Whirlpool plays dirty on washing machine refund saga

Appliances giant faces criticism for washing machine recall delays

Whirlpool, the white goods giant whose brands include Hotpoint and Indesit, has at last announced its plans for a partial recall of its faulty washing machines.

On 17 December 2019 it announced a recall of certain models of washing machines manufactured between 2014 and 2018. Advice to customers was to unplug the affected machines because of the possible risk of fire. This left affected customers without a washing machine over the Christmas period while the company appeared to do nothing to help customers or offer any compensation.

The fault – and associated recall – relates to the electronic locking system on 519,000 machines which were sold since 2014, which can cause them to overheat and catch fire. 79 fires have so far been caused by this electronic design failure.

Whirlpool has said that the 60,000 people so far found to be affected will receive an email by Friday 10 January 2019 inviting them to choose between a replacement and a repair. However, Whirlpool has still refused to offer refunds, partial or otherwise, to those affected. This is despite calls by consumer champions, such as Which?

Which? calls for refunds

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at consumer group Which?, said:

“It would clearly be unacceptable if customers were left for many months without adequate washing facilities in their homes, particularly when there is also no offer to cover consequential costs such as trips to the laundrette.

The company should do the right thing and offer customers a refund, so people can get fire-risk machines out of their homes and quickly find a suitable replacement. There needs to be a full investigation about what Whirlpool knew about these machines and when.”

I obviously agree! It is disgusting that Whirlpool should continue to treat customers in this way. Why did it wait for 79 fires to occur before it took action? Why hasn’t it learnt any lessons from its own tumble dryer fiasco?

Slow to act

It has been 26 days since Whirlpool announced the recall and it is only now that it has started to notify customers regarding dates for replacement and/or repairs. Even as of late afternoon 9 January 2019 it still didn’t appear to have contacted all vulnerable customers. How long people will have to wait after receiving this email is not clear either.

The Hotpoint Twitter feed shows that the company has been slow to act. Even where a customer is vulnerable. For example:

BBC report

A BBC News report by Kevin Peachey on 9 January says:

“One of those affected by the recall is Janet McPherson, of Lampeter, South West Wales. The 65-year-old was fed up with the probability of a long wait, had lost trust in the brand, faced an eight-mile round trip to the laundrette, and was frustrated with Whirlpool’s customer service.

I made my vote by buying a different brand. It did not help with the Christmas budget at all,” she said.”

She wants a refund and is now ready for what could be a long fight with the company. I completely agree with Janet, of course Whirlpool customers should be given refunds.

Both my washing machine and dishwasher are on their last legs, I can assure you I won’t touch anything to do with Whirlpool, whose brands in the UK include Hotpoint and Indesit.

If I had an affected machine I would happily go through the Small Claims Court to get the necessary refund. I encourage and will support my readers to do the same. 

Your rights under The Consumer Protection Act 1987

This Act (a European directive) prohibits the manufacture and supply of unsafe goods, making the manufacturer or seller of a defective product responsible for any damage it causes. The Act states where a manufacturer has made a defective product which has caused a personal injury or damage to your property, it, not the trader is responsible. The value of the damage must be more than £275.

So you can claim for this as well if you have had a fire. However, I would recommend seeking legal advice from a solicitor before embarking on this.

For more details about the situation and what you can do, please see my previous article The Whirlpool washing machine whitewash

Take it to the top and persevere

If you’re having problems getting the necessary replacement or repair please click here to find the contact details for the Whirlpool UK CEO.

I heard on the BBC Radio 2 News today a customer had fought to get a refund on a Whirlpool appliance. She was threatened with the legal team but she kept on and won through in the end so don’t give up!

The future for Whirlpool

I fail to understand how Whirlpool thinks treating customers like this is acceptable. Why isn’t it doing what it can to ensure customers are treated fairly? How much longer can a company continue like this?

Many customers are losing faith in brand and many potential customers are too. Would you buy an appliance from a company that appears to continue to treat customers so unfairly?

Template letter to adapt

If you have an affected appliance, you could use this template and adapt as necessary. If you do not know the exact date give as much information as possible.

Please fill in the gaps then send the letter by email to the Whirlpool UK CEO.

Dear

On the (date, including year) I purchased a (fill in manufacturer name and model number) washing machine.

I am rejecting your offer of a repair or replacement. This is because I have lost faith in your company to put matters right or provide another like-for-like machine that is safe.

