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Shower screen exploded - unsatisfactory resolution


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on August bank holiday Monday my shower screen exploded. Whilst having a shower it genuinely spontaneously combusted.

At no point during the shower had I touched it.

 

I'm covered in little cuts and my bathroom literally looks like a bomb site (literally not just literally)

 

We spent most of bank holiday clearing it up and I called both the manufacturer and the retailer when they opened on the Tuesday.

 

Manufacturer tells me to call the retailer (fair enough Sale of Goods Act etc) but I wanted to know if it had happened before.

 

Receptionist when I mentioned what I was calling about said "oh yeah that's happened a few times. I think it's the weather".

Speaking to the customer services bloke he insists it's never happened on my model apparently, although very rarely (but not never) on other models.

 

Retailer asks me to send photos which I do.

No acknowledgement by email of having received them or what kind of refund/compensation they will offer

 

I bought a new screen and had it fitted (paid the plumber £45).

 

Since then I've cleaned the bath several times and it has lots of little rough jagged bits where the glass has scratched it.

Plumber has quoted £550 to refit the bath as it has boxing at the end.

That's before we buy a new bath. He has tried to 'wet and dry' it to smooth it out but it's still rough.

 

Retailer called to me to say the manufacturer says it's out of its 12 month warranty so no refund although they'll sell me a new screen at trade price.

I think that shower screens should never explode whether within 12 months or 12 years!

 

I decided to call my home insurance legal advice line who advise I have a claim under Sale of Goods and negligence.

 

I write a letter before action to the manufacturer and retailer and get a letter from the manufacturer today saying without prejudice they'll offer me a new screen replacement.

 

Now the way I see it they've kind of shot themselves in the foot because I would have settled for that before getting legal advice.

 

The advice says the manufacturer has been negligent and is therefore responsible for the damage to property (screen and bath) and personal injury (my cuts).

 

My letter before action set out the costs for the new screen, fitting it, new bath, fitting it and personal injury compensation.

 

They've obviously been frightened that I've got legal backing and are offering the minimum to shut me up.

 

Their letter says "In very rare circumstances we do occasionally get defective pieces of glass.

However these, as well as being rare, are very fragile; most of them have already broken by the time we unload the goods in our warehouse.

 

I would consider it beyond the bounds of possibility for a screen with an intrinsic defect to survive being shipped to our warehouse,

being picked and loaded in our warehouse,

being transported to the retailer,

unloaded and handled at the retailer,

transported on to site,

installed and then used for four years.

 

For a screen to shatter the way yours has would need some agent acting on it after it was installed.

 

In view of all of the above I would say the screen has shattered for some other reason than an intrinsic defect"

 

Some clear facts only I can verify.

 

It was fitted by an experienced plumber.

No one was touching it at the time of the explosion.

The conditions in the bathroom at the time were no different from any other day.

What reason other than a defect is there?

It's never been knocked or hit hard and certainly not at the time of explosion.

 

My concern is twofold.

 

Firstly I want to know why it happened so it doesn't happen to me again and

secondly if there is a hidden problem it should be found so other people are safe.

 

By fobbing me off in the manner above it suggests the case is closed as far as they are concerned.

There's no defect therefore no problem.

But I know I didn't touch it!

So I know it could happen to someone else!

 

I've posted to ask for advice about pursuing it further.

 

Obviously I can call my legal advice line but I wanted other consumers' experiences of chasing companies based on defective goods issues

so I know what lies ahead in reality rather than the clinical version I will get from the legal line.

 

Thank you in advance.

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Hi SM,

 

Can you say if your bath is enamelled metal or acrylic.

 

What, if anything, separated the lower edge of the glass from the bath edge. It may have been a gasket or a trim (like a windscreen wiper blade), a full aluminium frame around the screen or an aluminium strip along just the lower edge.

 

...... who advise I have a claim under Sale of Goods and negligence.

 

This is a possibility but not a certainty. Could they have said you "may have a claim ...... "

 

I can see a claim under SOGA being possible but a claim for negligence would be less likely to succeed IMHO.

 

I doubt the manufacturer has "shot themselves in the foot". Was their offer made "without prejudice" and without admission of any liability or negligence, or something similar. I'd expect their offer to replace the screen to be made as a gesture of goodwill.

 

Re the personal injury element, did you seek any medical attention at the time of the incident.

 

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Hi slick. The bath is plasticky so I presume acrylic out of those two choices. There was a plastic windscreen wiper type thing that came with the screen which was touching the bath.

 

Yes it probably was may rather than definitely have a claim. By 'shot themselves in the foot' I meant all I wanted in the beginning was a new shower screen so if they'd offered me that to start with I wouldn't have taken legal advice and realised they could be liable for more such as replacing the damaged bath and my cuts. It was made without prejudice as a gesture of goodwill. However my concern is that if they do not accept responsibility for the defect then they won't be checking their other stock so it could happen to someone else with worse consequences. In my very limited consumer experience manufacturers deny there is a widespread problem until there is either an overwhelming volume of evidence from lots of people with the same problem or if legally they are made to investigate.

