Water leakage from a drum type washing and drying machine due to use of an unsuitable coupling
The following shows a case where water leaked from a drum type washing and drying machine due to use of an unsuitable coupling. The purchase price for the machine included charges for delivery and installment. When the machine was installed, a right coupling was not used.
Details of the inquiry
I bought a drum type washing and drying machine (hereinafter called "the washing machine") at an electronics retail store. The purchase price also included charges for delivery and installment. The washing machine was installed by a delivery company which was entrusted by the electronics retail store. The washing machine worked without any problem for three months or so.
One day at night, I turned on the washing machine and went to the second floor to sleep. When I went down to the first floor next morning, I found that water had leaked from the washing machine because "the coupling A" for connecting the faucet and the water supply hose had come off. The first floor was flooded. I informed the store of the incident. Later, staff members of the store and its outsourced delivery company visited my home and reconnected the joint. I said, "I'm worried that the coupling might come off again", and then one of the staff members said, "The coupling A was replaced with the coupling B, which prevents water leakage even if it comes off". I heard about the coupling B for the first time.
At a later date, the store said, "When you bought the washing machine, we asked if you would like to attach the coupling B, which was separately sold. We told the same thing when we prepared an estimate in advance and when we delivered the product. I've heard that you told you didn't need the coupling B". I told that I hadn't even known the existence of the coupling B.
The store insisted as follows: "There was no problem in installation of the washing machine. Our company is not liable for the incident, so we will not compensate for it". On the other hand, the amount of damage due to the flood amounted to about 3,500,000 yen. I'm dissatisfied with the consequences.
(woman in her 50s, homemaker)
After receiving the inquiry, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (hereinafter called "NCAC") read the instruction manual and the installation manual for the washing machine. Both manuals included the following descriptions.
- The suitable coupling for connecting a faucet and a water supply hose differs depending on the shape of the faucet.
- The coupling A matches a wall faucet only. The other types of faucets require the coupling B, which is sold separately.
- Use of an unsuitable coupling may cause water leakage, which is not guaranteed.
The faucet in the inquirer's house required the coupling B, which was sold separately.
It appeared that the leakage had been caused by use of the coupling A, which didn't fit the faucet in the inquirer's house. NCAC consulted a lawyer about liability for the incident. The lawyer commented as follows: "The delivery company was at fault in using the unsuitable coupling A when installing the washing machine and is held liable for the tort against the inquirer. On the other hand, the delivery company rendered assistance to the electronics retail store, so the store can be held liable for the tort as well. In addition, the store sold the product with installation service, so the store bore contractual liability. The inquirer can claim damages arising from the defective service against the store".
With the above in mind, NCAC asked the electronics retail store for details. The store said, "We recommended the customer to buy the coupling B three times in total: when selling the washing machine, when estimating the delivery cost, and when installing the washing machine. The inquirer declined to buy it each time". On the contrary, the inquirer said, "I've never been recommended to buy it". The two statements disagreed.
Therefore, NCAC contacted the head office of the store. The person in charge insisted as if the inquirer was also responsible: "We told the customer about the coupling B three times. Although we might not have explained the risk of water leakage, the instruction manual describes the coupling B. The inquirer should have carefully read the instruction manual". The person in charge added, "Most home faucets require the separately-sold coupling B".
NCAC informed the electronics retail store that the store could be held liable for the incident based on the facts that the inquirer had purchased the washing machine with installation service and that water had leaked from the machine. NCAC requested the store to consider paying compensation.
NCAC asked a lawyer whether or not the inquirer had been at fault in the incident. The lawyer said, "Even if the store explained the necessity for the coupling B and the inquirer declined to buy it, the inquirer was not at fault in the incident if the store did not explain the risk of water leakage. Usually, consumers read the instruction manual after installation to learn how to use the product. The product must be properly installed before being used.
Consumers are not required to read through the manual to find defects in installation. Therefore, the inquirer is not liable for the incident and can claim all the damages suffered against the store".
At a later date, the store proposed to pay the inquirer 3,500,000 yen in total as compensation and consolation. The inquirer accepted the proposal.
NCAC requested the store to take the following measures: (1) when selling a washing machine with installation service, check the shape of a faucet and use a suitable coupling; (2) if the attached coupling does not fit the faucet, explain the necessity for the separately-sold coupling B as well as the concrete risk in using the unsuitable coupling.
NCAC also requested the washing machine manufacturer to give more user-friendly descriptions of a suitable coupling and risk of water leakage in the installation manual as well as the instruction manual and to attach the coupling suitable for the most common faucets.
Later, NCAC confirmed that 3,500,000 yen was paid to the inquirer and concluded the consultation.
There was a disagreement between the store and the inquirer over an explanation on the right coupling.
If the inquirer was given an explanation on the necessity for the right coupling and the risk of water leakage, the inquirer should have easily figured out that the financial detriment due to leakage when using the unsuitable coupling would be far larger than the cost for the separately-sold coupling, and naturally she should have wanted to buy the right coupling. Although it appeared that there had been no proper explanation on the coupling, the dispute ended inconclusively.
NCAC requested the store and the manufacturer to take proper measures to prevent similar incidents. NCAC hopes that the store and the manufacturer will sincerely respond to the problem and actively take preventive measures.