Over the last few weeks, I had problem with my $3000 French door Samsung fridge. I have purchased it from Harvey Norman and took Product Care insurance. After two years, ice has started to build up inside the fridge and resulted in very loud noises that disrupted our living and sleeping areas. Apparently the problem is due to a design flaw that affects the defrosting system and is well known and documented by users in social media.
I have to go through the Product Care process that doesn’t allow me to touch the fridge myself without voiding the guaranty and their service technician cannot come over until next week. Very frustrating that we need either live with a chopper-like noise for a week or turn the fridge off and live like a cave man.
I was hoping that ACCC can reference to the Samsung’s bulletins on the issue and force them to refund the consumers who already have this problem.
It is an interesting one as it could be classed as a minor fault as the issue appears to be more annoying (a noise) than something which prevents the use of the refrigerator.
If the ice prevents the operation of the ice maker and it is a key function of the fridge (inc… reduced the performance of the whole of the refrigerator), the it could be argued that the fault is either minor or major. It would be minor it it can easily be rectified through a service or part replacement. It may be major if the ice maker can’t be fixed and the problem is likely to reoccur, affect the use of the ice maker/refrigerator and cause ongoing noise problems.
Does the ice buildup affect the operation of the ice maker, or does the ice build up only result in the noise with the ice maker still functional?
The ACCC states that “If you have a minor problem with a product or service, the business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund. When you have a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund. For a major problem with a service, you can choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.”
Also as you are probably aware, warranty extensions like HN Product Care have no value and not worth the money paid for them. In reality, the length of a warranty and resolution is determined under the Australian Consumer Law and not by the manufacturer or retailer. What the manufacturer says is really a guidance and also the period where warranty claims are more likely to be more easily resolved.
When the technician arrives, ask if there is routine maintenance you can do to prevent the icing up occurring again. It may be to remove a cover and remove built up ice. If the technician indicates there is, take his name and company details he works for as you may need to have this information handy in the future (esp. if HN or Samsung indicate that the warranty is void because you were carrying out regular maintenance by a service technician).
Good luck and keep up up to date with what happens.
Another thing, also check your refrigerator manual to see what ice maker maintenance/cleaning is required during the fridges operation. If the ice build up and resulting noise was caused by inadequate cleaning/maintenance by the user, it is possibly that the service technician/Samsung will say that it is not covered by warranty. It is important to check this out as you may find that you are up for the cost of the service technician visiting your house.
The Samsung website indicates that routine maintenance may be required for some of their fridges.
Also, carrying out routine maintenance specified in manuals/user guide will not void a warranty, unless the maintenance did not follow that in the manual (e.g. tipping boiling water in the ice maker when the manual states other methods for maintaining).
It may be worth carrying out the routine maintenance as per the manual (if there is a maintenance requirement indicated) before the technician visits to see this this fixes the problem, If it does, you can then cancel the visit (and potentially saving you some money).
Many thanks for taking time and providing such comprehensive and insightful response, much appreciated.
With regards to the definition of minor and major faults, in my humble opinion:
If a fridge is not convenient for the users due to a misrepresentation in the technical specification (in this case loudness), it should be considered a major fault.
We were not able to sleep at night and couldn’t stay in our living area due to the loud noise. This is a major fault as the appliance disrupts the normal life of the user.
During the birthday party of my son, our guests complaint about the noise to a point that we had to shut-down the fridge for the duration of the party (around 4-5 hrs). As a result, we had to dispose many fresh foods. If this is a reoccurring problem, it is against the whole purpose of having a fridge and should be considered a major fault.
As per Samsung’s Technical Manual Bulletin, this issue had been identified for a long time (~2015) and the company asks technicians to check for three different sources of problem. According to the text and many complaints from the users, if the problem starts, it is unlikely to be fixed and frequent services are required. I consider such problem as a major fault as it adds a nondisclosed maintenance to the appliance.
According to the Class Action against Samsung in US, the company did nothing to rectify the problem for the users free of charge and considered such problem as a routine warranty issue. This irresponsible behaviour of a manufacturer should be considered as a major fault, as it forces the users to pay for something that is not their fault.
With regards to the Harvey Norman’s product care, I have been taken as hostage by the company. I am not able to touch my refrigerator (warranty problem) and their technical contactor (Woolley Appliances) is too busy to respond to the claims promptly. The HN product care tried to convince me over the phone to accept repair; however, the T&C of my contract clearly says that I am entitled to a replacement or refund for any minor or major fault. Fingers crossed for the technician’s visit tomorrow…
If you are not happy with the outcome of the tech visit, formalise every communication in writing, ‘time stamped’ notes, who you talked to and the outcome, and make sure all emails have acknowedgement to demonstrate they were received. HN is not a company, but a collection of franchises that apparently each sets their own business standards. ‘Harvey Norman’ is a buying agent that licenses the look and feel and marketing and makes all possible attempts to step aside regarding problems. Even the HN online site is a separate business; there are numerous posts about HN across the forum.
When they sell product care their position is they have shifted their responsibility. That is not how the ACL sees it but consumers will usually play their game.
