When Nicky Holland read that her Hotpoint tumble dryer, bought from the Co-op just 11 months earlier, was a potential fire risk, she was determined not to be left in a spin.
Nicky was just one of the 5.3m customers who own Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline appliances which brand owner Whirlpool warned could be dangerous as they allow fluff to build up against the heating element.
The 37-year-old self-employed asthmatic from Old Portsmouth decided she needed a condenser tumble dryer after the birth of her son to help cope with the increased volume of damp laundry around her flat.
She was worried at having the dryer in her home and by what could have happened if it had spontaneously caught light while she was otherwise distracted with her toddler and not in the kitchen watching it.
She said: ‘My mum ordered the £250 Hotpoint dryer online from the Co-op, but when I kept hearing things about them I went to the website, put in the model and serial numbers and found I had one of the models affected.
‘As my mum paid for it by credit card and I knew about Consumer Credit Act refunds for faulty goods, we went down that route. We were told that as Hotpoint was offering a repair the bank wasn’t prepared to take it any further.’
Nicky was sick at the way she was treated when she demanded a refund, and quickly decided she wasn’t going to take the matter lying down.
Having drawn a blank with the bank, she decided to get on to Hotpoint via its Facebook page and give the firm a piece of her mind.
To her annoyance, she was given the same official line.
There was no question of a refund or free replacement for the defective dryers because they hadn’t been recalled and there was a repair programme in place.
She could either book an appointment and wait months to have it repaired, or buy a replacement dryer for £99. The machines were perfectly safe to use provided they were not left unattended.
Fed up to the back teeth with being messed around and determined not to spend any more money, Nicky decided to e-mail Streetwise to confirm her statutory rights.
She reasoned the defective dryer couldn’t be fit for purpose if she had to babysit it to ensure it wasn’t about to burst into flames.
We assured her that she was legally entitled to her money back from the Co-op or a new replacement if Hotpoint was unable to repair it within a reasonable time. She was clearly being inconvenienced to an unacceptable degree if she had to keep an eye on it while in use or wait months to have it repaired.
Armed with our reassurance, Nicky decided to carry the battle direct to the Co-op. It sold her the dryer and was therefore legally responsible for sorting the problem out.
But when she e-mailed customer services about her complaint, she was given another version of the same but apparently orchestrated knockback. A manager told her they weren’t in a position to collect the appliance for a refund or exchange, but to contact Hotpoint to book a service call.
All they were prepared to do was log her details and keep in touch should the situation change.
However, they hadn’t bargained on Nicky’s determined fight to stand up for her rights. She promptly e-mailed them back and insisted her issue was escalated to a higher level.
She copied over the Streetwise reply about where she stood with the faulty dryer they originally sold her.
She insisted that although Hotpoint had offered a repair solution, the timescale to fix it wasn’t reasonable. It was legally obliged to refund her or replace the potentially dangerous machine.
The Co-op’s initial response was to contact Hotpoint for her and bring the repair appointment forward.
But with the accelerated appointment still some weeks away, Nicky was having none of it.
After her determined stand, it wasn’t long before the Co-op persuaded Hotpoint to change its tune.
Nicky received the news she was waiting for and the battle was finally won.
Hotpoint cancelled the repair arrangement and arranged to uplift her faulty dryer and replace it with a new machine immediately after the Easter holiday.
Nicky told us she’d discovered that many people who had the faulty dryers were being urged to make a stand and insist the retailer replace them.
‘It now sounds like a lot of people are getting a replacement if they insist on not accepting the repair,’ she said.
‘Some people are being told they won’t be getting a repair until January 2017.
‘Whirlpool will stick to its official line, so people must say they’re not happy with a repair.
‘They should keep saying they’re not prepared to put up with it.’