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Hot water cylinder - faulty during warranty period - manufacturer rejects claim


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1/ A neighbor had new boiler installed, at the same time the plumber replaces the 30 year old (copper) hot water cylinder as a precaution

 

2/ Five years later this (new) cylinder develops a leak. There are holes where corrosion has occurred in the copper at the point where the immersion heater boss is joined into the cylinder. The cylinder has a large notice on it stating it is covered by a ten year warranty.

 

3/ A plumber replaces the hot water cylinder. The faulty cylinder is sent to the original supplying merchant who returns it to the manufacturer as a warranty claim.

 

4/ Approx 5 months later the manufacturer rejects the claim stating that they do not warrant against corrosion.

 

5/ Neighbor phones manufacturer who states that they only offer a 10 year warranty as other manufacturers offered it on their cylinders and they had to offer 10 years in order to compete. They didn't want to offer 10 years, they exclude corrosion however caused, and have no intention of considering this claim.

This seems unreasonable

 

a) The cylinder was professionally installed using the correct fittings, the use is on domestic hot water. The previous cylinder was 30 years old and still in service. Therefor we expect at least a 20 year life, or certainly much more than 10 years.

 

b) The exclusion of corrosion is again unreasonable, cylinders do fail due to corrosion, but normally in 20 or 30 years, not 5 years. If the copper were of poor quality, included defects, or the copper was thin due to poor forming during manufacture, then premature corrosion could occur. So the manufacturer is effectively excluding defective materials from the warranty.

 

c) We don't know when the clause regarding corrosion was added to the terms and conditions as no t&c's were provided with the cylinder.

 

d) In summary it seems the product was not of merchantable quality. The manufacturer promotes the product with a 10 year warranty and then hides behind unreasonable terms when there is a claim.


Should my neighbor proceed with a claim against the manufacturer, does he have any hope of success, how should he proceed

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Who supplied the cylinder?

Have you seen the written terms of the warranty?

Have you taken any photographs or anything of the corroded cylinder? Do you have access to it now?

It might be an idea if you had a look at warranties of other manufacturers to see what they are saying about corrosion of their cylinders.

Why is in your neighbour coming to do this himself?

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The cylinder was supplied by the plumber who replaced the boiler. Purchased from a plumbers merchant. The plumber has retired, the plumbers merchant just passes the issue over to the manufacturer.

 

The cylinder has a large label that simply states '10 Year Warranty', does not state that the warranty is subject to conditions. The manufacturers web site has t&c's which state exclusion where  'the defect arises as a result of fair wear and tear, (including, but not limited to, corrosion or scale damage) wilful damage, negligence, or abnormal storage or abnormal working conditions;' these are not dated so we don't know when they were published, and we don't think 5 years is enough to qualify as 'fair wear and tear' from the point of view of failure

 

We have photographs - cylinder was returned to manufacturer but we have asked for ot to be returned

 

Another manufacturer I checked states 10 Year Warranty - but have same terms regarding corrosion - perhaps an industry standard escape clause

 

The neighbor is elderly 

 

Thanks

 

 

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Okay, the next thing to find out is whether the corrosion you experienced is normal for a cylinder of that age or if it was excessive.

You will have to make some enquiries and also you should look around the Internet to find out what the general wisdom is about cylinders of that make.

How long has the manufacturer had the cylinder in their possession?

 

What I am eventually proposing is that if you can basically get information or evidence that the corrosion you suffered on a cylinder of only five years of age is far more than wear and tear and should be attributed to some other defects, then you should sue the plumbers merchant on the basis that they provided a cylinder which was not of satisfactory quality. You would assert your contractual rights under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999. It seemed clear to me that if a plumber purchases a cylinder for a client from a plumbers merchant then both parties must realise that the client is intended to benefit from the contract and I would say that that would then potentially give you some rights. I think you would have a very strong case for arguing this.

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Thank you for the advice.

 

 I have looked around for opinion on the lifetime of a copper cylinder. As usual with the Internet there are a wide range of opinion and experience. Ignoring those experiencing premature failures the general view is 15 to 20 years, certainly more than 10 years. The potable water in this area is does have some mineral content but it is relatively low. When I removed my own water cylinder after 25 years there was very little sign of scale, the cylinder was still showing no external sign of corrosion, but the copper had become thin and it proved easy to break. So I think 15 years should be a minimum, allowing for the 'fact' that 'current products have been value engineered' when compared with those of 30 years ago. (as has also happened with the reduced wall thickness of copper pipe)

 

My personal view is that the materials of construction were not fit for purpose, either through an inclusion in the copper sheet, or the forming of the copper sheet resulted in it being too thin where the immersion heater boss was attached, or probably a combination of both conditions.

 

Again my thanks for your help, I will discuss with my neighbor and let him determine.his next step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I asked you how long it has been with the manufacturer and what are you doing to try and get it back. It seems to me to be a bit ominous that they have it – which means that they have the evidence in their possession.

What does the manufacturer claim about these cylinders? Have you looked on their website? Have you looked at the website of the plumbers merchant to see what they say about them?

I think you need to start accumulating some fairly authoritative -looking evidence – as well as anecdotes from the Internet.

Is your retired plumber prepared to get involved and is he prepared to give his opinion in a statement as to the expected life of the cylinder and the likely cause of the failure of your one?

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The cylinder was returned to the supplying merchant at the end of March 2020 and the reply from the merchant was received on the 24 September 2020. My neighbour has requested that his property (the faulty cylinder) is returned to him.

