Buy an LCD TV and you expect that it will last five or six years if not longer. So it was disappointing to realise that a TV I’d bought as a gift for someone back at Christmas 2007 had stopped working.
Like most electrical goods, TVs tend to come with a one year warranty from the manufacturer. But just because it breaks down outside the warranty – in this case 18 months after purchase – doesn’t mean to say you have no right of redress.
The Sale of Goods Act (and associated legislation) offers consumers some protection. The Department of Business Innovation & Skills website sums it up in their fact sheet.
Now you can’t take this as legal advice as it’s only my personal reading of various sites and information, but goods bought must “conform to contract” and be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. For up to six years after purchase (five in Scotland) purchasers can request their money back (“damages”) from the retailer (not the manufacturer) “within a reasonable time”. Now that’s not to say that all items are built to last six years. So a “reasonable person” would accept that shoes have a much shorter life.
But a TV is meant to be a durable item. And if it fails after 18 months, it might be reasonable to suggest that the failure was a weakness in manufacturing, a substandard component that later failed. The "fault" may not become apparent immediately but it was there at the time of sale and so the product was not of satisfactory standard.
So I wandered into Argos this morning, set the TV down on the counter along with the remote and its receipt, and explained that it was no longer working, was outside its one year warranty but well under the normal expected lifetime, and asked if I could have a repair or refund under the Sale of Goods Act.
All very calm. No challenge. No quibbling. Receipt checked, passed to a colleague who said that since the TV had worked ok for one year (out of its six year life expectancy), he’d offer a five sixths refund. Just like that.
Now reading the fact sheet more carefully tonight, perhaps Argos still got one over on me by giving the refund in the form of a credit note rather than as cash? Or by not offering repair or replacement, but defaulting to damages instead. Difficult to tell – but anyone reading this post from the Northern Ireland Consumer Council or Trading Standards is very welcome to comment or email me the answer!
Until a couple of days ago, I’d no idea that there was any course of redress beyond a manufacturer’s guarantee. A single case was highlighted in the Daily Mail and Radio Five recently – also involving a TV. But reading through material on the local Consumer Line website, I was surprised to find that although there are mentions of “the time set by the guarantee is not necessarily reasonable”, it is less than clear or consistently explained across their wealth of consumer advice.
Seems that there’s an EU directive 1999/44/EC which states that “a two-year guarantee applies for the sale of all consumer goods everywhere in the EU. In some countries, this may be more, and some manufacturers also choose to offer a longer warranty period.” The EU directive does not require the buyer to show the fault is inherent in the product and not down to their actions. However, there seem to be large variances in how the EU directive has been incorporated into individual country legislation.
My challenge to the NI Consumer Council would be to tidy up their consumer advice and incorporate the implications of the EU Directive and examples of what people should state when seeking redress into their material as soon as possible.
Anyway, thank you Argos for being straightforward.
Just for completeness: when the TV owner walked into a local independent retailer to ask if TVs could still be repaired, they were told it would be out of warranty, TV workshops had closed down, and promptly sold a new one (at least twice the spec though still missing key features of the original and "a bargain" at twice the price).
They were also told that digital switchover in Northern Ireland has been postponed until 2014 ... which is complete rubbish!
But when we returned the TV and explained that it was an unnecessary (due to ability to ask original retailer for repair) and inappropriate (less/more function than required) sale, they did offer a full refund.