A friend says that his friend (who works at an appliance store) told him that refrigerators after 2002 have an HFC container that is set to expire after five years, and then your fridge stops working until you get the canister replaced. Sort of like a water filter if your filter refused to let water pass through when it expired. On one hand, this seems like a great story to tell someone if you want to sell extended warranties. On the other hand, maybe it is regulation taken to an extreme, if you force consumers to replace the refrigerant every five years it probably won't get to the point where it leaks and it can be disposed of safely. Does anyone know of any evidence for this?
Not true in the USA. The refrigerant is all contained within the sealed system: compressor, evaporator, and condenser. While the life expectancy of refrigerators does seem to have greatly diminished in the last decade they rarely fail because of refrigerant leaks. I am a refrigerator repair person and the majority of problems I encounter are defrost, air flow, ice maker, and control related problems.
My feeling is the target life expectancy for new refrigerators is 10-15 years but there will probably be a repair or two needed in that time.
Hope that helps some!