I expect therefore a full refund of the price paid for the faulty machine.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 or the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 (delete the Act which does not apply*) In addition I am legally entitled to out of pocket expenses. Due to being without a washing machine I have incurred the following expenses and attach evidence for:

(list what is applicable the below are examples)

Launderette cost so far £
Travel expenses cost so far £

These costs will continue to accumulate until the matter is resolved and I will expect full reimbursement of all costs incurred.

Should I not be fully satisfied with your response, I will not hesitate in taking the matter further and this will include but not be limited to taking the matter through the Small Claims Court.

Yours sincerely

etc.

* Consumer Rights Act 2015 for purchases made on or after 1 October 2015 and the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 for purchases before then.

 

 

Three out of five stars for CMA’s action so far on fake reviews?

Finally, some action from CMA on fake reviews – but is it enough?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced today (8 January 2020) that Facebook and eBay have “signed up to agreements to better identify, investigate and respond to fake and misleading reviews”, after being told by the CMA to address this issue.

According to the CMA, “more than three-quarters of people are influenced by reviews when they shop online, and billions of pounds are spent every year based on write-ups of products or services. Fake and misleading reviews are illegal under consumer protection law.”

However, most of us have stories where someone we know has been offered an item for free in exchange for a review, or a Facebook group which shares such “opportunities”. Trip Advisor and Amazon have their issues too. I even know someone who advises businesses how to grow, who asks colleagues to write favourable reviews for his friend’s restaurant.

Bad News about fake reviews

Fake reviews are bad news for both businesses and their customers. While someone may be thinking they have just helped out a friend of a friend or got something for nothing, the results can be damaging.

Small firms have been put out of business as competitors write fake reviews. In early 2019 Which? undertook expensive research and uncovered thousands of members of fake review groups, fake reviews where people had been paid or given the item for free.

It revealed its findings in July 2019 in the report Bribery, hacking and gaming the system: the tactics used to post fake reviews online. At the time the CMA announced that Facebook and eBay must tackle the issue. Facebook even claimed that the groups had already been removed. However Which? found 20 groups clearly labelled as review groups soon after Facebook’s announcement.

Consumers can’t trust reviews in this growing area of fake reviews.

Indeed, Claire Roach, who runs Daily Deals UK, says that she gets at least 10 messages a day (all from sellers in China) asking for various things. They ask if she can post their deals and if they can send free products in exchange for reviews. She says they are different Facebook accounts every time and that she must have received over 1000 such requests in the last two years. “I welcome a crackdown, as a consumer who has been duped many times by substandard products on Amazon which have good reviews. It’s such a waste of money and has put me off purchasing from there.”

But therein lies another problem, although Facebook groups have increased the problem of fake reviews on Amazon, Amazon does not appear to be part of the CMA’s process thus far. When I asked the CMA for clarity on what part Amazon has played in its work undertaken with Facebook and eBay, a spokesperson said “On background, our work so far has focussed on disrupting the market for the trade of fake reviews on Facebook and eBay. This announcement is part of ongoing work regarding fake online reviews. The next stage will be considering the role that review sites play. The CMA has not yet decided on its scope of work, but we expect to make an announcement about this in the coming months.”

Facebook says that it has so far removed 188 groups and disabled 24 users’ accounts, and eBay has permanently banned 140 users, according to the CMA. But if one was to look just at Ms Roach’s experience, this is perhaps just a drop in the ocean.

Both organisations have pledged to put measures in place that will help prevent this type of content from appearing in the future. This includes Facebook agreeing to introduce more robust systems to detect and remove such content and eBay improving its existing filters to better identify and block listings for the sale or trade of online reviews.

The CMA also highlighted new examples of fake and misleading reviews for sale via Instagram, and reported these to Facebook which operates Instagram. Facebook has committed to investigate the issue. The CMA will be seeking a commitment from Facebook to take action to tackle these further issues. Ms Roach was so sick of receiving messages through Facebook she turned the facility off but has now started to receive them through Instagram!

message asking Clare to undertake a revew in return for the product

Andrea Coscelli, CMA Chief Executive, said:
“Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike. Millions of people base their shopping decisions on reviews, and if these are misleading or untrue, then shoppers could end up being misled into buying something that isn’t right for them – leaving businesses who play by the rules missing out.

We’re pleased that Facebook and eBay are doing the right thing by committing to tackle this problem and helping to keep their sites free from posts selling fake reviews.”

Future for fake reviews

Yes, the CMA is certainly taking action, but I still think a lot more work needs to be done to clean up the world of online reviews. Clearly Amazon. and many other online retailers, should be part of this work!