Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Appliance Manufacturers Owe Their Customers

A former client of mine called me the other day to let me know that she'd received a call from Liebherr informing her that her fridge (model CI1601, pictured above) was part of a safety recall.  From the Liebherr recall notice:
Some of the units contain screw locking devices which can malfunction in a way that the door hinge pin can become loose. In the situation where an appliance is equipped with a door stopper device, the door may remain attached to the appliance despite the loosening door hinge pin.

However, continued use of the door can result in separation of the door from the appliance with resulting potential injury to users.
So far no injuries have been reported, although 10 doors have fallen off refrigerators.

From Liebherr Installation Manual
My client was also told this issue is exacerbated when overlay door panels are used, as they were in my client's kitchen.  In fairness, the installation manual clearly states that each door panel should not exceed 25 pounds.  But the manual also states "To match your kitchen's design, use custom finish panels, overlay or framed."  The images from the manual are shown on the left.  The top panel on this refrigerator is very large; 26 1/4" wide x 46 5/16" high.  I don't have to weigh the panel to tell you that even a Shaker door of that size is going to come close to exceeding 25 lbs.  A raised panel or slab door most certainly would.

Which begs the question:  Why would a manufacturer suggest an installation of their product that clearly cannot work?  Passing the buck to the consumer by publishing an unreasonable weight limit per panel (Sub Zero for example has a weight limit of 50lbs on their BI30OU model) is not acceptable.  Further to this, a factory representative from Liebherr even went so far as to suggest to my client that the weight requirement was easily achievable by employing a specific construction technique (not described in the manual), or by using a specific brand of MDF (not applicable in my client's situation because her doors were white oak).

I'd like to state right now that I have had no issues with Liebherr appliances in the past.  I have them in my showroom and I've specified them for many clients.  They've been very proactive with this recall, and for that I applaud them.

What concerns me is what appears to be a systemic policy of avoiding responsibility for what in all intents and purposes is a typical installation.  I'd feel the same regardless of the company or the appliances, and have said as much when meeting with appliance manufacturers.  If an appliance cannot be installed in a specific manner because of a limitation in the product, say so in the installation literature or fix the problem.  I think that's a fair expectation from the companies that install these appliances, and the consumers who use them.


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