Consumer Law

Consumer Law Warranty FAQ

Q: Are there any basic requirements of the Warranty Act?

  • A:Yes. Written warranties must:

    • Be noted as either "full" or "limited"
    • State certain specified information about the coverage of your warranty in a single, clear, and easy-to-read document
    • Be available where the warranted consumer products are sold, so that consumers can read them before buying

Q: Does a manufacturer have to warranty their products?

  • A:The Warranty Act doesn't require any manufacturer to provide a written warranty, but allows manufacturers to determine whether to warrant their products in writing. Once a manufacturer decides to offer a written warranty on a consumer product, however, it must comply with the Warranty Act.

Q: Does the Warranty Act apply to an oral warranty?

  • A:No. Only written warranties are covered.

Q: Does the Warranty Act apply to products purchased for commercial purposes?

  • A:The Warranty Act doesn't apply to warranties on products sold for resale or for commercial purposes. The Act covers only warranties on consumer products. This means that only warranties on tangible property normally used for personal, family or household purposes are covered.

Q: Does the Warranty Act apply to warranties on services?

  • A:No. Only warranties on goods are covered. However, if the manufacturer's warranty covers both the parts provided for a repair and the workmanship in making that repair, the Warranty Act applies.

Q: How does a service contract work with a warranty?

  • A:A service contract is an optional agreement for product service that customers sometimes buy. It provides additional protection beyond what the warranty offers on the product. Service contracts are similar to warranties in that both concern service for a product. However, there are differences between warranties and service contracts.

    Warranties come with a product and are included in the purchase price. In the language of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, warranties are "part of the basis of the bargain." Service contracts, on the other hand, are agreements that are separate from the contract or sale of the product. They are separate either because they are made some time after the sale of the product, or because they cost the customer a fee beyond the purchase price of the product.

    If a manufacturer offers a service contract, the Act requires the manufacturer to conspicuously list all terms and conditions in simple and readily understood language. However, unlike warranties, service contracts are not required to be titled "full" or "limited,' or to contain the special standard disclosures. In fact, using warranty disclosures in service contracts could confuse customers about whether the agreement is a warranty or a service contract.

Q: I bought a washer because of what the salesperson said it would do. It doesn't. Do I have any legal recourse?

  • A:The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is a promise that the law says you, as a seller, make when your customer relies on your advice that a product can be used for some specific purpose. For example, suppose you are an appliance retailer and a customer asks for a clothes washer that can handle 15 pounds of laundry at a time. If you recommend a particular model, and the customer buys that model on the strength of your recommendation, the law says that you have made a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. If the model you recommended proves unable to handle 15-pound loads, even though it may effectively wash 10-pound loads, you've breached your warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.

Q: I feel the product I purchased is wearing out prematurely. Isn't this covered under my warranty?

  • A:Implied warranties are promises about the condition of products at the time they're sold, but they don't assure that a product will last for any specific length of time. (The normal durability of a product is, of course, one aspect of a product's merchantability or its fitness for a particular purpose.)

    Nor does the law say that everything that can possibly go wrong with a product falls within the scope of implied warranties. For example, implied warranties don't cover problems such as those caused by:

    • Abuse
    • Misuse
    • Ordinary wear
    • Failure to follow directions
    • Improper maintenance

Q: If a product doesn't perform as anticipated, is it covered by any type of warranty?

  • A:The implied warranty of merchantability is a merchant's basic promise that the goods sold will do what they are supposed to do and that there is nothing significantly wrong with them. In other words, it is an implied promise that the goods are fit to be sold.

    The law says that merchants make this promise automatically every time they sell a product they are in business to sell. For example, if you, as an appliance retailer, sell an oven, you are promising that the oven is in proper condition for sale because it will do what ovens are supposed to do - bake food at controlled temperatures selected by the buyer. If the oven doesn't heat, or if it heats without proper temperature control, then the oven isn't fit for sale as an oven, and the seller has breached the implied warranty of merchantability. In such a case, the law requires the seller to provide a remedy so that the buyer gets a working oven.

Q: If I sue under the Warranty Act, can I recover attorney fees and court cost if I win?

  • A:Breach of warranty is a violation of federal law, and allows consumers to recover court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. This means that if you win a lawsuit for breach of either a written or an implied warranty, you may be able to recover costs for bringing the suit, including lawyer's fees. Because of the strict federal jurisdictional requirements under the Act, most Magnuson-Moss lawsuits are brought in state court. However, major cases involving many consumers can be brought in federal court as class action suits under the Act.

Q: Is a manufacturer responsible if a retailer doesn't provide the warranty information?

  • A:As long as the manufacturer has provided retailers with the warranty materials they need to comply with the rule, the manufacturer is not legally responsible if the retailer fails to make the warranties available.

Q: Is a warranty a contract the manufacturer must honor?

  • A:Yes. A warranty is a contract that commits the manufacture, manufacturer, to stand behind the product.

Q: Is there any basic warranty coverage that automatically comes with a consumer product?

