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Warranties Revisited

Ever wonder what different types of warranties mean? What's covered and what's not? Whether you even are entitled to a warranty? Let's talk about what this all means.

Disclaimer: The following information does NOT constitute legal advice and is only for general educational purposes. Each situation is different and specific legal issues usually require additional research and investigation, so do not rely on this article to address a particular legal issue; use this as a starting point to gain a general understanding. This article, although educational in purpose and substance, nevertheless, might be deemed attorney advertising, and prior results do not guarantee future success.

1. What's A Warranty?

The dictionary defines a *warranty* as *a usually written guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker's responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts.* Legal Warranties usually come in two flavors: (1) Implied Warranties (2) Express Warranties.

Implied Warranties come in two sub-subflavors (1a) Implied Warranty of Merchantability (1b) Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose.

Express Warranties also have two kinds: (2a) full and (2b) limited. Let's start with these concepts, and then I'll talk about disclaimers and stuff.

2. Implied Warranties

Generally speaking, under the laws of every state, there is an *IMPLIED* warranty for the goods you purchase. By "implied" we mean, it is unspoken. The Implied Warranty of Merchantability means that a good is supposed to do what it sold for. That is, if you buy a toaster, it should work as a toaster. There is also an Implied Warranty of Fitness for a particular purpose. This means, you go into Radio Shack (do they still exist?) and ask for a cable to hook up your DVD player to your TV (does anyone still use DVDs?). You are *RELYING* on the advice of that MERCHANT (i.e. the Radio shack guy or gal) to guide you properly, and the UNSPOKEN, IMPLICATION, is that BASED ON THE ADVICE OF THAT MERCHANT, the cable will work between the equipment. WARNING: These warranties typically only apply to MERCHANTS REGULARLY ENGAGED in selling THOSE items in question. In other words, if your supermarket creates a discount section of power cables, they might not be considered a Merchant that Regularly sells such goods - but you probably could rely on their opinions about produce and poultry.

3. Express Warranties

Prior to 1975, there was no standard "Express" warranty. To clarify what was covered by warranties, the federal government made some rules. Basically, *IF* a business provided any warranty in WRITING, to a CONSUMER, for a purchase, $10 or over (before tax), the business had to declare whether it was a FULL warranty or a LIMITED warranty. To be a full warranty, the written warranty had to do five things:

(1) it could not limit any implied warranties (you could have both express and implied warranties at the same time); and

(2) warranty service covers everyone who owns the product during the warranty period; so subsequent purchasers are covered (however, there are no minimums of warranty period); and

(3) warranty service is free of charge, including returning the product or removing and reinstalling the product when necessary; and

(4) at the consumer's choice, the business provides either a replacement or - a full refund if, after a reasonable number of tries, the business cannot repair the warranted product; and finally

(5) consumers are not required to perform any duty as a precondition for receiving service, except contacting the business that the product needs to be fixed - that is unless the business can demonstrate special circumstances dictating that the required duty is reasonable.

If the Express Warranty did not do ALL five of these, it was automatically a Limited Warranty.

4. Disclaimers, Multiple Warranties, No Warranties

Disclaimers: Implied warranties can be DISCLAIMED. Typical language is "ABC Corp disclaims all implied warranties" or sold "As Is." Guess what? This means there is NO warranty. Buy at your own risk!

What's a Multiple Warranty? Say, ABC sells you an air conditioner with a written warranty that meets all five requirements - that's an Express Warranty that's Full. However, let's say it also provides a warranty on the condition filters, but only to the first customer not subsequent purchasers. That's a Multiple Warranty. The AC has a full express warranty and the AC filters have an express limited warranty. Together, ABC gives you a multiple warranty.

Are warranties required at all? Generally NO! The laws merely require the store be CLEAR about WHAT TYPE of warranties you possess. However, they aren't allowed to commit fraud either, i.e. if they intentionally sell you junk they know doesn't work. That's a lot different though from not providing a warranty from boxed goods that they assume work and have no reason to know they don't work.

More in-depth discussion is available in my original articles on my law firm's website:


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