 

Why do you say SOGA is more likely than negligence? Knowing little about either I'd appreciate your perspective.

 

I didn't seek medical attention as whilst the cuts were numerous none of them was deep enough to require stitches. Having said that I have a scar where one of them was so maybe that one should have been looked at.

 

Thank you!

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My Dad had the same issue with a B&Q shower screen which exploded on a couple of occasions. The cause is down to the glass heating (expanding) and cooling (contracting), within the metal frame. Over a period of time with the glass continuing to be stressed by this, it eventually goes by exploding. Luckily on both occasions this happened, no damage or injury were caused. The shower screen was out of warranty and as my Dad could not be bothered with a lengthly complaint with B&Q, he simply arranged for a local glass company to replace the glass. I think from memory, he eventually found glass which was better suited for a shower door and then had no further problems.

 

SOGA is the main protection for consumers that the product is fit for purpose and does not contain any inherent design faults. It would be far easier to use SOGA than negligence if you were going to issue a court claim. With the SOGA the law is pretty clear, but with negligence, you would have to make a case using case law.

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Hi SM,

 

If it's an Acrylic bath and the rubber gasket was in place to keep the glass edge off the bath top, that should not have caused the screen to shatter. A screen should be able to withstand the temperature changes associated with showers but inevitably there are failures. Some are caused by an inherent fault while others may be caused by circumstances beyond the control of the manufacturer.

 

SOGA -v- Negligence

 

It is reasonable to expect a shower screen to last for a "reasonable" or appropriate amount of time. While that time cannot be specified, one could say the screen should last for more than a year, perhaps even two years or more so long as it was properly installed and maintained. A failure within two years could well be argued using SOGA.

 

Tempered or Safety Toughened glass has been used for many years now and although it is now probably as reliable as it's ever been, the process of toughening means there will always be failures occasionally. The very careful heating and cooling of the glass gives it increased strength but it also sets a "stress" into the glass so that, if it is damaged in any way, it shatters into the relatively small and safer glass granules. Proving any degree of Negligence by the manufacturer would be very difficult in normal circumstances.

 

If they'd fitted the wrong glass so it wasn't a toughened screen, that would be negligent and a different matter entirely.

 

Injury

 

If you didn't need or seek medical help at the time or within 24 hours of the incident, you didn't see anyone who could assess and report on the injuries sustained and you didn't at least take photos of the injuries, I can't see this going anywhere.

 

I would accept the offer of a replacement screen. If you want, you could tell them you also want a contribution towards the cost of fitting the new screen.

 

Beyond that, I think you may be wasting your time.

 

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Thanks for your advice slick. I guess it is difficult to say how long a shower screen should last but should it explode within 4 years? I can't think of anything I/we did to cause it so I'm concerned if the manufacturer doesn't investigate the blame will lie with me and nothing is learnt from this event. It did have the rubber seal keeping it away from the bath top.

 

The good news is I took photos of my injuries before I mopped them up and I did send 3 of those photos, along with 3 of the screen shattered to the manufacturer and the retailer.

 

One last time so I can put this to bed please could you explain why I'd be wasting my time pursuing anything other than screen replacement and potentially fitting contribution? Is there no way I can hold them liable for the scratched bath or the cuts to me? I kind of feel a bit annoyed I'm out of pocket for something that I believe was not my fault. Or will I just have to suck it up :-)

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Ah, so you took photos of the injuries.

 

Can you comment objectively and say how well the pics show the injuries. Also, are they dated digitally.

 

Depending on your reply, you could write to the manufacturer and the retailer saying you hold them jointly responsible and that, as well as the replacement screen, you want them to pay for the reasonable fitting costs plus a nominal £100 for your injuries. Tell them if they fail to agree to your request, you will seek further advice with a view to either :-

 

1. Asking the Furniture Ombudsman to make a formal investigation and report.

 

2. Making a claim for the damaged screen, bath and personal injuries.

 

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The photos were taken while the cuts were still bleeding so whilst not digitally dated they are fresh photos. You can also see blood in the bath with the shattered glass and a footprint shaped hole.

 

The pictures show the injuries in an accurate light. Lots of superficial ones on my legs and feet, deeper ones on my hand.

 

I did write to them both, with a cc'd to other party at the bottom with those requests (although I thought I'd start at £1000 and negotiate down :-) )

 

That's when the manufacturer wrote to me without prejudice and offered the screen. Before that they said they weren't giving me anything, hence I took legal advice.

