Warranties: Promises of Protection for Consumers


When you purchase a product—-vehicle, refrigerator, tv, stereo, furniture, etc.–you typically want some assurance you are getting your money’s worth.  This should mean the product will do what you expect it to do and last a reasonable period of time with minimal problems.  And if you have problems you want the ability to obtain repairs, an equivalent replacement product or, if appropriate a refund.  Enter the consumer’s shield and possibly sword:  a warranty.

A warranty is a guarantee given to the buyer by a seller stating that a product is reliable and free from known defects and that the seller will repair or replace defective parts within a given time limit and under certain conditions.  By providing you this express warranty the manufacturer or seller is also “giving” you certain implied warranties.  “Implied”  means the warranties can be enforced even if they are not part of a written or oral contract. You have been briefed

Federal law prohibits a seller from disclaiming implied warranties on any consumer product if either (1) the seller offers a written warranty for the product or (2) the seller sells a service contract on it.  In such cases the warranty can be of limited scope or duration but cannot be waived.  (NOTE:  Click here to learn the difference between a warranty and a service contract.)   Further, some states (presently Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) do not allow the sale of products without warranty.

The implied warranty of merchantability is a promise that the merchandise being sold is suitable for the general purpose that it is sold.  For example, in the case of a vehicle an implied warranty would promise that the vehicle will be fit for ordinary driving purposes, reasonably safe, without major defects, and of the average quality of similar cars available for sale in the same price range.  A seller provides this warranty automatically any time they sell a product they are in business to sell.  Nothing need be done by the buyer for this warranty to apply. 

The implied warranty of fitness for particular purpose is just as it sounds—a promise that the merchandise is suited for the special purpose for which the buyer is acquiring it, rather than merely fit for general use.  This warranty arises in a somewhat limited set of circumstances, namely when  at the time of purchase, the seller knew should have known the buyer intended to use the product for a particular purpose and the buyer was relying on seller’s skill and judgment to select or furnish a product that was suitable for the particular purpose. 

If you receive an express warranty read the terms carefully.  If possible read the terms of the warranty and ask questions prior to making your purchase.  And remember having an express warranty means you also have an implied warranty.  Note this blog post provides some very basic information about warranties but realize there are many, many other provisions and conditions relating to warranties.  If you have issues with a product you purchased contact an experienced consumer law attorney for help.

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