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#321 Product warranties (Pt. 1)

mp3 #321 Warranties on the Products you Buy - Part 1 (mp3 file)


If a product you've purchased doesn't work the way it should, you can read its warranty. The written-warranty's main purpose is to spell out the warrantor's promises to fix or replace an item, or refund your money if the article doesn't work properly. The law requires that written warranties be worded so as not to mislead a reasonable, average consumer as to the protections the warranty provides. Warranties must be written in plain and readily understood language and must contain a good deal of important information.

A federal law, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, helps you by requiring the warrantor to clearly and conspicuously state all the information that you should consider. Nevertheless, both good and bad warranties still exist. In other words, you should shop around and compare written warranties carefully.

You Can Look At Them While You Shop

The first time to read your warranty is before you buy an item. Warranties on products costing more than $15 must be made available for you to look at before you buy. Sellers can do this by displaying the warranty's text on or near the product, or by maintaining a binder containing copies of warranties for all the products sold.

Almost all warranties will fail to include some assurances and protections that you will want to have. In selecting a product, you should look upon the warranty as one of its many characteristics-like color, style, size, or weight. The following outlines what information warranties must contain:

* The warrantor's name and mailing address.

* Who is protected by the warranty, including any limitations (for example, a warranty protecting only the first owner).

* Precisely what parts, components, characteristics or properties the warranty covers, and what it excludes.

* What items or services the warrantor will pay for and those for which you must pay.

* When the warranty term begins (if other than the date of purchase).

* The warranty's duration (measured, for example, by time or mileage).

* Whom to contact to get warranty service performed (including names, addresses, and telephone numbers).

* Step-by-step instructions to follow to obtain service.

* Any expenses you may be required to pay.

Some written warranties offer little protection, and are only merchandising devices involving no real benefit to you. While the law prohibits a warrantor from making a "deceptive warranty," your best protection is to understand the warranty before you buy.

The written warranty will state any ways in which the warrantor limits your usual legal rights. It also must describe any limitation the warrantor has sought to place on your basic legal remedies.

The warranty also must disclose information to help you obtain redress if the warrantor fails to honor its warranty. This information will include the availability of any informal dispute settlement procedure, and a statement that while the warranty gives you specific legal rights, you may have other rights too.

You do not need to return an owner registration card, even if the warranty says you must. However, you always should keep a receipt showing the date of purchase, to prove when the warranty period began.

The written warranty will be labeled either "Full Warranty" or "Limited Warranty". A Full Warranty must also state its duration, E.G., "Full Five Year Warranty".

Most written warranties will be Limited Warranties in which the warrantor has a great deal of flexibility in writing warranty terms. For example, a Limited Warranty may cover parts, and not labor. Additionally, it may charge you for handling fees.

A product can carry more than one written warranty. The product can have a Full Warranty on part of it and a Limited Warranty on the rest.

Always remember - a Limited Warranty means, "be careful, something's missing."

If a product has a Full Warranty, you are assured of certain minimum rights. The warrantor must honor all the warranty's terms and must rectify any defect, malfunction, or failure to measure up to the warranty within a reasonable time and without charge after notice of a defect or malfunction.

If a defect, malfunction or failure to conform with the warranty occurs during the warranty period, the warrantor must either repair the product, replace it with another product that is identical or reasonably equivalent, or refund your money.

If the warrantor chooses to replace the defective product, it must pay all of the costs of removal and reinstalling a product which is useful only when installed (E.G., flooring). If the warrantor replaces a component part, the replacement and installation must be free of charge.

In general, a Full Warranty gives you a right to have an improperly functioning product repaired or replaced. While the warrantor may offer you a refund, you need not accept it unless repair is not feasible or cannot be made within a reasonable time, and the warrantor cannot provide a satisfactory replacement.

On the other hand, the Full Warranty itself does not give you the right to force the warrantor to give you a refund, so long as the warrantor is willing to provide a defect-free replacement.

If the warrantor can neither repair nor replace a defective product, the warrantor's only remaining option is to refund its price. If the product is a "lemon" – I.E., it can't be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts - you have the choice of either a replacement or refund. You are not required to tolerate endless repairs. If you want a refund, the warrantor can require that you first payoff any loan on the property (except one made by the seller) before refunding the price. The amount refunded is the actual purchase price. If the warranty is a Full Warranty, depreciation cannot be deducted.

