‘Currys has insured my VHS since 2002 but now won’t repair it’

Dear Reader,

I asked Currys when it stopped selling and repairing video recorders and it declined to say. Newspaper cuttings from 2004 show the retailer’s sister firm, Dixons, which later merged with Currys, was selling its last remaining stock that Christmas, hailing the death of the video recorder. As I understand it, Currys stocked them for a little longer, but I suspect you may have been lucky to have had your repair in 2006.

Because of Currys’ evasive answer I can’t tell if it has only just discovered that it can’t repair video recorders or whether it has known for years but continued to let customers like you renew your repair insurance anyway. If the latter, its annual invitations to renew your cover have been grossly misleading. For example, your latest renewal letter stated that you would receive “complete product support”.

Currys said your extended warranty “remained appropriate” as the cover included the promise to repair or, if repair was not possible, to replace or settle through a voucher for an “appropriate amount”. In your case this was £148, less than half the sum you have paid in premiums. This offer of a so-called “write-off fee” is fine as a legitimate backup for electronics it expects to repair but can’t. It is not, however, an excuse to sell useless policies like yours, which are effectively guaranteed money pits.

The good news is that after learning of your disappointment through me, it has refunded in cash all premiums you have paid since 2002, totalling £331. You are happy with this, although you feel Currys still has some explaining to do. I totally agree. The retailer remains silent over my questions about when it stopped selling or repairing video recorders.

As far as I know it is happy to keep encouraging owners of relic technology to renew their repair cover each year. However, it seems less motivated to check it can actually offer these repairs before sending out renewal letters. The solution is simple. Owners of models that can no longer be repaired should be notified by Currys as soon as it becomes aware.

Your policy remained in force for 18 years after Dixons sold its last VHS player. I wonder what other items from bygone eras are still insured under useless policies. Walkmans? Black and white televisions? Heaven forbid, typewriters? The mind boggles. Just like much of the ancient technology Currys may still be cashing in on, these policies must be consigned to the history books.

A Currys spokesman said: “The ability to continue performing repairs is primarily dependent on the ability to source spare parts and complete effective repairs. The availability of spare parts extends for a number of years after the last production of the device by the manufacturer.

“There is also a global marketplace for spare parts, which extends beyond the manufacturing period. Our extended warranty is clear in the terms and conditions, which state that a repair would be completed in the first instance, but if not possible then a replacement would be provided or the repair settled by providing a voucher to an appropriate value.”

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