Choice finds that product warranties ‘discourage’ repairs or replacements

Jul 20, 2021
A consumer group is pushing for product warranties to be clear and give consumers an idea of how long the item should last. Source: Getty

We all know things don’t last the way they used to and repairing broken products seems to be a thing of the past, but a consumer group says clearer warranty guidelines and a “minimum expected durability rating” would help consumers know exactly how long an item should last and what they’re entitled to.

Household appliances once lasted up to 20 years, now often break after just five years of use and repairing these products has become even more difficult with many manufacturers making it so products can only be repaired in their specialty stores rather than at home or at local repair shops. The result is that often it’s cheaper to buy a new product than repair the old one, perpetuating our throwaway culture as people choose to buy cheaper appliances more often.

Choice surveyed 6,571 earlier this year and found that most people who had an issue with a product never tried to get a remedy, asking members specifically about TVs, washing machines, microwaves and lawnmowers. The data showed that only 24 per cent of people with washing machine issues tried to get a remedy, 15 per cent for TVs, 19 per cent for microwaves and 18 per cent for lawnmowers.

People were asked why they hadn’t attempted to get a remedy and the most common answer (31 per cent) was because the product was past its warranty period.

Last month, The Productivity Commission released a draft report with proposed changes to make it easier for Australians to get products repaired, following a review of the right to repair in Australia. The commission is proposing that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provide a minimum expected durability rating for products which would give consumers an idea of how long the product should last and their rights to get the product repaired or replaced.

According to The Guardian, Erin Turner, Choice’s director of campaigns, said during a live hearing of the report that warranties on products were discouraging people from getting a product repaired and warned consumers to be wary of extended warranties which “add very little or [do] nothing”.

“We’re seeing that warranties generally can discourage large groups of consumers from getting a remedy under the consumer law,” she said.

“Often these products could be just outside the warranty period, a few weeks, months, or years, and with a product like a washing machine, something that might be five years old, something that we’d still see as well within that consumer guarantees period for a large piece of equipment you want in your home. So what worried me is that this research is telling us is that warranty periods could have a dampening effect on consumers seeking a remedy.

“People are repairing or replacing at their own cost. We know that a lot of people are still paying for extended warranties that add very little or did nothing in addition to the consumer law guarantees, and some people are replacing products when they don’t need or want to.”

Turner said warranties should disclose how long goods should last, and companies need to be informing consumers of their rights and be penalised when failing to do so. Choice is also proposing that products could have labels based on independent testing on how long products would be expected to last.

Do you get appliances repaired or opt for a new one?

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