Amin has to pay €214 for a sock stuck in his washing machine: “It was under warranty”

Amin’s washing machine broke down before the end of its warranty period. He claims that he only learned that the intervention would not pay off after the repair “which took just a few minutes” and is surprised by this practice. Is it legal?

A priori, we do not expect to have to pay for a repair during the warranty period of a good, it happens however and Amin (alias) has paid the price. Via the orange button Alert us, he tells his misadventure. Her Whirlpool washing machine broke down recently. He contacted the brand’s after-sales service, which sent a technician.

Amin reports that once at home, the technician removed a stuck sock: “He lifted the machine, he opened a pipe underneath and found the sock. It lasted three minutes”.

Next, “when the technician finished, he told me that I will have an invoice of 214€”. For Amin, it’s the blow. He did not expect to have to pay anything and even less such a sum of money: “He did not ask me for my opinion on the paid repair and he did not give me the price beforehand, especially since I had requested an intervention under warranty”.

He specifies that, by way of explanation, the worker indicated that “this kind of breakdown was not covered by the guarantee”. The fault would be attributable to Amin because “he didn’t put the socks in a proper bag”. The invoice received confirms this verdict: “a sock and a wipe were found between the tank and the drain pump. This is a user error. The instructions indicate that small parts must be placed in a net”.

The technician also told him that he could file a complaint. What Amin tried to do. And there he claims to have spoken “to an aggressive employee, who didn’t want to hear anything and hung up on her“.

I feel ripped off, robbed

The resident of the Brussels periphery is however surprised not to have been informed of the paying nature of the intervention. “If he had told me what the problem was, I would have done it myself. At this price, I feel ripped off, robbed”. He does not understand why: “we didn’t ask for my agreement, to see if I could pay”. Especially since “214 euros is expensive. I would have preferred to add a little and buy a new device”.

Two questions therefore arise: can we impose a paid repair on a customer? And is it legal to intervene, without announcing the price? Questions we will try to answer.

The consumer must be informed

The principle is information. “The consumer must be informed of his rights and therefore of the possible paying nature”underlines Gwenaël Leriche, jurist for the non-profit organization Droits Quotidiens.

The difficulty lies in the fact that it is often complicated for a technician to say “if the repair will be covered by the warranty, without having gone to the consumer”. But, the lawyer is formal: “The technician must give this information, before starting to work”.

Same story on the side of the consumer defense association, Test Achats. “If the repair was not under warranty and was payable by the consumer, he should of course have left the choice to the consumer and he should have said how much it was going to cost. It is his duty to inform”argues the spokesperson, Julie Frère, who specifies from the outset “that there is no specific sanction that can be invoked by the consumer. The code of economic law mainly provides for fines”.

In theory, “if he can prove damage, he can ask for compensation”, adds Julie Frère. But in practice, it is not easy to prove.

What recourse for the consumer?

The first step : submit a written complaint to the company. “He must highlight the fact that he was not made aware of the paying nature of the repair”, explains Gwenaël Leriche. After fifteen days, if there is no response or if the manufacturer maintains its position, the second stage may consist of filing a complaint with the consumer mediation service. “It’s a free service to help with conflict resolution, but it’s not a judge who can impose a decision. In general, companies tend to follow his advice”points out the lawyer.

Julie Frère, the spokesperson for Test Achats, also advises trying to obtain an amicable settlement (for example lower repair costs). And otherwise “to lodge a complaint (or to threaten to do so), via contact point of the General Directorate of Economic Inspection”. The body is in particular responsible for monitoring compliance with the application of the legislation relating to the guarantee.

In the meantime, Amin says he is very disappointed: “It’s weird to treat customers this way. I trusted this great brand, but I won’t be buying their devices again”.

Amin has to pay €214 for a sock stuck in his washing machine: “It was under warranty”