My washing machine has broken and the guarantee has run out. What are my rights?

It is a common misapprehension, both on the part of customers and retailers, that if a washing machine or any other electrical goods for that matter, break down outside of the warranty period that the customer has no rights. That is not necessarily the case. The fact that a customer chose not to purchase an extended warranty will not deprive them of any rights they may have.

So what rights do I have if any?

The Sale of Goods Act 1979, as amended by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994, states that where a seller sells goods in the course of a business the goods sold must be of “satisfactory quality”.

The requirement for the goods to be of “satisfactory quality” will not, therefore, apply if the washing machine was purchased from a private seller.

What amounts to “satisfactory quality”?

The Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 states that “goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances”.

The Act provides a list of aspects of quality that may in appropriate cases be taken into account. These include fitness for purpose, safety and durability. A washing machine must, therefore, be capable of washing clothes if used in the normal way, safe and expected to last for a reasonable period of time.

A seller is not responsible for any faults which were drawn to the attention of the buyer before the goods were sold. For example in the case of the purchase of a washer dryer if the dryer did not function correctly at the time of the purchase and this was brought to the attention of the buyer then the buyer will have no rights in relation to the drying functions of the machine.

What if the washing machine I purchased was second hand or purchased in a sale?

If goods are purchased second hand or in a sale they are still required to be of “satisfactory quality”.

If the washing machine is not of “satisfactory quality” what are my rights?

If goods are not of “satisfactory quality” the buyer has the right to reject the goods. In exercising this right the buyer should, within a reasonable time of the fault arising, return the goods to the seller or ask the seller to collect them.

If a buyer rejects faulty goods they are entitled to their money back. If the buyer is an individual they can ask for the goods to be repaired or replaced instead. However, a seller will not be obliged to repair or replace goods if the cost of repairing or replacing the goods is too costly. In such circumstances the seller should offer a refund instead. If the goods are to be repaired or replaced the seller is required to repair or replace the goods within a reasonable period of time and without causing the buyer any significant inconvenience.

A buyer’s rights last for up to 6 years. That is not to say, however, that a washing machine is expected to last for 6 years.

What if the seller refuses to give me my money back or repair or replace the washing machine?

During the first 6 months since the purchase of goods it is for the seller to prove that the fault was not present when the goods were purchased. For this reason the seller of a washing machine will normally agree to a refund, repair or replacement where a washing machine breaks down within the first 6 months.

After 6 months it is for the buyer to prove that the goods were faulty when they were purchased. The buyer of a washing machine will, therefore, have to show that the fault was not caused by accidental damage for example. In some circumstances the buyer may need to obtain a report from an independent expert, for example some one whose business involves the repair of washing machines.

Ultimately if a refund, repair or replacement cannot be obtained it is open to a buyer to pursue a claim through the Courts. The County Court will in most cases be the Court where the claim should be made and shortly after the claim is made it will ordinarily, in the case of a dispute relating to a washing machine, be allocated to the Small Claims Track (commonly referred to as the Small Claims Court).

Who are my rights against?

A buyer’s rights are generally against the seller of the goods and not the manufacturer of the goods. However, if the goods were paid for under the terms of a credit agreement, the claim will normally be against the company who provided the credit.

If the goods were purchased using a credit card and the goods cost more than £100 the buyer will have a claim against both the seller and the credit card company.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.