Should we take the retailer to court over appliance that broke after just three years?
Three years ago we bought a fridge-freezer from John Lewis. It has now developed a fault which the repairers say will cost more than the unit cost in the first place. A quick web search suggests that fridge-freezers should last well over 10 years, but John Lewis will only offer us a half-price replacement. Do we have a case for taking them to the small claims court? AW, Worthing, West Sussex
Frankly, it’s unlikely to be worth it. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 gives you up to six years to complain about faulty goods, but that’s merely a maximum time-limit for valid complaints – it doesn’t mean an appliance has to last six years. If a fault develops more than six months after purchase, the onus is on you to prove that the item was inherently faulty when you bought it and has not been damaged subsequently by misuse or wear and tear. Three years on, this could be tricky and you might have to pay for an expert report to make your case.
Sometimes traders are willing to go halves on such a report, or, if they are members of a trade association, there might be an arbitration service that can provide an expert examination, with the “loser” picking up the tab.
Moreover, given that the machine has presumably worked well for three years, the retailer is allowed to take into account the period of use you’ve had when calculating compensation. Luckily, John Lewis, anxious to polish its halo for a headline, has now agreed with the manufacturer to supply a replacement free of charge.
If you need help email Anna Tims at [email protected] or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number. Please note: Anna will not be able to respond to letters individually.
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