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What Is an Implied Warranty?

An implied warranty is a promise about a product that the seller never makes. This unique type of warranty comes from the law rather than a specific contract or store policy. If a product is available on the market, it often has an implied warranty.

There are two main kinds of implied warranties for consumer goods. You can also learn about other types of product warranties and returns to understand your rights.

How Laws Create Implied Warranties

The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act regulates written warranties, but implied warranties aren't written. A seller or manufacturer implies that its product will work for a particular purpose by offering it.

State laws govern implied warranties for all other purchases. These unwritten and unspoken warranties are legal contracts. They draw upon the common law concept of "fair value for money spent."

U.S. law also makes implied contracts enforceable. In other words, consumers always have some level of protection for goods that don't meet basic expectations.

Implied Warranty of Merchantability

Almost every consumer product purchase comes with an implied warranty of merchantability. The product is guaranteed to work if used for its intended purpose.

If you buy a blender that doesn't blend ingredients, which is its ordinary purpose, you have the right to take it back for an exchange or refund. This warranty applies to used items as well, with an extra disclaimer based on their condition at the time of resale.

The standards for merchantability are low. They guarantee that goods sold will do what they are supposed to, have nothing serious wrong with them, and are fit to be sold. This warranty does not guarantee you will have a five-star experience with the product.

Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) dictates that items are merchantable if they meet the following criteria:

  • Must conform to the standards of the trade as applicable to the contract for sale
  • Must be fit for the purposes such goods are ordinarily used, even if the buyer ordered them for use otherwise
  • Must be uniform as to quality and quantity, within tolerances of the contract for sale
  • Must be packed and labeled per the contract for sale
  • Must meet the specifications on the package labels, even if not so specified by the contract for sale

Most states have adopted the UCC's definition of merchantability. However, the UCC is not a federal law, so some state laws have a different definition.

Implied Warranty of Fitness

Some purchases come with what is called an implied warranty of fitness. This warranty means that a product has a guarantee for a specific purpose beyond being merchantable.

This warranty means sales of consumer goods that work as intended, but not for the customer's planned and stated use, may breach an implied warranty of fitness.

The warranty is implied through the salesperson's assurance or recommendation of an item for a specific purpose. A customer relies on a seller's skill to choose suitable goods when they ask for advice.

For example, imagine you asked a salesperson to recommend a blender for making frozen cocktails. They recommended one that turned out to lack enough power to crush ice cubes. You may return the item under its implied warranty of fitness. If the seller refuses to refund the purchase price, repair it, or replace it, you may have grounds to sue the appliance company.

Implied Warranty of Habitability

The two types of warranties above cover consumer purchases, but there is also a warranty for renting a home. A lease of real property often includes an implied warranty of habitability.

Almost all states have laws that create and define this implied warranty. Across those states, this warranty ensures rental properties will be in a livable (habitable) condition.

Landlords must maintain their properties to meet state standards, such as the unit's plumbing, heating, and electricity. Much like a seller must repair or otherwise remedy a defective product, a landlord must repair major property defects.

Unlike consumer purchase warranties, the implied warranty of habitability doesn't expire. It lasts as long as the lease is active.

Differences in State Laws

Since implied warranties are unwritten, federal law does not cover them like a written warranty. Customers can have different protections based on which state they live in.

Most state laws require four years of coverage under an implied warranty for consumer products. Some states only require implied warranties to last as long as any express warranty that also came with the purchase.

Other states limit the ability of businesses to disclaim any such implied warranty. Disclaimers such as "sold as is" have no legal bearing on the sale of goods in the state. Customers may return items that don't fit those states' definition of merchantability.

Legal Help for Product and Warranty Issues

Most products have warranty coverage, even without a formal sales contract. Whether you're seeking help for a defective product (implied warranty), a seller's broken promise (express warranty), or an issue with an extended warranty, you may be entitled to a remedy under consumer protection law.

Contact a local consumer protection lawyer if you have questions about warranty laws in your state. An attorney can also represent you in a breach of warranty claim or product liability case.

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