 

I've not heard of the furniture ombudsman. Will Google that. So the shower screen comes under 'furniture'? I'm keen to flag this up to someone who can investigate whether this is a one off or if anything can be learnt. Given the seriousness of what occurred and what could have occurred I do think manufacturers should be held to account for learning from spontaneously combusting screens. I would think they would be keen to make sure it doesn't happen again rather than shirking responsibilities.

 

Thanks for your help slick. All advice is very welcome :-)

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  • 7 months later...

Hi silver_manatee. I know it's been a while since you posted your thread about your exploding shower screen but a couple of days ago exactly the same thing happened to me. Sitting in the bath reading (thank goodness as the book somehow protected my face!) when my glass shower screen literally exploded around me like a gunshot, showering me and everything in the room in shards of glass and stranding me in a glass and blood filled bath. The company I bought the screen from (Bathstore Brighton) say it is just the hazard of having one as tempered glass is prone to exploding. No concern at all for anyone's welfare - my small children were sitting in that bath an hour earlier! Did you have any luck with your case and if so what path did you take in The end?

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Hi ESLady and welcome to CAG

 

When did this happen.

 

Can you tell us how old the shower screen was.

 

Did you visit the store or speak to them by phone. Did you speak to the store manager.

 

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Hi Slick

Thanks for replying.

It happened on Sunday evening just gone .

The shower screen was installed by an experienced fitter the day after it arrived at end of January 2008 so over six years ago. I understand from Trading Standards' glass expert that this means it cannot have been due to incorrect fitting as would not have lasted that long in situ. The product came with only a 12 month warranty although the same screen, when it is now purchased it comes with a ten year warranty.

 

I initially called the customer service line expecting them to be horrified but they weren't interested or concerned at all and referred me to the store I bought the suite from. They said it was basically just bad luck and would I like to buy a new one? I then spoke to the manager who was also not very interested but said he would refer it to his head office. I emailed him photos and letter explaining exactly what happened and that I would like them to provide an alternative, safer screen free of charge but accepting that I would have to pay for the fitting and all the repairs to the bath myself (very reasonable I thought?!). Their reply - "We have supplied product of merchantable quality and fit for purpose and certainly not of poor quality and this unexplained breakage is beyond the manufacturers and our control".

 

If my kettle blew up in my face or my toaster or tv exploded, warranty or not, I would expect the manufacturers to show great concern that a customer had been injured and wish to investigate what occurred to discover what the problem was. Apparently not in this case. It is not so unusual and does happen however they are prepared to keep selling them?

 

I wish I had thought to take photos of my injuries at the time when I had blood running down my shoulders but stupidly I was more worried about washing all the glass out of my skin and then getting out of the bathroom. So I only have photos of the swept up glass, hinges, damage to bath etc.

 

It is the lack of concern that really frustrates me...

 

Any thoughts gratefully received.

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SUPERQUICK UPDATE!!

 

With a bit of detective work I found the email address of the CEO, forwarded my correspondence and thoughts on the matter to him and received a virtually immediate reply stating that they will happily replace my shower screen with something safer as requested in the first place. Happy with that, drama over.

 

Thanks for the support :-)

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Hi ESL,

 

I'm delighted to hear this has been resolved and well done for going over the heads of the unhelpful store and customer service staff.

 

I would have also asked for a contribution towards the cost of installing the new one. However, given the age of the broken one, you have done very well in getting the CEO to provide the new screen.

 

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Still in a dispute and getting no where annoyingly!!

 

Manufacturer claims it can't have been faulty when it left them or it would have broken sooner.

 

Interesting to hear Trading Standards say it can't be fitting if it's lasted that long. Who's right??

 

Trying to get somewhere with the retailer now without luck.

 

I've given them weeks since the last correspondence so will be calling Trading standards on Tuesday I think.

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Hi SM,

 

Have you tried what ESLady did and contact the manufacturer's CEO direct ?

 

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Hi SM,

 

Have you tried what ESLady did and contact the manufacturer's CEO direct ?

 

:-)

 

Yep tried that last autumn and received a reply months later from their personal liability insurers rejecting liability. It's a small family run company so hoped I'd have some luck.

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Yep tried that last autumn and received a reply months later from their personal liability insurers rejecting liability. It's a small family run company so hoped I'd have some luck.

 

What ? The manufacturer is a small family company ? :-o

 

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What ? The manufacturer is a small family company ? :-o

 

:-)

 

Well it's run by 3 brothers and the letter referred to the screen leaving their factory. I filled in the blanks for myself.

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Well it's run by 3 brothers and the letter referred to the screen leaving their factory. I filled in the blanks for myself.

 

Please feel free to name the manufacturer - I can see no reason why you shouldn't.

 

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thanks for this post!

I'm now so scared of going in the bath that I'm washing myself with the garden hose :-D

 

:lol: :lol: :lol:

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