Matt Allwright: how to avoid warranty scams

What would we do without our don’t-call-it-a-Hoover?

We’d still be beating rugs over a washing line with a bamboo stick. Now there’s a scam working its way down the country which is designed to take advantage of the fact that we rely on our vacuums, and to make money where there is none to be made. I call it ‘I’m gonna git your sucker’ and I want you to get it before it gets you.

This is how it works

You get a call, out of the blue, from a person who seems to know a lot about your vacuum cleaner. They say, ‘Your (insert name of manufacturer here) vacuum cleaner is due for a service. It must have its filters changed regularly or the warranty is invalid.’ AN INVALID WARRANTY! What’s worse than that? You go into a downward spiral of fear and desperation. In fact, the person on the end of the phone has no idea what kind of vacuum you have, he’s just playing lucky dip by namechecking the most-frequently bought brand in the UK. Yes, the one with all the flashy colours and the revolutionary technology. And in one in three households, he’ll be right on the money. So, you arrange to have an ‘engineer’ from the company come round to check your vacuum for a very low price, say, £20. You may even be thinking he works for the company that makes the machine, because he didn’t do anything on the phone to make you think otherwise.

'Engineer' or salesman?

You’ll probably notice how I’m sticking quote marks around the word ‘engineer’ because very often the word ‘salesman’ would be more accurate. Or perhaps ’numpty’. When he comes calling, he’s actually there to convince you that your vacuum needs new parts fitted. New parts which he just happens to have in his van. In particular, he will be looking to fit new filters. On the average Dyson (go on, I’ve said it) there are two filters. One of these never has to be changed; the other just needs to be run under a tap and then dried out for a while before using again. The Travelling Numpty, however, may say both have to go – but he won’t replace them with the ones the manufacturers recommend. Oh no. He’ll charge you a hundred quid or so to stick in inferior parts that won’t last anywhere near as long as the originals, and which really COULD invalidate your warranty. He may then try to sell you a new brush or motor or God knows what, none of which your machine actually needs. In one case, so great was the numptiness of the ‘engineer’ that a customer’s machine was left with a dangerous electrical fault. But it did get a nice polish.

Avoid the service aggreement

The crowning glory of this scam is that you could then be sold a service agreement which involves a monthly or yearly payment to the company. So you’ve swapped your manufacturer’s warranty, which came with the machine when you bought it, for year-round NumptyCover. You’d have to be mad, wouldn’t you? No. There are plenty of perfectly sane people who are falling for this one at the moment. You spend a lot of money on a vacuum, you’ll do anything to prevent it going pop. Just check who you’re dealing with when someone calls out of the blue. The big manufacturers don’t tend to do this, so chances are you’re talking to a stranger sitting in front of a phone book with a marker pen. Happy Hoovering (other vacuum brands are available)!

Matt Allwright is a presenter on BBC One's Rogue Traders and a columnist in Best magazine, published weekly. You can access Matt's previous columns in the All About You archive.

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Read more from Matt - should you buy an extended warranty?


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