Fridge fight finally over
Samsung ordered to pay Auckland man $5700 after refusing to fix door for the fifth time.
For nearly a decade, Consumer NZ member Allan Laycock has been wrangling with Samsung over a faulty fridge. He’s finally got his money back after taking the company to the Disputes Tribunal.
In 2009, Allan bought a $5700 Samsung fridge-freezer. However, in 2012 this top-end appliance stopped working. The shop he’d bought it from had closed down so Allan contacted Samsung and ended up with a replacement fridge worth $4000.
“I accepted under protest and desperation,” Allan said.
Less a year later, problems started with the replacement fridge.
Allan noticed rust under the water dispenser on the outside of the fridge door. Samsung replaced the door, but the rust kept coming back and the door was replaced three more times.
When it happened again in March this year, Samsung decided it wouldn’t be fixing it for a fifth time.
Samsung told Allan the replacement fridge had lasted “a reasonable lifetime” and it wouldn’t be paying for any more repairs.
“Samsung’s obligation is to provide parts for the reasonable lifetime of a product and we believe this fridge to have lived a reasonable life,” the company said.
That’s when Allan contacted us for help.
Consumer NZ adviser Maggie Edwards told Allan he could take his case to the Disputes Tribunal and talked him through his rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).
Allan, who is usually self-employed in the tourism sector, said it was unfortunate for Samsung that Covid-19 had given him a lot of time on his hands and he’d developed a good understanding of the CGA.
At the Disputes Tribunal hearing in May, the referee held Samsung had breached the CGA when it refused to fix the door earlier this year.
“The CGA provides that goods sold must be of acceptable quality … Samsung has had to replace this [fridge] door four times over seven years. On that basis, it can’t be said that this fridge did what it was meant to do, was free of minor defects or was durable.”
The referee also found there was insufficient evidence to back up Samsung’s claim that the nine-year-old fridge had come to the end of its life.
“In the absence of such evidence I find a top-of-the-line fridge such as this could be expected to last around 12 to 15 years,” the referee said.
Allan was relieved to get justice but said he was confident it was the only way it could have gone because of all the faults over the years.
“My advice to people is that if you have the time and the inclination then go fight for it. The people who have a major appliance fail after a couple of years should be fighting tooth and nail.” Allan Laycock.
Samsung didn’t show up at the hearing. In a statement to us, the company said the law wasn’t clear about what constitutes a reasonable life expectancy under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
“The reasonable life expectancy varies by a number of factors and is an objective test of how long the average consumer would expect such a product to last,” it said.
Going to the Disputes Tribunals
Disputes Tribunals are the modern version of a small claims court. Claims can be heard for amounts up to $30,000.
There are no lawyers. Cases are heard by a referee who encourages the two sides to reach agreement before giving a binding decision.
You can make a claim by filling out a form on the Disputes Tribunal website and paying the required fee. Fees range from $45 to $180, depending on the amount you’re claiming.
How do I get help?
As a Consumer NZ member, Allan was able to access our Consumer Advice Line. If you’re a member and have a faulty product, received shoddy service or been misled by a retailer, you can contact one of our advisers for help.