Sharp consumer rights: Pensioner faces long battle to get broken new microwave fixed

Sometimes it’s the most seemingly routine matter that gets up people’s noses when anything they buy packs up shortly after they bought it.

By Richard Thomson
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 11:32 am

Streetwise continues to receive a steady stream of complaints from readers about companies leading them up a blind alley, failing to treat them fairly and left wrestling for months after complaining about goods that turn out to be faulty just days out of the box.

Despite it being 100 per cent nonsense, many are palmed off or believe defects with new goods are down to the manufacturer to get sorted under the terms of the product guarantee.

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Reader Soros Pepper had trouble with Sharp over a broken microwave Picture: Adobe stock image

Reader Soros Pepper believed it was the manufacturer when he bought a replacement Sharp microwave when his original one packed up after 10 years of reliable service.

The accompanying paperwork confirmed it was covered against defects by a one-year warranty.

However, a misunderstanding as to who was legally responsible for sorting flaws with faulty goods left him locked in a year long wrangle with Sharp’s UK technical support team.

The 90-year-old pensioner and former Emsworth electrical engineer, understandably believed the Sharp product guarantee adequately covered the dodgy microwave.

‘My original microwave had given many years of service, but it finally just went bang’ he explained, ‘so in January 2021 I had no hesitation in ordering a replacement from AO, the online electrical people.’

‘But there was a problem with it right from the start because the drive shaft didn’t fully engage with the turntable, so it kept jumping off the shaft during cooking.

‘The food was left in the same stationary position so parts of it got overheated and others underheated, leaving burnt in parts and uncooked in others. As far as I was concerned the oven wasn’t fit for purpose.’

He first notified Sharp about the fault within a fortnight of purchase, but relations didn’t get off to a promising start when three months later he still hadn’t received a response from their after-sales microwave support staff.

On emailing them to ask about a replacement they promptly issued him with a warranty activation code and asked for confirmation of purchase from AO.

But after another month passed without any further contact he chased them again, only to be told they were awaiting a replacement part to repair the appliance and apologised for the delay.

Subsequently relations nosedived when they doggedly insisted he sent them photographs of the defect to confirm the warranty claim.

Soros was baffled by the request and left them in no doubt that it was inexplicable. Not only did he lack the means and technical know-how to comply, insisting on a photograph of the defect was absurd because it wasn’t visible.

A further five months down the line his struggle for a working microwave was still no nearer a resolution.

However, Sharp customer service staff remained adamant, sending him a series of texts repeating they were unable to assist or supply the promised spare part to AO unless he sent them uploaded photographs confirming the defect.

Soros saw red with what he perceived was being hung out to dry for many months and a point-blank refusal to honour the guarantee. He was fuming about what he believed was a shameless shambles that left him frustrated and unable to resolve

With the 12-month warranty about to run out and feeling he was just going around in ever decreasing circles, he emailed Streetwise for help and advice.

We contacted Sharp’s UK assigned microwave technical support services company TMTI Ltd and alerted the AO dealership on his behalf. We asked them to investigate his issue.

We were concerned that from the very outset the penny hadn’t dropped with any of the Sharp support staff that Soros had been mistaken. No one appeared to have known the protracted unseemly wrangle was the inevitable result of widespread ignorance of their consumer rights.

But within 48 hours a contrite spokesperson for Sharp technical support team told us they’d been in touch with Soros and were profusely apologetic for the unseemly shambles. They had liaised with AO who had arranged to resolve the problem.

AO had no knowledge of the situation and had been kept in the dark, but commendably arranged to collect and replace the faulty microwave and refund the purchase price.

Their spokesperson said they hadn’t heard from Mr Pepper until the matter was brought to their attention.

‘Our customer care team have reached out to him to get the matter resolved as soon as possible,’ they said.

Soros said he was immensely relieved to see the end of the matter. ‘I can’t thank you enough for your help,’ he said.

Although he was barking up the wrong tree, Soros was just another victim who had contacted Streetwise about being led up a blind alley after complaining about faulty goods.

Consumer Champions ‘Which?’ identified the source of most misinformation about faulty goods as high street stores.

An undercover investigation revealed that despite it being unlawful to mislead consumers about their statutory rights, the majority of sales staff were completely clueless.

When asked about defective products, almost a quarter of those questioned insisted it was down to the manufacturer to deal with faulty products.

People were also erroneously told that once the manufacturer’s guarantee ran out there were no other options if the product became defective and turned out to be a dud.

A spokesperson for trading standards said: ‘Unfortunately a lot of people run into problems when trying to get a remedy for a faulty product.

‘Many just assume the warranties they are offered by a manufacturer or retailer are their only protection. This is not true, since their rights under the Consumer Rights Act are entirely separate to any warranty that comes with the product.

‘These rights apply for six years from the date of purchase and are also unrelated to the manufacturer’s warranty period.’