 

We know the cylinder was manufactured on 19/05/15 so it was not on the shelf for very long

 

The manufacturers web site currently states

 -  hot water storage cylinders are manufactured in the UK from premium quality copper in accordance with BSI566:2002 (Part L)

 -    Carrying extensive warranties*, cylinders are available in capacities of 50-440 litres.................... there is no reference to the * on this page

and also on another page

 

 - Manufactured in accordance with BSI566:2002 (Part L)

 - 10 year manufacturing warranty*   (*Terms & Conditions apply)

 

Both old and new plumbers will be contacted regarding their opinions

 

Thanks & best regards

 

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So it has been returned to the supplier – the plumbers merchant and not the manufacturer?

It certainly seems as if they have had a a long time. I wonder if you will manage to get it back?

 

Also, you say that there is nothing in writing to explain the terms and conditions of the warranty. Is there nothing on the website?

If the warranty is simply provided without any qualifications or exclusions then it seems to me that they would not be able to distance themselves from corrosion.

Very foolish of them to offer a warranty without explaining the terms of the warranty – but that probably would play in your favour. Was something extra paid for the warranty or did it simply come with the cylinder?

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My neighbor just has the invoice from the plumber for the work done and materials supplied. The cylinder has a prominent large orange label that clearly states  '10 Year Warranty'' and there is no further qualification. No other paperwork was provided.  So the man on the Clapham Omnibus would expect that they had the benefit of a 10 year warranty as sated on the tin.

 

The '10 Year warranty' is standard, provided with the product, and was clearly aimed to win sales.

 

The manufacturers web site does currently list T&Cs that qualify the warranty, We don't know if these T&Cs are as they were 5 years ago, or if they have been changed

 

I have to say that the manufacturer appears to be very unsophisticated, their correspondence is far from professional, as was their telephone manner. This may be endemic to the industry as one of the competitors web site has a product page with a large clear bright image stating 10 Year Warranty, then within the product description (smaller print) it lists '5 Year manufacturers warranty'. Not sure what trading standards would make of that.

 

Thanks again

 

 

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Who is the manufacturer and what is the address of the website?

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The link goes to a page which talks about a 10 year guarantee which is subject to terms and conditions. The only terms and conditions I can find referred to a stainless steel cylinder and I gathered that the one you are referring to is copper. Is that correct? If so, are you able to find the terms and conditions relating to copper cylinders

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A couple more questions – is the original plumber who fitted it on-side or is he unsupportive and even defensive about this?

Secondly, what kind of value are we talking about here – for the cost of a new cylinder and the cost of replacing the corroded one

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T&Cs are located at https://www.telford-group.com/terms-and-conditions/  - they seem to be rather disorganised, the stainless steel cylinder appears in the t&c and may have been parachuted in to a pre-existing set of terms. Consequently  its not easy to differentiate which paragraphs are relevant. to a copper cylinder. I believe the manufacturer is hiding behind the following.

 

5.4 e (exclusion) states 'the defect arises as a result of fair wear and tear, (including, but not limited to, corrosion or scale damage) wilful damage, negligence, or abnormal storage or abnormal working conditions;'

 

The original plumber was helpful to assist (by phone) with the failure, but as he is retired he is likely to prefer a quiet life

 

The cost of the cylinder itself is in the order of £200, the total cost of replacement was in the order of £600, but the warranty claim is limited to the cost of the cylinder 

 

A picture of the label on the cylinder is attached - orange label simply states 10 Year Warranty - - the dark black and gold  product label says the the cylinder is guaranteed for 2 years - at best it is unprofessional.

 

 

Warranty.jpg

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Okay. The plumber can have a quiet life but you need something from him to describe the installation, and also that the expected life of a copper cylinder would exceed XX years even in the case of corrosion and that corrosion at only five years could not be described as "normal wear and tear" and is likely to be caused by some inherent defect.

The fact that the terms and conditions of the warranty are not clear will help you because at the end of the day I think you are in a position simply to say that you understood it was guaranteed and that no terms and conditions were set. That it was absolutely reasonable to expect that if there was a defect in the item then the reparation would include not only the replacement of the cylinder but also all associated costs.

I think I've already suggested that you get a couple of written opinions about the expected lifespan of a copper cylinder – even if they can't give you a lifespan, they can certainly comment on corrosion occurring within five years.

You are doing all of this for your neighbour. If this runs to a legal action – as it probably will – then your neighbour is going to have to do this. Does your neighbour understand this?

The chances of you succeeding in court are extremely high. The chance of this actually going to court are much lower because it is much more likely that they will put their hands up. I would suggest that you might be best off suing the manufacturer and the plumber's merchant together as first defendant and second defendant.

If they are sensible, they will pull together on the cost. I'm assuming that a new cylinder has now been fitted – is this correct? Presumably you have the invoices for the purchase and installation of the new cylinder. Presumably the new cylinder which has been fitted is the same or equivalent to the one which corroded so that there is no particular difference in the cost.

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We should be able to obtain opinion regarding expected life from the original plumber as he is no longer active in the trade, so no issue with future relations with the merchant..

 

I will talk to my neighbor and explain what he  needs to do, clearly it will be up to him to proceed with the claim via the suggested route

 

Thank you for your help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Point out that the small claims process is very simple and straightforward. If there is a hearing then it is very likely to be a telephone hearing and as long as one knows the steps then there is no reason to be unconfident about it.

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