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Here's Help If You Have Bought a Lemon : Consumer Council Resolves Most Complaints About Appliances

April 21, 1985|BARBARA MAYER | Associated Press

You've had the appliance for two years and it has been nothing but trouble. It's been fixed several times under warranty, but now the warranty has expired and it's broken again.

Before replacing it or running up a big repair bill, consider another option: appealing to the Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel.

MACAP is sponsored by, but independent from, the Assn. of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the Gas Appliances Manufacturers Assn. and the National Retail Merchants Assn. Its primary purpose is to review consumer complaints which have not been resolved at the retail, installer or manufacturer level and to recommend a fair resolution of the dispute.

Since 1968, the volunteer panel has reviewed 35,780 consumer complaints, resolving about 80% of them, often in the consumer's favor.

Takes Most Problems

MACAP processes complaints about all types of major appliances, including clothes washers and dryers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, food waste disposers, refrigerators and freezers, conventional stoves and ovens and microwaves, room air conditioners, trash compactors and water heaters.

Normally the panel meets in closed session from six to eight times a year at MACAP's Chicago headquarters. But recently the panel took its show on the road to New York, where an open session was held to acquaint county extension agents with its work.

At the open meeting, Elsie Fetterman, chairman of the panel and a consumer education specialist, and other panel members offered some general guidelines on appliance selection and use.

The panel suggested consumers should also weigh warranty information while considering other factors such as price, size and features when shopping for new appliances. Though manufacturers are not required to provide warranties, a federal law specifies that they must provide information on their warranty policies on every product that costs more than $15. Retailers are obligated to make this information available to consumers at the point of purchase.

Different Warranties

Full warranties offer more protection than limited warranties, since they require the warrantor to remedy a problem in a reasonable time and without charge or to replace the product as long as the warranty is in effect. A limited warranty is restricted solely to what is outlined in the terms of the warranty.

Once you've gotten an appliance home, you should take the time to put it through all its paces, testing all the features and controls. Warranties are based on time, not usage, and flaws discovered after the warranty has lapsed are not covered. If, however, you've had a problem with the appliance under warranty and it recurs, many companies will consider repairing the problem.

Since receipts documenting service calls serve as proof of a problem, consumers should be sure to obtain and keep service receipts, even when there is no charge for the call or repair.

Consumers who have trouble with a major appliance should follow a four-step procedure to have the problem resolved. The first step is to read the use and care book to be sure you are operating the appliance correctly.

Route to Follow

Next, contact the local dealer or service agency authorized to repair the appliance. If this is not effective, contact the manufacturer, whose name and address is furnished in the use and care booklet. If you are still not satisfied, write the Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel at 20 North Wacker Drive, Chicago, Ill. 60606.

MACAP will forward your complaint directly to the manufacturer for a last consideration. If you aren't satisfied, MACAP will review the facts and make a specific recommendation. Manufacturers are not obligated to follow the panel's advice, but according to Fetterman, in approximately 98% of the cases, they do.

Consumers who write to MACAP should include the following information to have their complaint processed quickly:

--Your name, address and daytime phone number.

--The type of appliance, brand and model number.

--The name, address and phone number of the dealer or service agency involved.

--Copies of any letters you have written or received about your complaint.

--A clear description of the problem and what resolution you are seeking.

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