Based on your statement about a US class action you probably could make a winning case with a formalised request for a refund/replacement through a well done ‘letter of complaint’. It should go to the franchisee, perhaps also the product care company, and cc’d to HN itself so they are aware.
The service bulletin in your post (2015) predates the delivery/purchase date of your fridge (around 2016/17 from the information provided above) and it could argued that it is not relevant to the fridge you purchased as any known ‘design problems’ could have been resolved in any updates to the model.
There is a service bulletin which is dated after the purchase of your fridge and this one should be the one which is referred to. This service bulletin can be found here:
There is also an additional 2017 service bulletin which for other models which can be found here:
Some of these problems may arise from a failure of one or more components associated with the icemaker, namely the defrost/cooling loop, auger motor or perished seals. Other may be from movement/incorrect fitment of components on manufacturer, namely the ice bucket gasket seal, water leak or the ice route is not sealing properly. Other may be from inadequate maintenance, namely, air duct locked with frost or ice. It would be interesting to know if the later would be resolved by the general maintenance in the user manual.
The above does not necessarily indicate that there is a known design fault with the fridge. It indicates that a icemaker causing loud intrusive noises in known by Samsung and Samsung has issued a service bulletin to assist service technicians in finding and resolving the source of the noise quickly.
I wouldn’t be jumping to the conclusion that the fridge has a known design problems as it could be the case this this is not correct. If it become correct from information gathered through discussion with Samsung and/or the service technician, then it would fall into the major fault category under the ACL, namely “it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it”. Proving such may however be very difficult…and possibly why in the US some fridge owners have mounted a class action. It is also worth noting that information about US fridges may or may not apply to models sold in Australia and shouldn’t be fully relied upon per say.
If the fault has been caused by a fault in the icemaker or poor quality control in the factory of the fitment of icemaker components, then these will be the responsibility of Samsung to rectify. When the service technician visits, I would be asking if the problem is common and is there anything you can do to ensure that the problem does not occur again.
If the service technician indicates that the problem has been caused by inadequate maintenance in accordance with the user manual/guide, ask how often maintenance should be carried out (which for example could be more regular in humid/moist environments) and how best to do the maintenance (get the technical to show you how to do it).
The second service bulletin states the problem could be caused by:
and recommends the replacement of the Ice Maker Service Kit (Ice Maker and Main PCB). It could be assumed that the PCB would need replacement as it would have been damaged by the blockage.
Both these, unless the blockage was caused by the operator, should be replaced by Samsung.
Not necessarily, an example is say a car power steering started to have a loud squeaky noise when the wheel was turned, one would not expect the car manufacturer to replace the whole car because the noise was intrusive and annoying when driving the car. One would expect the components making the noise to be replaced to mitigate the noise. Unfortunately the same applies with the fridge. While the noise is annoying, it appears from the information you have provided it has not affected the operation of the fridge. Therefore, under the ACL it is unlikely to major fault as the service bulletin indicates that the noise problem can be readily rectified
Also, the ACL allows for compensation where the use of a product causes losses or damage. However, if ones use caused the loss or damage (say physically turning off the fridge which results in food being spoiled), then it is unlikely that compensation would be available as the loss/damage could have been avoided by the consumer.
As outlined above, this service bulletin predates that of your fridge and may not be relevant to your fridge. The above links to 2017 service bulletins are those which will be relevant.
One can’t use the US as what may happen in Australia. Australian Consumer Laws are very different to that in the US and consumer rights and the manufacturer’s/seller’s responsibilities come under the Australian Consumer Law.
These rights and responsibilities are explained in plain English on the ACCC website:
No, the T&Cs (see below) does not say that in relation to minor faults. HN I expect will point to the terms and conditions which relate to the Australian Consumer Law and state that the fridge’s problems (if not due to inadequate maintenance), come under the ACL (see section 1-9 and 12 of the product Care T&Cs).
Unfortunately the T&Cs give HN the flexibility to chose what it claims the product fault falls under. As the ball is in HN court, I would be very surprised if they automatically offered a refund or replacement, when their product care T&Cs indicate that can fall back on the ACL and do a repair.
This is the main reason why the product has no value over the consumer rights under the ACL, and one in effect is paying for smoke and mirrors which advantage only HN.
Reading the Product Care T&Cs, it doesn’t provide much more than that can be offered under the Australian Consumer Law. The only additional benefits, if they can be called that, is the Product Care can be transferred through change in ownership during the period the care package is taken out, it applies overseas (assuming the product can be taken overseas and the manufacturer won’t honour their product warranty in another country) and one gets some minor discounts on other HN products…
The last one is interesting as it most likely wouldn’t apply as one of there exclusions for an ‘eligible fault’ would possibly render this one useless (see subclauses c, d and e).
One needs to assess whether these ‘additional’ benefits justify the price premium to purchase product care.
A final comment is wait until the service technician attends the fridge to determine if the problem is likely to reoccur, is a known design fault (noting that a service bulletin does not indicate a design fault but how to fix a problem - they are a bit like a technical service bulletin used for car services and issued by the car manufacturer) and whether they is any maintenance you can do to prevent a recurrence. If all the above three are answered in the affirmative, then you may need to take the matter further.
Until then, it is best to be patient. Also let us know how you get on with the service technician.