How long is anything you buy meant to last? Only as long as the guarantee, according to Asda’s customer care bosses.
That was news to Barry Bodman after he locked horns with the supermarket’s customer care team to complain about a pressure washer which he was only able to use once before it was ready for the dump.
She simply relayed the message to the person I’d been talking to and basically told me to go away. That’s what got my back upBarry Bodman
Last year, the 72-year-old popped into his local Gosport store and saw a stack of pressure washers on offer at £49.99 and thought they were a good buy.
After buying one, Barry used it and then put it in his garage after ensuring he complied with the storage instructions. He thought no more about it until he went to use it again this summer.
It was then that Barry discovered the Chinese-made washer was faulty. The machine’s water connections sprang a leak, preventing it from building up any pressure.
Barry was gutted when he realised that his outdoor cleaning kit was only fit for a one-off wash.
Despite it being out of guarantee, he decided to ring Asda’s customer service department to ask what it was prepared to do about it.
It suggested he spoke to the store manager, who might be able to help.
Barry said: ‘Two days later I went to Gosport Asda and spoke to the customer services people. They phoned the manager who basically said “tough”.
‘It was just their attitude. I didn’t expect my money back or anything like that. I was quite happy to give them £20 and maybe they’d replace it. The thing that really annoyed me was the manager didn’t even have the courtesy to come and talk to me. She simply relayed the message to the person I’d been talking to and basically told me to go away. That’s what got my back up.’
Barry didn’t want to take the defective machine to the tip until he knew precisely where he stood and asked for our advice.
We told him that a manufacturer’s guarantee was an addition to any legal right to a replacement or repair, but it was frequently used by many wily retailers to try to limit redress to the guarantee period.
However, had he used the washer a few times within the first six months of buying it the defect may have come to light earlier. In such circumstances Asda would have been legally obliged to repair or replace it.
But an angry Barry believed the firm was wrong when he was told he had to fork out for an expert to give it the once-over and report on the likely cause of the premature failure. The cost could amount to more than he’d paid for it.
We contacted Asda and told it we considered Barry had been short-changed. The plain fact was the machine just wasn’t up to the job. We reminded the company that the law was quite explicit about the satisfactory quality of anything it sold to customers. Products not only had to be fit for purpose, but of sufficient quality to last for a reasonable period of time after purchase.
If Barry knew when he parted with his money the washer was only meant to last until the guarantee ran out, he wouldn’t have bought it.
The supermarket’s response was disappointing. It insisted on taking the somewhat curious line that although it wasn’t disputing the product was faulty, it was up to Barry to prove it before Asda would take it further. The company pointedly ducked out of answering our claim this was an unnecessary hurdle because the washer clearly hadn’t stayed the course.
We pressed Asda again to answer this charge, but it refused to budge.
A spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused to Mr Bodman, and if he can supply us with an engineer’s report we’ll be happy to investigate this further.’
Despite our intervention, Barry was resigned to the fact that Asda was prepared to use its dominant position to give him the runaround.
As far as he was concerned, it had got too big for its boots and its promise to customers to save them money and live better had a very hollow ring. Barry said: ‘I’ve bought a number of non-food items from Asda in the past including digital boxes and a sound bar, but my attitude to them now is they can forget it.’