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Warranties and Guarantees

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tina Leonard, Consumer Expert

When you buy something you have statutory rights that protect you when something goes wrong. But when you buy some items, usually electrical items, cars, furniture or luggage, you often get a manufacturer's warranty as well.

Even if you never had a warranty you still have your statutory rights. There is much confusion about this and this is apparent in the many queries we have received where a faulty item was out of warranty and the shop has told the customer that they cannot help them. So you need to know what the warranty is useful for and when you should make sure your consumer rights are being met.

Typical Practice:-

In practice when consumers contact the store about a faulty electrical item they have bought there, the majority of stores direct them to the manufacturer and their warranty. This is fine if your warranty has not expired, and if the cover it provides is good enough to solve your problem. If your warranty has expired then they will usually charge for a repair or say they cannot provide a remedy.

However, the crucial thing to realise is that your warranty is IN ADDITION to your statutory rights and not instead of them. Because many stores don't offer you your rights doesn't mean you don't have any. Plus your statutory rights are free!


A warranty is a guarantee from the manufacturer of the product you buy (most commonly electrical and cars), that they will provide some remedies for defects or breakdown that occurs within a particular time frame after purchase. This is offered because the manufacturer wants to stand over the quality of their product, and knowing that defects can occur (mostly in the year after purchase), want to ensure their customer gets a good after sales service from them, in order to promote loyalty and trust in their products.

Things to check for:-

. How long it lasts
. Does it cover call out charges as well as repairs?
. Does it place a limit on the number or repairs or start charging after a number of repairs?
. Does it cover replacement?
. Does it cover accidental damage?
. If you buy in another jurisdiction is cover limited to that country?
. If you have to register to activate the guarantee

Sometimes you will never need to use it as you have your statutory rights. However, having a written statement from the manufacturer saying they will repair or replace an item within a set time after purchase is always handy to have. This is especially true if:

. The shop where you bought the item has closed down.
. You were given the item as a gift and so don't have the receipt or contract with the shop where it was bought.
. The warranty may cover accidental damage which your statutory rights do not.

Statutory Rights:-

Firstly, when you buy a product it has to be:

. Of merchantable quality
. Fit for its purpose
. As described

If something goes wrong with the product, the shop is deemed to be in breach of its contract with you and they have to provide a remedy. This could be a repair, replacement or refund or even partial refund depending on the time frame, and should not cost you anything. These rights should be met by the shop where you purchased the item, which means that you shouldn't have to go back to the manufacturer.

If for example, the DVD player stops working, the firdge's thermostat doesn't work properly or camera doesn't do all your told it would, then the shop is legally responsible to rectify the problem for you.

Across the European Union the minimum timeframe of protection afforded by your statutory rights is 2 years. In Ireland as the statute of limitations is 6 years it means you have the right to take a complaint against the retailer to the small claims court for example, within 6 years of purchase. Your consumer rights do diminish with time so that must be taken into account. In addition you have to take into account the expected life span of the product in question. Also, you do not have these rights if you damage or break something yourself.

If something goes wrong with your purchase your first port of call is always the shop where you bought it. They are legally responsible to ensure a remedy. This is especially important if the manufacturer's guarantee only lasts for 6 months and it is now month 8 and the manufacturer would ask for payment to carry out a repair. The shop should do this for you at no cost.

Typical scenario:-

The majority of standard manufacturer's guarantees last 6 months to one year. Your washing machine has broken after 13 months and so is no longer under guarantee. You return to the shop who tells you that you must contact the manufacturer. The manufacturer either says they can do nothing as it is outside the guarantee period or they can repair but you must pay. This is always happening and you should remember that in such a case the shop is still liable to repair the defect at no cost to you. If they say no, put your complaint to them in writing and as a last resort you can take a small claims action against the shop.

Extended Warranties:-

When you are buying the item, the shop may also offer you an extended warranty. Manufacturers can offer extended warranties as well. This is a bit like an insurance policy in that you are paying for extra cover for when the free manufactuer's guarantee runs out.

But do you really need it anyway? Remember most defects occur within the first year of purchase so ask yourself how long you expect to have the item and if you think you need additional cover. Remember you also have your statutory rights which usually last longer than the standard manufacturer's guarantee.

What to look out for:

Pressure selling: The sales assistant may pressure you into buying this as they may be on commission. Remember it is optional. Thankfully commission based selling of extended warranties isn't generally practiced here anymore.

Home insurance: Check your home insurance policy as it they usually cover accidental damage to items already. They tend to specifically mention items such as computers, printeres, scanners, TV and audio equipment. When buying home insurance you can also add specific items to the policy if you want extra cover for damage. Note that this won't cover defects however.

High Price: Consumer organisations in Ireland and Britain have warned that while extended warranties can offer peace of mind, they can come at a high price, as premiums can sometimes cost as much as 50% of the pucrhase price.

Examples - Apple sell extended support which can go up to €349 for an extra two years for service and technical support or about €43 for extended cover on an iPod Classic. Charges for Argos replacement cover increase relative to the price of the item. (I.e. €2.49 for general electrical items of €5 -€9.99 and €31.99 for electrical items costing €140 - €154.99). Currys have prices like €75 for three years extended for a DVD player, which also includes accidental damage. Power City's extended cover generally does not cover accidental damage and you might pay €20 on a DVD recorder for example for an additional two years.