Mad About Microwave Muddle [Consumer Rights]

Millie asks: Hi Jo, it’s me again. So after reading your article on buying a new or secondhand microwave I decided to buy a secondhand one from a local junk store. Unfortunately I didn’t want to seem too distrusting so I didn’t ask for a demonstration. But I wish I had – this microwave is an absolute lemon. It cooks food unevenly, the light doesn’t work and it keeps interpreting cook for thirty seconds as cook for thirty minutes! Am I able to get a return? Also does the Consumer Guarantees Act still apply?

Sorry about the muddle you are in. Although many junk shops are honest with transparent dealings, some are eager to get your money and send you out the door with a faulty and potentially dangerous good.

On that note, I’d recommend you stop using your microwave immediately. A faulty timer and light is one thing. But there are many worse faults you may not even know about. It could be leaking radiation into your food or not cooking your food to the core – which is unsafe if you want to reheat chicken.

Next you need to know your rights. Sadly many people assume that secondhand stores are immune from complying with the Consumer Guarantees Act because the good is preowned and therefore is more liable to be faulty. But you’re in luck – that is entirely false.

That’s right, if you buy second-hand goods from a shop or from anyone who’s in business, then the Consumer Guarantees Act applies. Even if you bought the microwave online or in an auction from a business, the Act still applies. Success!

This means with your microwave, and any other secondhand purchase, you should assume it is fit for purpose, safe, free from defects, look acceptable, and last for a reasonable amount of time. For more information on guarantees for goods, check out the Consumer affairs website.

Now onto what you do about the microwave. Maybe you want to march right up to the store and throw it as hard as you can at the salesperson. Or maybe you know a handyman who guarantees he can fix it for half the price you purchased it for. To save unnecessary costs and a possible lawsuit, I wouldn’t recommend either of these options.

Instead take the microwave back to the store you purchased it from. If the problem is minor, which it isn’t, then you can get a repair, refund or replacement. If the problem is major then you can get a full refund. It helps to have a copy of the Consumer Guarantees Act to ensure they’re on the same page as you.

However keep in mind that you purchased this microwave knowing that it is secondhand. If signs of wear and tear started occurring later down the line, then things get a bit grey. You also need to consider how much you paid for the goods, information you received about them, and their general wear and tear.

Now that you (hopefully) have a full refund, you’re probably wanting to get a new microwave straightaway. You can always get one off the same seller depending on how you guage their reaction. If they were shocked, apologetic and compliant with your refund demand, then it’s likely the faulty microwave shocked them as much as it shocked you.

However if they were negligent, uncompliant or just seemed shady then take your money elsewhere. Also buying off another buyer will give you more peace of mind. Even if you picked another perfectly fine microwave off the same vendor, you would likely be overanalysing it for any flaws.