Fixed Cost Appliance Repair
Fixed cost repairs can be great for customers, but not always. We explain them for you.
Like most things in life and, many that we find ourselves writing about, there isn't much in life that comes for free. There aren't many real "bargains" out there, only value for money and, fixed price or cost repairs is one of those supposed "bargains".
The latest fad in the appliance industry, well, in aftersales service at least, is to offer you a fantastic deal that guarantees a repair for a fixed fee. Now, apart from the blindingly obvious question of, "why would any company take such a risk and how do I win from it?" you have to ask yourself how on Earth that they make a profit from such a service.
The way of things (although no-one says it has to be) is that companies make a profit from the service or product that they offer to you. You think the cost is reasonable for the goods or service and decide to part with your hard earned cash to get that product or service. Simple, isn't it?
But lots of people get into a bit of a spin over repairs to appliances.
Life used to be much simpler, it broke down, you called a repairman and he fixed it until such times as it really wasn't worth it anymore and he told you to give it up and buy another.
That isn't complex or confusing.
Appliances have gotten much cheaper in real terms. All the quality issues aside this makes the difference in cost between repair and replacing the appliance not so great in many cases. So, people elect to chuck out the old one and buy a new one every few years, or less.
One way around this minefield for many people is the option of a fixed cost repair.
But, is it worth it?
What we said back up a ways.
Companies, especially national and international ones don't offer this free of charge. They don't offer it if it's not going to make them any money.
It's a numbers game.
The more numbers, the lower the risk to the business offering these services.
It's more like gambling than anything else, you gamble that you will get a repair that would usually cost more than the policy or fee on offer. But, like most gambling establishments the odds aren't in your favour (as you would expect) and what you are told either in print or on the phone can be, will we say, misleading. The marketing hype will be designed to scare you half to death about the cost of a repair to try to get you to take on one of these sorts of products. It really is that simple.
The trouble is that the vast bulk of repairs, over 60% of them easily, are relatively straightforward to a decent appliance repairer and, cheaper than you may think.
The gamble that we've already pointed out is one that will appeal to people more emotive nature and most of these sorts of products will be purchased in the heat of the moment when all you want is a repair done as quickly as possible. You don't have time to shop about and you are led to believe that all repairs are expensive and this seems like a good offer in light of all these "facts" being presented to you.
Trouble is, what you're being told isn't the whole truth and it skews the odds as well as not allowing you the time to find out more and make a logical, not an emotional, buying decision.
The facts of what we see are somewhat different.
About 25-30% of all calls require no parts at all.
About 25-30% of all calls require parts costing less than £20.
About 25% of calls require parts and are borderline on whether they are worth repairing.
All the rest are really beyond economical repair or simply not worth repairing. But wouldn't you rather know that the appliance is a pup and not worth fixing than having an over-priced repair carried out just to keep you on a repetative warranty bleeding your bank account of cash every month? Chances are, if it's that bad it will break again but it takes a certain skill and experience to tell you that. Under contract, the engineers are not allowed to tell you that.
So, logically, now that you have that information, you have roughly a six in ten chance of a good cheap repair, two in ten chance of having to think about whether it's worth it or not and a two in ten chance that the machine will be actually not worth doing anything with.
The average cost of repair from an independent repairer is around £65-75.
The average cost of one of these polices is around the £115 mark.
Now, with all this information do you really still believe that it's such a good deal for you?
House Can't Lose
Of course any business puts measures in place to protect itself. This is true of any casino just as it is for any insurer or most any business as they all have in common the simple fact that they are there to make money. They do this by taking yours for products or services, it's up to you to decide if it's worth the price to buy them.
But in this instance the "get-out" is often that, if the appliance repair is too expensive or spares cannot be obtained that the policy will be cancelled and you will be offered a refund; well, partly at least. You won't get all your money back on any of these schemes that we know of so, they are most certainly not risk free by any stretch.
Or, you have a minimum contract term. So, you have to pay £10 a month for a year or whatever the terms happen to be.
Upfront it all looks good, very appealing as you get offered a low or a fixed cost. The sting comes later as you realise that you could have gotten a better deal elsewhere in many cases.
The house can't lose, they get paid regardless.
Some people think they can cheat the system, there's always some.
The "scam" runs like this;
You call up a local repairer or two for estimates, especially the free estimate variety, to see how much that a repair will run you. If it's not too much, just a blockage or suchlike that's fine, you pay for the repair and that's it done.
If it's too expensive (i.e. the repair costs more than the "fixed" call fee you've been quoted) you tell the local engineer that you'll get back to him and go log a call online or phone up one of these fixed repair fee people. Great, you saved.
Only thing is, one of two things can happen.
If the repair is too expensive then the machine will get "written off" as being beyond economical repair, so it just cost you £40 or so to find out what you already knew or, you could end up with the same engineer back as he's the local agent and, how embarrassing would that be?
Bottom line, you can't really cheat on this one.
You can cheat the manufacturers that offer fixed price service like this though. Just don't tell them we told you as we hate to see manufacturers and warranty companies bleed money back to consumers, it pains us so.
Various Choices To Place Bets On
There are, currently in the UK, only a few of these services really with the most notable ones being:
The AA is, at the time of writing an unknown quantity. But they will most likely subcontract the appliance work to one of the other networks.
