It’s all about cash, not good customer service

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q. I had a Hotpoint/Indesit kitchen extractor with lights fitted. The lights burned out. The service department insisted the bulbs had failed and threatened me with a bill for £105 if an engineer replaced them. I replaced them and they failed again. An engineer finally diagnosed a switch or transformer fault and I had to take a day off work when he returned to fit the appropriate parts. Indesit say they won’t pay for my lost wages. Where do I stand please?

BB (internet)

A. The market for white goods is seriously competitive, and in a roundabout way you’ve put your finger on appliance manufacturers’ latent determination to cut corners with aftercare service.

These days, aftercare service is part of a process of making additional money to pump up wafer thin profit margins. Frankly it’s a joke.

To profit driven managers, stocks of spare parts represents wasted money sitting idly on their shelves.

Engineers driving around with vanloads of spares in order to provide a prompt, efficient, comprehensive service to customers is not the name of the game. Instead they keep their engineer’s van stock levels of parts to the barest minimum of frequently used components.

When an engineer turns up only to find he need a spare part that’s not part of his limited van stock, he has to place an order with a central spares depot and book another appointment to finish the job.

Providing an efficient service to you, the customer, is the last thing on tightfisted bosses minds.

From a strictly legal point of view, I have no hesitation in saying many white goods service departments sail very close to the wind in failing to provide a competent repairs service at a reasonable cost, within a reasonable time.

Customers should not routinely be kept waiting around losing earnings while hapless hamstrung engineers faff around obtaining parts.

There will always be occasions where a major product component unexpectedly fails. Manufacturers cannot be expected to ensure engineers carry spares to meet every contingency. But that should be the exception rather than the rule.

I understand you’ve been given the brush off by defensive Hotpoint/Indesit service managers. But don’t take no for an answer.

You thoughtfully told their service department you’d already eliminated bulb failure with the product their company eagerly sold you, and you don’t expect to be dipping your hand in your pocket to pay for second rate service. Bill them for you lost wages and the cost of the replacement bulbs.

Q. I’ve just had a new fridge freezer delivered and noticed a scratch on one side. Can I reject it for a full refund?

CC (internet)

A. That will depend on just how bad and unsightly the scratch is. The 1979 Sale of Goods Act (as amended) requires all goods to be of ‘satisfactory quality’. Part of that quality definition is that they should be free from major or minor defects.

A very small scratch will probably not enable you to legally reject the goods and ask for your money back.

SMALL PRINT

Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. Wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.