Safe as houses?

03 Mar, 16

Property expert, TV presenter and blogger Sian Astley talks appliance safety

As an interior designer and also a landlord with 20 properties rented and self-managed, I am instantly put on my guard by relevant news stories being reported, such as the tumble dryer fires. I saw on BBC Breakfast that Whirlpool was being criticised for not responding quickly enough and that this was a potentially life threatening issue. If you hear that suppliers aren’t fulfilling their duty of care then clearly it makes a difference to my perception of that brand when it comes to me specifying kitchen appliances. But I don’t think I’d necessarily stop buying the brand entirely.

There was an issue a couple of years ago with Beko fridge freezers and it stopped me from buying any more Beko fridges for our properties. We checked all the models that we had in the flats and didn’t own any of the particular recalled model and none of mine actually set on fire. I didn’t have to go through a recall process but it did put me off buying another fridge from them. With the most recent scare, I wouldn’t say that I would necessarily not order anything else from the Hotpoint, Indesit or Creda brands but I would certainly be wary of ordering a tumble dryer.

Quality disappearing

I have been buying appliances for 20 years now, for clients and for my own properties and it’s an increasingly common problem that the quality of manufacturing has gone down and down. Most of it seems to be imported from China. We’re forced to be a throwaway society now, especially for things like fridges or microwaves. People don’t or can’t get things fixed anymore, certainly at a price which makes it more attractive to repair than replace. For me as a landlord, and I guess for most consumers, it’s the balance of finding good quality items which will last, but them being at an reasonable & affordable price. And clearly appliances which will not possibly kill either your clients or your tenants is always a bonus. Isn’t it utterly shocking that this is even a consideration?

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Moving mid-market

I already avoid really cheap appliances and often shop for clients at John Lewis, the quality is excellent and the customer service second to none, plus often they will price match. I’ve also bought from Appliances Online before and they’ve been pretty good, although I’ve never had to send something back. For rental properties I’ve always tended to buy locally so if something goes wrong, I could take it back to the shop, but this is increasingly not what they want, instead asking you to follow up the guarantee with the manufacturer. This irritates me.

When I’m designing a kitchen, it’s definitely a growing trend for my clients to buy appliances online and usually these are price led decisions. And how are prices so low? Decreasing manufacturing quality. It’s a win at the start and a lose in the long run, for the pocket and for the planet.

I don’t believe the issue is resolved by registering your appliance. Registering extended warranties is just a waste of time. You register, get bombarded with paperwork and extended guarantee offers, then the damned things always break two months after the 24 month guarantee ends. Or you pay a yearly appliance tax on something which shouldn’t break in the first place. My advice? Don’t buy cheap.

Changing hands

One growing problem is that brands keep changing hands and it’s a massive issue UK wide for white good, appliances and heating. They change owners like they change their socks. Consolidation is having a major impact and the result is the consumer cannot get good service. I was trying to find a part for a Creda heater and spent two hours being batted from pillar to post on various web-sites and numbers, with all the various different companies who had owned the brand. Totally confusing and exasperating so I gave up and bought another heater for £120 – exactly what they want to happen!

This article first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News