Buying new products can be fraught with choices. Aside from choosing which makes, prices or colours you want, you have to decide if you want the guarantees and warranties offered.
So here’s our guide to the world of guarantees, warranties and your existing consumer rights if you buy a faulty product.
- What’s the difference between a guarantee, an extended guarantee and a warranty?
- Which is worth having?
- Your legal rights when you buy something
- What to look for when buying an extended guarantee or warranty
- What else to consider
- Consumer Credit Act 1974
They are a kind of bonus: manufacturers are not obliged to offer them and they are in addition to your normal rights.
A guarantee is a pledge about the quality of a product or service and a promise to sort out any problems that occur during the timescale specified. This could mean replacement or repair. You should have no problem working out how to claim as the paperwork has to be in clear, understandable English. Guarantees rarely offer cover in case of wear-and-tear or accidental damage.
Guarantees are often just for short periods:
- Computers and electrical items often have one year guarantees as standard.
- Some retailers offer an extra year or two on top of this for free.
- Long term guarantees of ten years or more may be offered in certain situations, for example damp proofing installation. Watch out though! If the trader goes out of business then the guarantee will be worthless. Check if the company has an insurance policy which will pay out in these circumstances.
Additionally, make sure you post off the addressed card you receive with your new product. If you don’t (usually within 28 days) you may find that your guarantee is invalid.
Extended guarantees/ warranties
Confusingly, an extended guarantee and warranty are both a form of warranty.
- Warranties are not usually free; they resemble insurance policies in that you pay a premium to insure against problems with the product or service. They cover repair or replacement. They are legal contracts enforceable in court and they tend to last longer than guarantees (hence the term extended guarantee). The contract terms should be fair and clear.
Make sure to read the small print- – warranties often don’t include cover for accidental damage or wear and tear or you have to pay extra for this. They may also not apply if you use the product for something other than it is intended and they may only cover certain things (for example, parts only, not labour).
- Guarantees are usually free anyway and provide another alternative if you experience problems with the seller. Filling out the guarantee and sending it off is a good move as it adds to your existing rights, and gives you extra options for dealing with any problems.
- Warranties provide cover for a longer period, often five years or more, so they continue to protect you long after the guarantee has expired. The best option is a warranty backed by insurance, as then you will be protected if the company you bought the warranty from goes bust at a later date.
However, even without either of these, you the consumer,are already protected when buying goods.
See below for your legal rights when a product is faulty.
Any item sold in the UK must be
- fit for purpose
- of satisfactory quality
- and match the description.
If you have problems with the item you should do the following:
- start by going back to the place you bought it from. If you have proof of purchase (which could be the original packaging or a credit card statement, it doesn’t have to be a receipt) then a refund should be offered.
- The only time you will experience a problem here is if the fault was so obvious you should have noticed it yourself when you bought it or if you caused it yourself.
- If only a short period has passed since you bought it then you should still be able to get a refund.
- If the retailer decides that you have ‘accepted’ the product because of how long it has been since you bought it, then a replacement/ repair only may be offered.
- Even if you’ve had ‘good use’ of the product you may still be entitled to a replacement or repair.
- If you’ve bought the product within six months then it is the seller’s responsibility to prove it wasn’t faulty when you bought it,
- After six months it is your responsibility to prove that you didn’t cause the damage.
The problem with the law here is that, once you’ve had the product for some time, it becomes a rather grey area and factors such as how much you paid for it and its expected lifespan are considered. At this stage some people turn to independent experts or mediators for help.
1. Take your item back to the shop first
2. If they won’t help, go straight to the manufacturer for a refund/replacement
If the product will have a lot of use or be used by someone heavy-handed, it may be worth getting a warranty with accidental damage cover. This is also one of the plus points a warranty has over a guarantee and your consumer rights as you cannot usually claim for accidental damage on the latter two.
Some warranties also come with extra support services which may be of benefit. For example, a computer’s warranty may include access to a helpline or installation services.
Warranties with cashback are something else to look out for. This means you may be able to get your money after a specified period of time without a claim. This can make the decision about whether to buy a warranty seem like a no-brainer.
Bear in mind you may have to remember to register for this when you buy the warranty and then claim the cashback at the appropriate time (and if you forget you may lose it).
Finally, warranties can often be cancelled with some refund. How much depends on the policy. Always check the terms and conditions carefully.
Do you have insurance cover already? Some homes contents insurance policies may provide cover for some items and may even include accidental damage. Even if you don’t already have cover, a specific insurance policy bought to cover a few items may be a better option than a warranty.
Some people like to take a belt-and-braces approach to life and would prefer to cover all eventualities. In this case, a free guarantee backed up by an insurance-backed warranty with accidental damage cover would probably suit. On the other hand, your basic legal rights offer a substantial amount of protection on their own and with a free guarantee may be good enough for you.
Which cover to claim under can be an issue and will very much depend on individual circumstances. If you have just bought the product in a local shop then claiming a refund in person under your consumer rights should be easiest. If the place you bought it from has gone out of business, then claiming through the manufacturer on the guarantee will make sense. The beauty of this is you have a choice about the best option for you. Beware though: if you claim under the guarantee then you may lose your consumer rights to claim through the seller.
The Consumer Credit Act is another source of consumer protection. If you paid by credit card and the product cost over £100 but under £30,000 your credit card company is jointly responsible with the seller if the item is faulty or undelivered or in some way not as specified. This can be especially helpful if you bought the product abroad and are unable to take it back to the shop.
This is an area where you as a consumer have considerable rights, whether via a guarantee, warranty or in consumer law. If you buy a faulty product then, one way or another, you should be able to come away with a satisfactory solution.
Check the terms and conditions carefully.