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Appliance quality is declining, readers say

Ellen Roseman

Toronto Star
May 16, 2014

Why don’t household appliances last as long as they did in the past?

Older generations kept their refrigerators, stoves and laundry machines for 30 to 40 years. But buyers find many new appliances need major repairs that rival the cost of a replacement within a few years.

Consumer Reports did a product reliability survey in 2013, asking readers about the likelihood of breakdowns with appliances three to four years old. Here are the results:

: Side by side: 31 per cent. Bottom freezer: 21 per cent. Top freezer: 11 per cent (assuming no ice maker, prone to repairs).

Clothes dryer
: Electric: 12 per cent. Gas: 14 per cent.

Washing machine
: Front loader: 22 per cent. Top loader: 21 per cent.

: 20 per cent.

: Electric: 14 per cent. Gas: 17 per cent.

Wall oven
: Electric: 18 per cent.

Microwave oven
: Over the range: 14 per cent.

This means one out of every four or five owners will be deciding whether to repair or replace machines within a few years. When should you replace a broken machine?

“Don’t spend more than 50 per cent of the cost of a new product on repairing an old one,” says the respected magazine. “And if an item has already broken down once before, replacement may make more sense.”

I hear complaints about wonky appliances almost every day and help readers get repairs or replacements, depending on manufacturers’ ability to fix them.

Clarke Shin bought a $3,600 Electrolux Wave Touch fridge in 2010, with a three-year extended warranty from Sears. But his ice maker began leaking a year after purchase and required many service calls.

When his warranty expired, he pushed Sears for a replacement fridge. But he didn’t get anywhere until he wrote to me.

“Sears gave me a buyout of $1,980. I went ahead and bought a new fridge for $2,200 and I’m happy with my purchase,” he said. “I thought expensive equated to good quality – I was so wrong.”

Renee Banach owned a Frigidaire separate fridge and freezer since 2008. She found rust dust on shelves this year, which she felt was a hazard that could contaminate her food.

I contacted Electrolux spokesman Eloise Hale, who agreed to replace the fridge for Banach. (Frigidaire is owned by Electrolux.)

Ryan Tan had a cracked lid on his Whirlpool washing machine, less than two years old, and saw many similar complaints in his research.

“Whirlpool Canada was willing to offer me 50 per cent off the cost. Why should I pay $150 for a part that fixes a known problem?” he said.

After I sent his complaint to Whirlpool, he had a technician visit his home to replace the defective cover at no cost.

Malik Haamid Iqbal had just taken delivery of a Frigidaire fridge when he noticed how noisy it was.

“It was as if a motor bike was running,” he said. “The customer service lady told me that the moment you plug in the fridge, it becomes used equipment. How can I find out how it makes a noise without plugging it in?”

Rimpi Sharma, customer service manager at Lastman’s Bad Boy Furniture, agreed to replace the fridge after I contacted her. It’s quiet at last in his kitchen.

Abi Farhoudi, owner of a Samsung washing machine bought at Sears, found it would stop working in mid-cycle during the first year of ownership. The problem persisted even after the computer board and motor were replaced.

“We’ve had over a dozen visits from technicians over the year and still no resolution. We have no pets or children and use the machine for just one load a week,” he said.

After months of getting no response to his pleas, Farhoudi said both companies addressed his problem and made the washing machine work well after I intervened.

Consumer Reports’ information, gleaned from 30,000 readers, can help you make smart choices when you shop. It gets four to six times more repair-related complaints about appliances than about electronics and outdoor gear.

“Built-in refrigerators, in particular, drew complaints in our survey,” the magazine said. “That makes buying an appliance from a reliable brand, and properly maintaining it, especially important.”

Posted on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:48AM by Registered CommenterElaine in | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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