If you have a Full Warranty, you also have a clear-cut right to be reimbursed for certain kinds of incidental expenses, but only if the expenses were incurred because the warrantor did not act promptly, or imposed an unreasonable requirement as a condition of providing a remedy.

The warrantor is not responsible for the defects or failures of a product caused by damage following the sale, or by unreasonable use, such as failure to provide reasonable and necessary maintenance. It is important, therefore, to read and carefully follow the warrantor's instructions on installation, operation and maintenance. If the warrantor claims that you or someone else damaged, abused or misused the product, the warrantor should be asked to state in what ways it is believed that the damage is done. The warrantor has the burden of proving any abuse, misuse or other post-sale damage.

You are entitled to all the above rights, even if they are not specifically mentioned in the written warranty.

Servicing and Repair Procedures

A California law on warranties, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, states that a manufacturer who furnishes a written warranty must maintain service and repair facilities in California reasonably close to all areas where its products are sold. These facilities must be set up to carry out the terms of the warranty.

This law states that a manufacturer can delegate its responsibilities to retailers, or to independent repair or service facilities reasonably close to the area where its products are sold.

The manufacturer must pay the retailer or repair facility the actual and reasonable cost of service, including any parts, and any reasonable cost of transporting the goods or parts, plus a reasonable profit.

The manufacturer, or its representative, must begin repairs within a reasonable time after you return the defective product for repair. The repairs must be completed within 30 days. During the period while a product for $50 or more is being repaired, the written warranty's duration is automatically extended.

If the manufacturer or his representative is unable to service or repair the product to conform to its written warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, you have the right to a replacement or refund of the product's purchase price, less depreciation from your use before you discovered the defect.

The California rules on performance of service and repair apply both to "Full Warranties" and "Limited Warranties." If the manufacturer has not established service and repair facilities in California sufficient to carry out its warranty, you have the right to return the defective product for repair to the original seller, who must either repair the defective product, direct the buyer to an independent repair facility that is willing to honor the warranty, replace the product, or refund its price less depreciation.

You also can return the defective product to any other retailer who sells similar goods from the same manufacturer for replacement or repair. A retailer who is not the original seller probably can decline service.

If the original seller (or a retailer of similar products of the same manufacturer) performs repairs, the manufacturer must pay the retailer the actual and reasonable cost of the service, including a reasonable profit. If the product is replaced, the manufacturer is required to pay the retailer the actual cost of the replaced product plus any transportation costs and a reasonable handling charge. If the retailer refunds the price, the manufacturer must pay the retailer the amount refunded, plus a reasonable handling charge.

If there is a delay in making repairs because of conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer or his representative, the 30-day period for completing the repairs is extended, but only to the extent justified. (A failure to stock parts, without a satisfactory reason, does not extend the 30-day period). The 30-day period is also extended if you agree in writing.

In several circumstances, the manufacturer or its representative must provide warranty service at your home, or pick up a malfunctioning product and take it to its own facility without additional charge for transportation. This circumstance occurs when the product's size and weight, method of attachment or installation, or the defect's nature make it impossible for you to return the product. If the manufacturer hasn't set up sufficient repair facilities in California, the retail seller has these obligations.

In the case of a used product with a written warranty, the seller (not the manufacturer) must honor the warranty's repair provisions. Sometimes the warranty is given by a company other than the manufacturer or seller.

In those instances, the company giving the warranty must perform the service, though the seller may be subject to certain implied warranties.

If you have unsuccessfully sought redress from either the original seller or a retailer of similar products of the same manufacturer, this law states that you may have the product serviced by an independent service and repair facility if the product's wholesale cost exceeds $50 and the service or repair is economical. You can then pay the repair facility and submit the bill to the manufacturer, who is required to reimburse you. In addition, the repair facility can accept the work on the basis that it will be reimbursed by the manufacturer.

The warrantor's duty to repair does not extend to defects caused by unauthorized or unreasonable use, including failure to provide reasonable and necessary maintenance. A warrantor who claims that a defect was caused by your unauthorized or unreasonable use or failure to maintain should be asked to describe the ways in which the product was neglected or abused.

California law does not make it clear how much, if anything, the warrantor can properly charge you for performing warranty work. Certainly, the warrantor cannot charge you the full cost of the warranty work, since this would make the warranty valueless and deceptive. If it's the warrantor's position that you should pay any portion of the cost, a statement describing exactly how the cost is allocated must be spelled out in plain language in the warranty. For additional information about warranties, view SmartLaw message #322, "Warranties on the Product you Buy-Part 2".

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