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Product Warranties

When you, as a consumer, purchase a product from someone, you’re placing a bit of faith in the seller, the manufacturer, and everyone else in the supply chain. You have to trust that the product is up to industry safety standards and that it’s going to do the job it’s been designed to do.

Unfortunately, things can still go wrong along the way. You may end up with a defective product damaged on the factory line or during shipment. The item could have been designed incorrectly, making it ineffective for the purpose of your purchase. Or perhaps the product is just fine as it is, but stops working long before it should.

That’s why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules and regulations regarding product warranties. These measures are in place to protect consumers like you from losing money on a purchase that didn’t live up to reasonable expectations.

What is a Product Warranty?

In a general sense, a product warranty is like a promise from the seller that says the product is effective and will perform as advertised and as a comparable product on the market is expected to reasonably perform. Either the merchant or the manufacturer can be duty-bound to a particular warranty for their product.

The FTC requires sellers and manufacturers to make warranties available to consumers before they even make their purchase so they can understand how they’ll be protected if the product is faulty. Depending on the terms of the warranty, a product’s effectiveness may be guaranteed for a set limit of time ranging from a few weeks to a lifetime.

How Can I Get the Most Out of My Product Warranty?

In order to make your warranty work for you, you need to carefully understand the terms and limits therein. Ask for a copy of the warranty before you buy something, or perhaps you can even look it up online. Talk to the salesperson during the purchase to make sure you understand the terms fully, and keep a copy of the warranty in writing. You should hold on to the receipt as well.

You’ll need to hold up your end of the bargain, too. Most warranties will come with instructions for the consumer, like required maintenance or uses that would be damaging and improper. Products used incorrectly or not cared for as instructed could void a warranty. When a warranty is voided, the seller or manufacturer may not need to honor it.

What Happens if My Product Breaks While it’s Under Warranty?

In many cases, you may not ever need to use your warranty; the product will do what it should for as long as it should. But when it doesn’t, you may be able to use your product warranty to access a refund or a replacement.

Carefully reread your warranty before you contact the store you purchased the product from to make sure the circumstances of the defect are covered.

Usually, you should be able to contact the seller or manufacturer about a broken or defective product under warranty and work with them to honor the terms of the warranty for refunding or replacing your purchase. But if they won’t cooperate, you may need to take further steps, such as contacting your state consumer protection office, or perhaps even filing a lawsuit.

The specific laws that relate to a product warranty could be partially governed by federal or state law. When it comes to a lawsuit, its complexity depends on the type of purchase, the jurisdiction you’re in, and the size of the company you’re going up against. There’s a big difference between a product warranty for a small kitchen appliance made by a little company and a piece of heavy machinery produced by an international manufacturer. Some cases may be settled in a small claims court, but others could be much more involved.

In those more serious cases, such as those where the amount you’re potentially owed could exceed a few thousand dollars, working with an experienced product warranty attorney could help you build a stronger case, which would hopefully lead to better outcomes for you. They could assist you in trying to settle the issue before getting to court or, if necessary, represent you in the trial to help you get the money you’re rightfully owed.

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