Why won’t Panasonic repair my microwave oven?

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By Christopher Elliott

Jackie Moellers’ Panasonic microwave doesn’t work, even though it’s just two years old. The manufacturer wants her to pay for the repairs, but Moellers doesn’t think she should have to. Who’s right?

Question

My Panasonic microwave doesn’t work. I purchased it only two years ago. It recently started making a loud buzzing noise and producing white smoke. After talking to three people in Panasonic’s customer service department, the last person told me, “Well, these things happen,” and I would have to pay to get it fixed.

That’s a very unsatisfactory answer. I think a microwave for which I paid almost $350 should last more than two years. I am very upset at this outcome. Is there anything to be done for this situation? — Jackie Moellers, Ellicott City, Md.

Answer

Panasonic should have sold you a microwave oven that worked for longer than two years. The average microwave should last about a decade. While Panasonic’s standard warranty covers you for one year, there’s also an implied warranty that says the appliance will last significantly longer — and that, if it breaks, you can rely on the company to quickly fix it.

Indeed, in your correspondence with Panasonic, it offered to assist you with a repair, but you didn’t want to pay for it. I get it.

Panasonic’s guarantee

It looks like you had a cursed microwave. Your case falls into one of those gray areas between what’s legal and what’s right. Panasonic only guarantees its product for one year, and that’s something to which you agreed when you purchased your microwave. But anyone reading this can see that charging you for the repair only two years after you purchased it feels wrong. So, while you can’t really hold the company’s feet to the fire with any contract, you can certainly make an appeal on the basis of good customer service.

You can apply light pressure on a company like Panasonic by invoking its own mission statement, which declares that “profit is not the sole purpose of business” and that it is dedicated to “improving people’s lives.” And how much was your life improved with a microwave that broke after just two years? (Related: Target won’t return my gift card credit. Their decision is “final.” Can you help?)

The good news

If you want to step up the pressure, you could try emailing one of Panasonic’s customer service executives. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problem.)

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That’s exactly what you did. Panasonic sweetened its offer, saying it would pay half of your repair costs. That seems like a fair resolution, considering your appliance is out of warranty.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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