January 13, 2023 • By Dennis Beaver
It’s no secret that the lifespan of major household appliances has shrunk dramatically. At one time, you bought a washer and dryer combo and it would last well over 20 years. Today, you would be lucky to see those essential home appliances remain trouble-free for two.
In mid-2017, “Steve” and his wife, “Donna,” who reside in Southern California went shopping for a new washer-dryer, “Wanting high quality and a long warranty as we heard horror stories from people whose machines required expensive repairs days after the typical one-year warranty expired,” he said.
Asked Credible Local Appliance Dealer for Recommendations
“We were customers for over 40 years of a family-owned appliance dealer who recommended an American made, commercial-grade, top-loader washing machine that, in his opinion, was the best on the market. It came with a promotional warranty that ran for several years. We took delivery on July 3, 2017.
Performed Great for over Three Years and then Flooded
“For three and a half years, it worked beautifully, until one day, we returned home from shopping to find our laundry room covered by a substantial amount of water caused by overfilling that was confirmed by service technician ‘Drew’ sent out by the manufacturer.”
Thus began “One of the most frustrating experiences we have ever had in obtaining effective warranty service as it was an intermittent problem. The washer would fill correctly on multiple occasions, and then, randomly over-fill, spilling water all over our laundry room floor,” he explained.
An Exercise in Part Changing
Over the course of about a year and half, Drew returned to the couple’s home trying to repair the washing machine, including:
(1) Changing a water pressure sensor.
(2) Replacing the washing machine motor.
(3) Installing new top tub seal rings.
(4) Changing the auto-fill value twice.
(5) Installing a new idler pulley and belt kit.
At least nine service visits were made in an effort to repair the couple’s washing machine, without success. But this was not some phantom problem, as my reader discovered “several online, identical complaints about the same washing machine model from customers all over the country.”
What Should Have Happened?
I phoned appliance dealers across the country who carry the same make of washing machine asking, “What should the dealer and manufacturer do in a similar situation when it is clear they can’t repair their own product?”
Steve Sheinkopf, 20 years as CEO of family-owned Yale Appliance in Boston, MA had no sympathy for the dealer: “You took their money. You made a profit on the transaction. Now, take care of your customer. Whether you have a service department or not, somebody has to help the customer.
“When it was clear early on that the technician could not repair the washer, the dealer and manufacturer should have replaced the machine. The couple were sold a defective washing machine and this had to be remedied,” he underscored.
In every instance but one, appliance dealers across the United States and Canada told me they would take ownership of the problem, and replace the customer’s washer with a new one, given the long warranty.
What Did the Manufacturer Say
I emailed the manufacturer’s general counsel and asked that someone get involved and remedy Steve’s problem, which had not been successfully dealt with while the washing machine was under warranty.
No response – never got a commitment from them to do the right thing, but Steve received an email from “R” in customer service which stated in so many words, “Your warranty has expired. Tough!”
A Manufacture ignores Legal Obligations at its Peril
While there are variations in state consumer protection laws, the manufacturer of an appliance under warranty can’t just say, “Oh, too bad, your warranty has expired,” as, in most cases, a warranty is automatically extended until the item is repaired or:
(1) A refund is offered, or;
(2) The unit is replaced.
The consequences of non-compliance can be costly, under the Magnusson-Moss federal consumer protection act including suit by a local district attorney or attorney general, and significant financial penalties awarded, not to mention class action lawsuits.
Discussing Steve’s Problem
I emailed “R” and the company’s General Counsel, saying, “It is only fair that I get your side of this issue for my article, so let’s set up a time for an interview.”
No reply, but Steve received a confidential settlement agreement in which the manufacturer would refund his purchase price in addition to tax, and delivery charges.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.