Washers and Air-Cons Prone to Breakdown with High Repair Costs – Falling behind Fridges, TV Sets & Dehumidifiers in Consumer Satisfaction

15 July 2019
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Washers and Air-Cons Prone to Breakdown with High Repair Costs – Falling behind Fridges, TV Sets & Dehumidifiers in Consumer Satisfaction

While the functions of home appliances have been increasing, many consumers complain that they are not as durable as they used to be but is that really true? The Consumer Council collected the actual experience of over 1,400 families in an in-depth analysis of 5 types of commonly used domestic electrical appliances – televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners and dehumidifiers – to evaluate the durability and level of consumer satisfaction of different brands. The results showed that washing machines had the highest overall defective rate of 21% while dehumidifiers had the lowest overall defective rate of 10%. The overall satisfaction of the respondents towards different brands is invariably linked to the overall durability of the products, reflecting strong consumer demand for product quality, though brand loyalty is not necessarily correlated to product durability and consumer satisfaction. 

The survey involved telephone interviews with 1,421 families and based upon their responses to carefully analyse and compare the rate of problems and defects of different brands to establish which of them were considered by the respondents as the most durable and satisfactory, and to identify the most common problems and the cost of repair for different types of electrical appliances. 

A newly purchased electrical appliance that soon develops problems or is easily damaged is a direct reflection of its poor manufacturing quality that affect its durability. Of the 5 types of home appliances surveyed, washers/washer-dryers were found to have the highest defective rate, including problems or damage that require repair to resume normal function and those that do not require repair but can still perform normal function. The defective rate of 9 brands of washers/washer-dryers varied from 16% to 28% with overall average of 21%. Among the 5 most common large home appliances, consumers regarded washers/washer-dryers as the least durable, followed by air conditioners, with an overall defective rate of 18%. Dehumidifiers of different brands had the lowest overall average defective rate of only 10%. 

The defective rate of washers/washer-dryers within 5 years of purchase was 14%, which was also the highest among all types of home appliances in the survey. The most common problems cited were pipe leakage or burst, representing 22% of the overall problems, followed by faults in pre-set computer programs, such as not completing the washing cycle on time, that accounted for 14% of the problems.

The overall defective rate of air conditioners was 18% with the split-type conditioners as high as 24% as opposed to 15% for the window-type conditioners. The most commonly reported problems were water dripping, representing 41% of all the problems whereas insufficient cooling accounted for 31% of the problems.

In the remaining 3 types of home appliances, the overall defective rates were: TV sets - 15%, refrigerators - 11% and dehumidifiers - 10%. Consumers should pay attention to the vast variance in defective rates among different brands. Taking TV sets as an example, the best-performing brand had a defective rate of only 10% while the worst performing brand had a defective rate of 26%. In the case of dehumidifiers, the best performing brand had a mere 2% defective rate while the least performing brand was 16%.

Overall consumer satisfaction with the 5 electrical appliances depends mainly on their durability, reflecting the importance of product quality. The low overall defective rate of refrigerators at 11% and dehumidifiers at 10% matched the highest overall satisfaction score of 85% for refrigerators and 81% for dehumidifiers. Conversely, washing machines and air conditioners, which had the highest overall defective rate of 21% and 18%, respectively, had a relatively lower overall consumer satisfaction rate of 76% and 70%.

Whether or not consumers buy the same brand again may not be connected to the durability of the brand. The most durable TV brand, for example, was ranked 5th (82%) out of 7 brands in terms of consumer satisfaction but only half (50%) of the users said they would purchase the same brand again. On the contrary, 2 TV sets with a similar defective rate of 16% had their durability level ranked 5th and 6th among the brands but the level of consumer satisfaction of both stood at 85%, moving up to 3rd and 4th ranks. When pressed if they would purchase the same brand again, the users of 2 brands gave rather divergent responses. For one brand, about 60% of users indicated positively that they would buy the brand again but for the other brand, only 36% of users said they would choose the same brand on their next purchase.

Consumers replaced or disposed of home appliances for a host of reasons, such as home removal or refurbishment, maintenance problems, out of fashion, or a price reduction for a new model. The decision might not be related to damage or defects in the product. In the survey, 85% of respondents changed their washers/washer-dryers because the machines stopped working, which is an environmentally friendly practice but could also be due to the poor durability of the products. 

Furthermore, 41% of the respondents indicated that they would replace an air conditioner even though it was still functioning which was the highest rate among the 5 types of electrical appliances. This may be due to the high repair and maintenance costs of air conditioners that was the highest amongst the 5 types of appliances with an average of $1,471 for each repair. When an air conditioner no longer perform cooling effect, many consumers may consider replacing it with a new one rather than repairing it. Similarly, 37% of the respondents said they would replace a TV set even though it was still functioning. This may be because of the difficulty in repairing faulty TV screens.

The Council appeals to consumers to exercise rational consumption by considering repairing an appliance before replacing it, and changing it only when the product is no longer functioning. Manufacturers are urged to provide products of good quality and durability, and to lower the cost of repairs as a concerted effort in building a sustainable consumption environment.       

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