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The risks of buying a fridge on eBay

Supplier: Bar Fridges Australia
25 September, 2018

There are a host of people who are selling fridges online on sites like eBay at discounted prices that most often seem a little too good to be true.

The advertisement for the fridge seems to offer products with similar features to others you may have seen, that are close to half the price of reputable brands. Some companies make additional offers to entice people to buy inferior products at inflated prices.

The traders that sell these fridges most often sell hundreds of other items that have also been sourced from Asia. Little is known about the product by their staff, and the online advertisement appears to offer similar products to that of a trusted brand.

Bar Fridges Australia has heard countless tales of consumers falling foul of these here today, gone tomorrow businesses and individuals. The story unfolds with regular monotony, and generally proceeds as follows.

The consumer buys a bar fridge from an eBay seller. The fridge is shipped without delay, and arrives quickly. So far, so good!

The fridge is unpacked and the unit seems flimsy, and not nearly as solid or commercial as the literature suggested. The unit is put into position and turned on, and the fridge’s running noise is much louder than expected. The fridge seems to take a long time to cool things down, and the drinks don’t get as cold as they thought they would be.

The consumer then contacts the company to complain, but the company explains that the suggested operating environment that the fridge should be placed in should be no more than 25 degrees Celsius, and not closer to the 40 degrees Celsius alfresco temperatures that one can expect in here. The fridge has not been built or engineered for the harsh climate of Australia, but for far more pleasant European locations. Engineering a fridge like this can save the manufacturer an enormous amount of money.

The person is advised that if they wish to return the item, that they will need to freight the unit back to the wholesaler, and for safety and resale, the original packaging needs to be used. The person is advised that the cost to freight the unit back will be several hundred dollars, plus they will have to pay for the original freight as well before a refund can be considered! The original packaging has already been ripped or discarded...so what can be done?

Most people decide to keep the unit. They  decide that the prohibitive freight and the risk of returning the unit which may also incur damage by the freight company for which they could be held liable, appears not to be worth the time, effort, or hassle.

The unit is shifted from the alfresco area to inside the house where it has a better chance to cool the drinks down, and the fridge (suddenly now in an enclosed space) appears to have doubled in the amount of noise that it makes. The client attaches a smart meter to see how much electricity the unit is consuming and finds out that it is more than double of what was stated in the advertising. This fridge is costing an extra $100 per year to run than they thought it would! This is a cost of $1000 over ten years, and way more than than initial cost of buying the best unit possible.

They contact the company by message, because they are not answering the telephone number that is listed on eBay. The company responds by saying that electricity consumption is only a guide and it depends on a number of factors. The truth is, is that the figures have been made up, and no testing under Australian regulations have ever been performed.

The fridge continues to operate for a few months until one day a door is opened, a drink is pulled out, and the consumer discovers that their beverages are warm. The fridge has stopped cooling! The consumer contacts the business again to claim on their warranty.

“Not a problem” says the person on the other end of the phone after the consumer has spent half of their morning trying to get through, “just ship the unit back to us, and we will take a look at it. Please be advised that you will also be liable for return freight charges”.

“Can’t you send someone to my house to take a look at it”, replies the customer.

“No, our warranty clearly states 12 months on parts. There is no mention of service or freight”.

The consumer does the sums, and suddenly realises that they will be up for over $350 to have the unit transported both ways, even if they elect to use the companies discounted freight rates rather than their own choice of carrier. They will also receive the same fridge back. The very same one that had problems to begin with.

Some people elect to go ahead and pay for the transport and are without a fridge for up to a month whilst the business takes its sweet time looking into the problem. The consumer eventually gets the fridge back. Less than 6 months goes by and then like clockwork the same problem arises!

Aaaaaarrrgggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

This time the fridge is either out of warranty, the business does not have spare parts, or the business is no longer operating. Most people admit defeat, and put that fridge out on the next clean-up, as the rubbish tip is the only place that it truly belongs. The consumer suddenly realises that buying cheap electrical appliances on eBay will cost them more money in the long run, whilst also putting up with an inferior product in the short term.

Do your research before purchasing. Find out if the electrical item has MEPS compliance. Ask to see proof of the units electricity consumption and what conditions they were tested under and built for. Ask if the company manufactures or designs the units, and whether they carry spare parts. Ask if the unit can be viewed in person at a location that is close by. Ask the company if they have an extended warranty, and how long they’ve been trading for.

Most importantly, the next time you buy any large, heavy, or cumbersome electrical appliance, ensure that the warranty is covered throughout the entire nation in case you move premises, and clearly states the following: WARANTY INCLUDES PARTS AND LABOUR (IN HOME SERVICE AND/OR ASSOCIATED FREIGHT COSTS).

When you find such a warranty you can be assured that the company providing it has done everything in its power of providing a product that has little chance of failing and lasting well outside any warranty period. The costs for them to honour such a warranty on an untested product on a large scale is prohibitive. This is why time, money, and effort dominates the designing, engineering, and building phases of their products, whilst quality parts and workmanship remain paramount to their overall excellence.

Research, then buy wisely the first time, every time, and live life without the added stress.