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Can I use washing machine following product recall?

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Query: I heard on the radio that a certain make and model of washing machine is being recalled due to an electrical defect, which could be a potential fire hazard. I'm concerned that my washing machine is one of those being recalled. Should I stop using it immediately - or just reduce the number of washes per week? Also, am I entitled to a replacement? Evelyn, Co Dublin

Answer: As a first step, I would suggest that you check the website of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (ccpc.ie) for details of the product recall - and to check if the make and model number of your washing machine is listed as one of those affected by the safety issue. The appliance model number is typically found on either the front or the back of the machine.

If you confirm that your washing machine is one of those at risk of a potential hazard, the next step will be to unplug and stop using it.

If, for whatever reason, you do use the appliance, you should only use cold water cycles of 20C or lower - as this significantly reduces the risk.

From here, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions. These instructions will be included within the recall notice posted on ccpc.ie. As the product was found to be faulty, you are entitled to a repair, replacement, reduction in the price or refund. Consumer rights legislation does not outline which option you are entitled to so it's up to you to negotiate this with the supplier.

If you opt for a replacement washing machine and are still not satisfied about the safety of the product, contact us immediately through our consumer helpline on 01-4025555, with details about the product and where you bought it.

 

Hiring right tradesman

Query:  Once the coronavirus crisis eases, I'm hoping to make some small-scale renovations to my house. This will be my first time hiring tradespeople for home improvements. Are there any steps I should take to help me pick the right tradesperson - and hopefully avoid any problems with the work that is carried out? Also, if problems do arise or I'm not happy with the work, what remedies do I have? Sharon, Co Kildare

Answer: It does not matter how large or small scale the home improvements are - but it's important to know that when hiring a tradesperson, you are buying their services. This means that the same rights apply as when buying any other service. In general, you have the right to expect that the work is carried out with proper care and attention, that the tradesperson has the appropriate skills to do the job, any materials used are fit for purpose and of acceptable quality.

A good first step is to have a clear idea of what you want changed or improved. Using magazine cuttings or online images is a great way to help your tradesperson understand what you are looking for and avoid potential issues after work has begun. It's also important to set your budget from the outset, to make sure you don't overspend. There is an online budget calculator at ccpc.ie which you can check.

When it comes to hiring a tradesperson, the best advice is to do your research. If you're dealing with a company, check that it is on the Construction Industry Federation's Register of Builders and make sure to ask for its registration number. If you are looking to hire someone for gas or electrical work, check that he or she is registered with the Register of Electrical Contractors of Ireland or the Register of Gas Installers of Ireland. Use your network of friends and family for recommendations on tradespeople they have used. Online reviews, social media and discussion forums can also be a good way to research, but be wary that not all reviews may be genuine.

Try asking for references from previous clients and if possible, pay them a visit to see their work.

A top tip when hiring tradespeople is to look for quotes instead of estimates. An estimate is an educated guess with no legal standing, which means the price could go up during the job. A written quote is binding, as long as you don't make changes to the job's requirements, so be sure to look for a breakdown for the proposed work to be done and ask for the quote to include VAT.

Once the contract has been drawn up, make sure that you read it thoroughly and are happy with finer details.

For larger renovations and building work, it's advisable to talk to a solicitor to ensure you are aware of all the relevant terms and conditions.

If you've followed all of the recommended steps and are not happy with the work carried out, or you feel the tradesperson did not provide a proper service, you are entitled to have the problem fixed. If they are unwilling to complete the work properly or give you a refund or reduction in price, you can take legal action. You can use the small claims procedure if the job was for less than €2,000. For claims over €2,000, you can choose to take further legal action against a tradesman or builder. In this case, you may want to seek independent legal advice from a solicitor.

 

Poor-quality sofa

Query: I bought a black leather suite from a long-established family furniture store recently. The suite cost €3,000. After a couple of months, the suite started to discolour in a number of places - for no apparent reason. I contacted the shop and they sent out a technician from the manufacturer who advised me that this was a natural phenomenon and there was nothing wrong with the suite. I don't like how my suite looks now and the discolouration is getting worse. The shop refuses to take my calls now. How can I resolve this issue? John, Co Dublin

Answer: Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, you have a number of rights, which include the goods being of merchantable quality, being fit for purpose and durable. Although the manufacturer made the initial assessment, consumer protection law means that your contract is with the retailer or business that sold you the item - so in this case, if there is a fault, it is up to the retailer to fix it and not the manufacturer. You now need to act quickly by contacting the retailer. If the shop assistants continue to ignore your calls, consider going in person to lodge a complaint - or write a letter of complaint to the head office. You can get template complaint letters on ccpc.ie.

It's important to be aware that consumer law doesn't set out exactly what you are entitled to when you return a faulty item. Your options are to ask for a refund, repair, replacement or reduction in price as a remedy - but it is up to you to negotiate with the retailer. Be clear about what you want the outcome to be.

In this instance, as the fault occurred within the first six months of owning the item, it is considered that the fault was there when you bought it.

In general, the seller can offer to repair the item first. This should be a permanent repair and the problem should not reoccur. If the same fault occurs again, then you should be entitled to a replacement or refund.

 

  • Email your questions to  lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions,  Sunday Independent Business, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'. 
  • While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert for your query, this column is not intended to replace professional advice.

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