Pretty much everything you buy comes with some sort of warranty. Often, the warranty takes the form of paragraphs or even pages of tiny print you can barely read. But knowing your warranty can make all the difference between getting a faulty product or service fixed or not.
When Diane Gottlich had a stone retaining wall installed on her property, she had a written five-year warranty. It seemed like she would be protected. And that’s a good thing because that retaining wall was holding up her deck and her whole house. If it failed, she and the house would be in big trouble. So after spending $12,000 on the installation, she was horrified to find that just seven months later the wall was buckling. The wall was bulging out where it definitely shouldn’t, and some of the stones were separating. That could be bad news for Diane’s house.
While she was disappointed to have her new wall failing, Diane knew what to do. She recalled her five-year warranty and contacted the business that had installed her wall. But they were less than accommodating. Instead of coming out to fix her wall, they blamed her. They asked Diane what she had done as if she had somehow caused the problem. Diane was dumbfounded. When the builders just wouldn’t honor her contract, she called us.
We had our experts come out to look at the wall. A technician from Engineered Solutions of Georgia, a TrustDALE certified business, came to take a look at the wall. The news was not good. It was unclear whether the retaining wall had been installed properly, but clearly, there were some serious problems. To fix it, the wall would practically have to be rebuilt from the bottom up.
We took that information and presented it to the original builders of Diane’s retaining wall. Before long, she got a call from the business, and they sent out no less than the owner to come take care of the issue. Now Diane has a new retaining wall, and while it looks good, she just hopes it lasts for a long, long time.
What Type of Warranty Do You Have?
Diane got her warranty honored after TrustDALE put a little extra pressure on the builders. But what you get out of your warranty has a lot to do with the type of warranty offered. Here are some of the terms you need to know when dealing with any warranty.
Express Warranty - This is the written, spoken, or advertised warranty on a product or service. Any claim about a product or service, whether it is spoken, written, or just shows up in an ad on TV or the internet, is considered an expressed warranty. If a television ad claims a product will last for 5 years but the written warranty only covers 1 year, you may be legally entitled to 5 years of protection.
Implied Warranty - This is a warranty that is not expressed in any way or any medium by a manufacturer or retailer. This implied warranty guarantees that a product will be free of significant damage or defects for a reasonable period of time. What’s reasonable depends on the product and how much you paid for it. Generally, the reasonable period is capped at no more than four years. But here’s the tricky part: a manufacturer or retailer can negate the implied warranty. All they have to do is say in their written warranty that a product is sold “as is” or “with all faults”, or they can just say that there is no implied warranty. It may seem unfair, but it’s perfectly legal in most states, including Georgia, and almost every warranty includes this provision.
Full Warranty - This is the gold standard of warranties. It protects the product or service with a guarantee of repair or replacement. If the product is repaired, the seller must do so in a reasonable way, in a reasonable amount of time. For example, if the warranty requires that the product is shipped to the merchant for repair, the shipping cannot cost more than the purchase price of the product. A full warranty is usually limited in time, for example, 60 or 90 days after purchase.
Limited Warranty - This is typical of most warranties. A limited warranty means there are conditions, but those conditions are not codified by law. Instead, they are anything the seller puts in the warranty. Typically they limit the types of damage that are covered. For instance, it might cover parts, but not labor. If you have a limited warranty on a big ticket item, take the time to read through the fine print and learn what is and isn’t covered.
Lifetime Warranty - Sorry to disappoint you, but a lifetime does not mean that your product will last the rest of your life. Instead, it means that it will last for the lifetime of the product and there is no time limit on when you can make a claim. If it is a product that is only expected to last a certain time, its lifetime may be defined as how long it should normally last when used as intended. You can make a claim at any point during its expected lifespan. In some cases, it may mean that it is covered as long as the product is being produced and sold. A lifetime warranty is usually limited, so check the fine print to see what is covered.
Satisfaction Guarantee - Lots of ads may include a promise that your satisfaction is guaranteed. But did you know that that guarantee is actually a legal promise? The Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act of 1976 requires any merchant offering a satisfaction guarantee to make a full refund if the consumer is dissatisfied for any reason. There doesn’t have to be a specific problem. If there’s a satisfaction guarantee, you can return an item and get your money back. Usually, a satisfaction or money back guarantee will come with an express time limit, such as “30-day money back guarantee!”
Transferability - Sometimes, an item that is being warrantied is something you might sell or transfer ownership of. For example, a house or a car may be sold at some point during the warranty period. In most cases, such warranties are transferable, meaning that the protections transfer to the new owner along with the product.
Other Ways to Protect Yourself
If you are getting a big ticket item, make sure you read the fine print on the warranty. If you are having work done on your house or anything that requires expert knowledge, get a second opinion from an expert in the field. It never hurts to have another set of eyes on any plans that your contractor draws up. Finally, make sure you save all of your communications with your seller or service provider. In case there is a problem, having a copy of your communications can help you make your case for a resolution. In addition, save copies of any guarantees or warranties made outside of the actual written warranty. Get any verbal guarantees in writing.
If you have a seller or service provider that is not honoring its warranty after repeated attempts, you can contact us. We’re here to help consumers and hold businesses accountable.