manufacturers must make sure that the goods have to be fixable using ‘commonly-available tools and without damaging the product’. They also have to make sure that spare parts and replacement bits are available to ‘professional repairers’.
What are your rights?
Of course, we’ve already had a number of rights already if your goods break, depending on when that happens and why.
The Consumer Rights Act (2015) says that you have 30 days from the date the goods were purchased to return the item if it’s faulty or isn’t as it was described. You’re entitled to a full refund if the goods are returned within 30 days.
Beyond that if goods are faulty you have up to six months to return the items – and the burden of proof is on the retailer to prove the item isn’t faulty. They are allowed to have one crack at a repair or replacing the item, but after that, you can ask for a refund.
Even over the six months, all is not lost, though you’ll need to prove why you didn’t realise the item was damaged or that the problem isn’t just down to wear and tear. Be prepared to compromise. You could be looking at a repair or a replacement – and if the product has been upgraded since, you aren’t entitled to the upgraded version.
Guarantees, warranties and service contracts
There are three main kinds of agreement you can get when you buy goods, to give you a bit of reassurance if they pack in or get damaged.
It’s not always easy to tell what agreement you have without looking at the small print on the bottom of the agreement but make sure you ask when you make the purchase.
Are you covered if things go wrong?
Most guarantees will cover you for between one and three years. These guarantees relate almost exclusively to faults or damage though and won’t cover you for theft, accidental damage or pets that like to destroy sofas.
So a guarantee is useful if you accept that it’s not going to cover everything. If the goods come with a guarantee, you might want to add them to your home insurance for additional cover, or wait till the guarantee is due to run out and add them later to save a bit of cash.
If you make a claim on a warranty, the underwriter of the contract will assess what’s happened and if it’s covered, they’ll pay out to repair or replace the item. Bear in mind that you’ll only get what you paid for, so if your warranty covers your iPhone 6 then you won’t get a lovely new iPhone X – you only get the cash to replace what is damaged or lost.
Now some warranties might not be worth the paper they’re written on, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost out. Just because the contract might be filled with vague terms and bonkers exclusions doesn’t mean it’s fair. And if it’s not fair, you can take things further.
The end of the machine mountains?
In recent years, teetering towers of fridges and washing machines have pricked at the conscience of many people. So the new rules should go some way towards turning back the tide on electronic waste. If goods covered by the new law do pack in, shop around to find the best quote for the repairs.
There are a range of websites bringing together local tradespeople or sharing recommendations for businesses. If you find someone who provides a great service, make sure you recommend them. And if something you own has given up the ghost once and for all, check your local council website to find out how you can recycle or dispose of it.
Resolver can help you sort out complaints about pretty much anything – so why not help a friend or relative sort out a problem, get a refund or make a claim. Raise your issue at www.resolver.co.uk