Surely this is the definition of a poorly designed product?

Sorry, this is more of a rant than anything else but as a Product Designer I need to get this off my chest.

My partner and I bought an electric hob (stove top) 7 months ago to replace the existing unit which had finally failed after about 20 years of use. As we were leaving the country it was used by our tenants who were staying in our house whilst we were away. When we returned we noticed that the indicator light had fallen into the unit but the hob was still working and as we had a house to unpack we did not think much of it at the time.

So, Fault One: The indicator light popped in.

Then, only a few days later the whole thing short circuits after the hob was cleaned. It appeared that water filtered into the electrics through the hole where the indicator light had been. This we obviously attributed to Fault One. The good news was that the unit was still under warranty so we were sent out an engineer to fix it (or replace it). Unfortunately he decided that the reason for the short circuit was that there had been a ‘boil over’ of a pan of water and because this had occurred, our warranty was invalid. That no such ‘boil over’ had occurred at any time near the short circuiting didn’t seem to bother him.

So, Fault Two: The hob, a unit supposedly designed to be used to boil pans of water (among other things), was not water resistant a sufficient degree to prevent the occasional water spillage entering the electrics.

Surely this is the most crazy product design failure? And one that could actually be quite dangerous as everyone is aware that water and electrics don’t mix and really need to be kept separated?

If we had been aware at the time that we bought the damn thing that it was liable to short circuit at the first sign of spilt water and that the indicator light might pop in ‘when cleaning’ (as the engineer told us) we would have never touched it.

It makes me so mad that a product can be designed and sold whilst so obviously failing to meet the minimum standards required to fulfill its function. And then when it fails it is because it is the users fault.


Sorry again. Thanks for listening to my rant. I wont do it again. :wink:

I hear ya!
Happens to me all the time… my wife brought a new floor mop/sweeping thing for our cottage. Within hours the connector between the handle and the head sheared off. The most important part of the product, the swivel head mechanism connector, was a flimsy piece of plastic. Now the whole thing in rendered completely useless… unless I get my finger out of my ass and go get a nut and bolt from Home Depot but that’s a whole other story.

It sounds like you bought a poorly designed product. What’s worse? The company who makes the bad product, knows it’s bad and doesn’t want to back up their warranty due to “boil over”. How lame.

Name and shame. NAME AND SHAME

From your signature I’m assuming you’re in the UK (which is mostly governed by EU legislation). If that’s not right then everything I’m about to say is maybe irrelevant.

And here’s the obligatory disclaimer about me not being a lawyer.

So having got that out the way, here’s some things that you should know:

1). The Sale of Goods Act requires that the goods must be as described; they must be of satisfactory quality (which is determined by description, price, durability, freedom from minor defects and fitness for common purpose); and they must be fit for that purpose. Fit for purpose is usually defined as what an ‘average’ person would consider reasonable; I would suspect that most people would consider it reasonable that when cooking, pans sometimes boil over. If goods fail in a way that is dangerous, such as water spilling onto electrics, the manufacturer can be criminally liable.

2). Goods must not only be fit for purpose when they are sold, they must remain fit for purpose if used in the correct way, for a length of time determined by the notion of satisfactory quality. So if it’s reasonable to expect a product to last for two years, it has to be fit for purpose for two years, provided the product has been used in the way that’s intended.

3). The responsibility for refunding or replacing faulty goods lies with the retailer, not the manufacturer. That maybe seems a bit unfair, but the law is intended to make it easier for the consumer. So when your hob fails after seven months, you first move should be to go back to where you bought it and demand they fix the problem. After seven months I guess the product will still be under warranty, so most retailers will accept responsibility without too much fuss (though they may try to pass the buck at first, hoping you’ll just go away and deal with the manufacturer). Even if the product’s out of warranty, the retailer may still be responsible if it’s reasonable to expect the product to last longer than the warranty period (though you’ll probably have a much tougher fight).

4). It is a criminal offence for the retailer to deny your rights under the Sale of Goods Act.

It makes me so mad that a product can be designed and sold whilst so obviously failing to meet the minimum standards required to fulfill its function. And then when it fails it is because it is the users fault.

Yes, it would make anyone mad. But the law is emphatically on your side here. There’s more information here:
Battle looms over right to return goods | Consumer affairs | The Guardian.

Matt, thank you. And yes, I am in the UK. You have given me the ammunition I need to get back at the retailer where I purchased the hob. I am currently waiting to hear back from them so with any luck (and some hard persuasion) I am still hoping to get a replacement out of them.

It amazes me how well some manufacturers manage to gloss over their consumers rights and expect consumers just to accept it. As for naming and shaming, the manufacturer is CNA Appliances - a small time supplier for B&Q from what I can tell. Maybe this proves that you should stick to the more well known brands and simply pay the premium!

Thank you again. I am looking forward to my conversation with B&Q today now…

Well, to bring things back to design a bit more, it’s amazing quite how badly some manufacturers understand the concept of a customer experience. This company had a personal interaction with you, an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a good one if they had been more understanding and more willing to take responsibility. And they totally blew it. That’s probably one good thing about the responsibility for refund/replacement lying with the retailer - they quickly come to understand which of their suppliers have a quality problem

Good news. After much wrangling we finally have a replacement hob. Actually I was pretty impressed with the retailers customer service once I had been given the opportunity to argue my case but it is a shame about the manufacturer.

I think that customer experience is an easy one to forget when you are involved in the design of a product - it is so easy to get caught up in looking at trends and what’s hot and what’s not and including flashy new knobs etc. that sometimes the question of will it actually meet the customers needs gets pushed to the wayside. As the guardian article pointed out - the iPod is a fantastic piece of design and really popular because of it but the number of battery failures etc. just out of warranty are far too common.

Good result in the end so I’m happy! :smiley: