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Product Warranties and Returns

Purchasing a product covered by a warranty can help ensure your peace of mind. A warranty may let you return, replace, or repair it if it doesn't work as expected. 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 only specific defects. Certain actions, such as misuse, may invalidate a warranty, preventing you from returning a broken product. 

Understanding how warranties are created and operate will help you know when a product can be returned for damage or malfunction.

In this section, you'll find in-depth articles on product warranties and returns. Learn about return policies, limitations, and the difference between express and implied warranties. This section also explains warranty regulations under federal and state consumer protection laws.

Types of Warranties

Sellers create warranties when they guarantee a consumer that their product is of a certain 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 warranties. They create basic requirements, such as listing the covered product or parts and explaining whether the warranty will involve a repair, replacement, or refund.

State law also creates certain implied warranties. These warranties do not need to be part of any sales contract, policy, or salesperson's pitch. The implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that consumer products will work as expected. For example, a dishwasher has an implied guarantee that it will clean your dishes, even if the seller does not say so.

Some state laws allow businesses to use disclaimers like “sold as is" to counteract implied warranties. In these states, products you buy as is aren't subject to any guarantees.

Full vs. Limited Warranties

Warranties can cover different types of problems with your product. Some warranties are more comprehensive, covering more defects than others. Checking whether a product's warranty is full or limited is a good idea.

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 in the same way but with more restrictions. A limited warranty might cover only specific parts or certain types of defects. Often, limited warranties guarantee to send you replacement parts but won't cover the labor required to install them. When purchasing a product, understand what will be covered by the warranty and what limitations may apply.

What Is an Extended Warranty?

An extended warranty increases the period your product will have warranty coverage. In most instances you must opt-in to buy this extra coverage.

The extended coverage may differ from the original warranty terms. For example, a manufacturer's warranty for a blender may cover all damage for one year. Buying the extended warranty might cover limited defects or parts, such as the blades, for up to three years.

Customers sometimes use extended warranties to refer to long-term service contracts, particularly for new cars. For more information about new and used car warranties, read FindLaw's Lemon Law section.

Voiding a Warranty

Though a warranty will let you return a damaged or defective product, some actions may invalidate the warranty. A voided warranty leaves you to deal with the flawed goods on your own. For example, misuse or lack of maintenance often void warranties.

Federal regulations prevent retailers from voiding warranties for unreasonable grounds. For example, a customer's inability to return the product in person is not a reason to void the warranty.

Problems With Consumer Product Warranties

Businesses sometimes refuse to honor valid warranties and return policies. Or, several repair attempts fail to fix the product, but the seller may refuse to offer a full refund. In a warranty scam, a business might promise to fix the item — if you agree to pay unreasonably high costs for warranty service or shipping.

You can report unfair business practices and suspected warranty fraud to your state's attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may also have legal remedies for a breach of warranty, such as a lawsuit in small claims court. 

Large-scale disputes affecting many customers might warrant a class action lawsuit. Other cases may require you to use a different dispute resolution method, such as arbitration.

The articles in this section describe what to do if you have a legal problem with a warranty or return. You can also seek legal advice from a local consumer protection lawyer if you have questions about implied warranties, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, or anything else related to warranties and returns.

Learn About Product Warranties and Returns

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