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You may have to fight to get repairs covered — even under warranty

Sandra Radcliffe had a two-year-old Whirlpool gas range whose grates became warped and sank into the stove top.

“It is dangerous to put a pot on four of the five elements,” she said. “We are seeking to have the grates replaced, but the only offer Whirlpool will consider is a 25 per cent discount on the part, since it is beyond the warranty period.”

It’s hard to believe a household could cause this kind of damage in just two years. A gas range should be engineered to withstand high cooking heats.

When I asked Whirlpool to improve its offer, Radcliffe received an offer to replace her grates free of charge.

Warranties are a continuing theme in my columns. Under the Sale of Goods Act in most provinces, stores must sell products that are fit for their intended purpose. This means they have to work in the way they’re supposed to work.

The store where the product was purchased should be your main focus when seeking repairs or replacement, says Legalline.ca, a provider of free legal advice. But in some cases, you may have to call the manufacturer about your problem.

The Sears Canada bankruptcy has made it more difficult for customers to get warranty coverage. The company’s website, still online, tells you how to contact the manufacturers of products sold under its brand names (Kenmore, Kenmore Elite, Viking and Craftsman) for parts and service.

The process is not seamless, however, as I learned when handling two problems with Kenmore ovens made by Electrolux.

Zdenek Michl bought a Kenmore microwave at Sears Canada last December. Though listed at $ 400, she got it for $ 270 with a store closing discount.

What if something goes wrong, Michl asked. Don’t worry, she was told, Frigidaire would look after it.

“The microwave worked until Jan. 12. Now the lights and buttons work, but no heating,” she said. “I only used the machine for warming food about 18 times.”

Both Frigidaire and Electrolux, the parent manufacturer, said they did not service Kenmore products. They referred her to Trans Global Service, which works for many appliance makers in Canada. Its phone number was always busy, Michl said, and she never got through after spending several days on redial.

Eloise Hale, my Electrolux contact in Charlotte, N.C., helped resolve the problem within a day by hiring a repair firm near her home to do the repair.

Sheila Willis owned a Kenmore wall oven, whose glass oven door had exploded spontaneously last February (several hours after it was turned off), while still under a one-year warranty.

“Electrolux said the glass on the door was not covered under its warranty because it’s considered ‘cosmetic,’ not ‘functional,’ though I can’t use the oven without it,” Willis said.

“Meanwhile, the Kenmore warranty did cover oven door glass, which would be replaced free within the first year. There are many reports online about the exact same problem with Kenmore model 790 (Frigidaire) wall ovens. Can you help?”

Again, Hale acted quickly. Trans Global Service made an appointment to replace the shattered glass door on the same day I forwarded Willis’ email.

Almost until the end, Sears kept selling extended warranties and protection plans to cover purchases for five years. With the court-approved liquidation on Oct. 19, 2017, these warranties stopped being honoured.

Even when a retailer is still in business, customers may have trouble getting warranty coverage. Take Namas Thayaparan, who paid $ 2,800 for an Italian-made sofa and loveseat at HBC, including five-year protection plans for both pieces.

After six months, he noticed the sofa’s leather was somewhat discoloured. Also, there were wrinkles and shrinkage on all six cushions.

“I had repeated contacts with the Bay and I sent the pictures as requested, but they are ignoring my request to make this right,” he said.

“My wife and I are retirees. My son, 29, sometimes stays with us, but there are no others who would make this furniture wear out so quickly. At the price we paid, we thought it would be a lifelong investment.”

HBC spokesperson Tiffany Bourre arranged to have someone call him right away to apologize and discuss remedies.

“Thanks for agreeing to exchange the furniture,” Thayaparan wrote to HBC a few days later. “We confirm this is a fair solution, but we want to wait until the end of June to visit various stores and select something that will meet our needs.

“We agreed that if the new price for the exchanged furniture exceeds the price paid before, we can negotiate and agree on the final price. Further, the Bay will deliver the new items and remove the others at their cost.”

Ellen Roseman appears in Smart Money. You can reach her at eroseman@thestar.ca.

TORONTO STAR