Product Warranties and Returns
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 09, 2020
Purchasing a product covered by a warranty can help ensure your peace of mind. If things don’t work as expected, a warranty may allow the purchase to be returned, replaced, or repaired. A product’s warranty acts as a guarantee that it will perform. However, not all warranties are equal. A warranty might cover a product for a lifetime or a matter of days. It may cover all kinds of damage or be limited to specific defects. Certain actions, such as misuse, may render a warranty invalid, preventing you from returning a broken product. Understanding how warranties are created and operate will help you know when you can return a product for damage or defect.
In this section, you’ll find in-depth articles on product warranties and returns, covering topics such as common return policies, the difference between express and implied warranties, and common limitations on warranties. You’ll also learn about actions that may void your warranty, the effect of buying a product “as is,” and the difference between state and legal warranty regulations.
Types of Warranties
A warranty is created whenever the seller of a good guarantees a consumer that the good is of a certain level of quality and reliability. If the product doesn’t live up to the seller’s assurances, then the warranty may require that the seller repair or replace it. Express warranties are guarantees that are clearly stated, either orally or in writing. Federal laws govern most written, express warranties and create basic requirements that these warranties must meet, such as listing the covered product or parts and explaining whether the warranty will be for repair, replacement or a refund.
State law also creates certain implied warranties. These warranties do not need to be explicitly stated in order to have effect. The implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that consumer products will work as expected. Your dishwasher, for example, will be guaranteed to clean your dishes, even if the seller does not explicitly say so. However, some state laws allow implied warranties to be disclaimed using language such as “sold as is.” In these cases, products bought “as is” would not be subject to any guarantees.
Full vs. Limited Warranties
With a full warranty, a company guarantees to repair or replace a faulty product during the warranty period. If the product is damaged or defective, companies offering a full warranty must repair or replace it within a reasonable time. A limited warranty works similarly, but with greater restrictions. A limited warranty might cover only specific parts or certain types of defects. Often, limited warranties will guarantee replacement parts, but not cover the labor required to fully fix a product. When you are purchasing a product, it’s important to understand just what will be covered by the warranty and what limitations may apply.
Voiding a Warranty
While a warranty will let you return a damaged or defective product, certain actions may make the warranty invalid, leaving you to deal with the flawed goods on your own. For example, misuse or lack of maintenance are common reasons why warranties are voided. However, federal regulations prevent retailers from voiding warranties for certain unreasonable grounds, such as not being able to return the product in person.
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