RepairCare uses a network of independent repairers.
British Gas uses their own employed engineers and, on the odd occasion where cover is a problem or they don't do the machine/brand at all then it's subcontracted out to independent repairers.
0800 Repair uses some franchised (employed??) engineers and, for all the rest it's subcontracted out to independent repairers.
Domestic & General, which is also known as Inkfish, use the manufacturer's own service agents (usually independent repairers) or subcontract to their own network of, yep you guessed it, independent repairers.
Do you see a pattern here yet?
In effect it's all too likely that you'd end up getting the same repairer to do the same job, using the same parts; only it costs more much of the time.
They don't all have their own engineers or even a totally unique set of repairers because, quite simply, there aren't enough engineers to make that happen or enough repair companies with the required skills to choose from.
The only exception to any extent is British Gas but, British Gas Homecare policies aren't exactly cheap when you actually dig into it.
However, what none of these companies don't generally do is use sole traders as, they don't have holiday cover, manned telephones, they don't really have account facilities, fancy vans and all the rest of the trappings that a multi-engineer business can often offer. But the sole traders also don't have all the costs of that and are, usually, therefore cheaper.
Service Levels & Range You Bet On
Okay so given the nature of this site, if you've read anything about it, you will understand that it was started by independent repairers, is run by independent repairers and it would be pretty fair to say that it is biased towards the independent repairers and retailers. It's a fair cop on that score.
However, it should also be noted that we are also very much customer focused. It's a fair bet this is much more so than large companies so as not to be too derogatory.
The simple fact of the matter is that, as small and micro businesses, we operate in the communities and areas that we live in. If we get a reputation for poor service we won't survive too long. Given this, we tend to try a little harder.
We're not always perfect, nobody is but, we do try very, very hard to do the best by our customers and communities.
When a company deals with contract work that slightly changes. It is no longer the responsibility of the repairer to look after the customer, it's the manufacturer or insurer and, we have to follow their rules whether we agree, like them or not.
With contract work there is very, very little room to discriminate what calls we get or don't. You may think this wouldn't really matter but, it does, a lot and, we'll explain why.
We take calls based on geography first and foremost and, after that on what we know we can do or cannot, what we know we can get parts for and what we know we cannot. Calls that are too much hassle, too far away, spares too difficult to get we will often reject.
What this leads to is a situation where we do what we specialise in and, the service levels are exemplary, often exceeding what qualifies as being "world class service levels" by most benchmarking standards. An open and free market where the repairers take the work that they know that they can do and, very importantly, give good service on based on the factors above.
What contract work does is remove that.
And, in addition, it pays less as the contractor takes a hunk of money out the repair, often for just passing the call to the repairer!
We are then forced to do whatever work is passed by whatever agency or insurer, whether we can do it or have any knowledge of it or not.
In a lot of cases, especially booking any old brand or appliance on the Internet, you are unlikely to get an engineer in your home that is a specialist in that brand or product.
We get around that on the engineer search system by asking the repairers what they do and don't do so that they can eliminate areas, brands or products that they ordinarily don't cover and allow them to focus on the ones that they do. This means that you, the customer, will usually get a better service, better targeted to your machine.
What You Can Bet On: Safely
There are certain things in this that we can say for sure, like the following:
- The companies that offer a fixed cost appliance service are not in it to lose money
- The companies that offer appliance insurance products tethered to a service are not in it to lose money
- The domestic appliance repairers are constrained under this sort of system
- There is no way to guarantee under these schemes that you will get the best attention or care
It is not a stretch to realise that all these companies are just like casinos, they are in it to win it and, win big. They are not charities and they are not offering these products and services without having worked out that they will make money from the deal.
That being the case and, it's only logical that it is, then are these things really in your best interest? And, can you get better, cheaper?
We think you can and, as this news item shows, we're not the only ones that think customers are being fleeced by this practice.
Find A Good Local Repairer
Of course many people do struggle to find a local appliance repair company when their washing machine or other kitchen appliance does break down and, when trawling through the Internet or the phone directories you won't have a clue who's good, who's bad and that's a danger. So all too often people will end up going for the one with the biggest advert or, the one that looks like a national or just the one with the prettiest website or advert.
We've made finding your local repairer very easy; simply use our engineer search facility.
But it's not enough just to find an appliance repairer, you also have to know that they are good at what they do and that there's some sort of guarantee that they are businesses that trade to a high standard.
To achieve this all the companies listed on our database have been vetted for basic good business practice by UK Whitegoods providing proof of things like public liability insurance, trading address, phone numbers, contracts held, charges and so on. It's quite an in-depth look at the business and offers assurance that these companies are good, solid and reputable traders.
That's where most people would stop. We didn't.
Every company on the search also agrees to be accountable to panel should there be a complaint lodged against them that escalates to any extent. There is a system in place to deal with any problems that may. Further guaranteeing that you receive a top class service for your appliances.
Then there's the next layer of security. You will see many members are "featured" on the search, these are the appliance repairers that also belong to either the WTA (Whitegoods Trade Association) or DASA (Domestic Appliance Service Association) which adds another level of customer care and general requirements.
In short, you won't find a bad repairer that doesn't operate to very high standards on our system.
Not only that, they'll even offer you free advice in the forums as well!