  • A:Customers will always receive the basic protection of the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The Act prohibits anyone who offers a written warranty from disclaiming or modifying implied warranties.

Q: Is there any type of warranty for a product I bought from a second-hand store?

  • A:An implied warranty of merchantability on a used product is a promise that it can be used as expected, given its type and price range. As with new merchandise, implied warranties on used merchandise apply only when the seller is a merchant who deals in such goods, not when a sale is made by a private individual.

    If the store doesn't offer a written warranty, the law in most states allows the business to disclaim implied warranties. However, selling without implied warranties may well indicate to potential customers that the product is risky -low quality, damaged or discontinued - and should be available at a lower price.

    In order to disclaim implied warranties, the business must inform consumers in a conspicuous manner, and generally in writing, that the business will not be responsible if the product malfunctions or is defective. It must be clear to consumers that the entire product risk falls on them. The business must specifically indicate that it does not warrant "merchantability," or must use a phrase such as "with all faults," or "as is." A few states have special laws on how the business must phrase an "as is" disclosure.

    Some states don't allow businesses to sell consumer products "as is." At this time, these states are Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In these states, sellers have implied warranty obligations that can't be avoided.

    If a business sells a product "as is" and it proves to be defective or dangerous and causes personal injury to someone, the business still may be liable under the principles of product liability. Selling the product "as is" doesn't eliminate this liability.

Q: The manufacturer is insisting on mediation before going to trial. Can they do this?

  • A:The Warranty Act allows warranties to include a provision that requires customers to try to resolve warranty disputes by means of the informal dispute resolution mechanism before going to court.

Q: What is a full warranty?

  • A:It is a "full" warranty when:

    • There is not a limit the duration of implied warranties
    • Coverage is not limit to first purchasers
    • Warranty service is free of charge, including such costs as returning the product or removing and reinstalling the product when necessary
    • At the consumer's choice, either a replacement or a full refund if, after a reasonable number of tries, the product can't be repaired
    • Consumers aren't required to perform any duty as a precondition for receiving service, except notice that service is needed

Q: What is a limited warranty?

  • A:A "limited" written warranty allows the manufacturer to include a provision that restricts the duration of implied warranties to the duration of the limited warranty. For example, a two-year limited warranty can limit implied warranties to two years. However, a "full" written warranty cannot limit the duration of implied warranties.

Q: What is an express warranty?

  • A:Express warranties, unlike implied warranties, are not "read into" asales contract by state law. Instead, the manufacturer explicitly offers these warranties to the customers in the course of a sales transaction. They are promises and statements that are voluntarily made about the product or about the manufacturer's commitment to remedy the defects and malfunctions that some customers may experience.

    Express warranties can take a variety of forms, ranging from advertising claims to formal certificates. An express warranty can be made either orally or in writing. While oral warranties are important, only written warranties on consumer products are covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

    Section 2-313 of the Uniform Commercial Code covers express warranties.

Q: What is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

  • A:The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the federal law that governs consumer product warranties. Passed by Congress in 1975, the Act requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to provide consumers with detailed information about warranty coverage. It also affects both the rights of consumers and the obligations of warrantors under written warranties.

    Congress wanted to ensure that consumers could get complete information about warranty terms and conditions. By providing consumers with a way of learning what warranty coverage is offered on a product before they buy, the Act gives consumers a way to know what to expect if something goes wrong.

Q: What is the statue of limitations for a warranty issue?

  • A:Generally, there is no specific duration for implied warranties under state laws. But state statutes of limitation for breach of either an express or an implied warranty are generally four years from date of purchase. This means that buyers have four years in which to discover and seek a remedy for problems that were present in the product at the time it was sold. This doesn't mean that the product must last for four years. It means only that the product must be of normal durability, considering its nature and price.

Q: Where do I find the warranty for a product I want to purchase online or through a mail order company?

  • A:You do have the right to review a warranty before you purchase a product. For warranty information online, look for hyperlinks leading to the full warranty, or to an address where you can obtain a free copy. Reading the warranty before you buy can help you understand exactly what protection you'll get should something go wrong later. If a copy of the warranty is available online, print it out when you make your purchase and keep it with your records.

    If purchasing through the mail or by telephone, the catalog or other advertising must include either the warranty or a statement telling consumers how to get a copy. This information should be near the product description or clearly noted on a separate page. If a page references the warranty statement, it should be listed near the product description.

Q: Will I void the warranty if I don't use the recommended manufacturer items?

  • A:Generally, tie-in sales provisions aren't allowed. Such a provision would require a purchaser of the warranted product to buy an item or service from a particular company to use with the warranted product in order to be eligible to receive a remedy under the warranty. The following are examples of prohibited tie-in sales provisions.

      "In order to keep your new Plenum Brand Vacuum Cleaner warranty in effect, you must use genuine Plenum Brand Filter Bags. Failure to have scheduled maintenance performed, at your expense, by the Great American Maintenance Company, Inc., voids this warranty."

    While tie-in sales requirements can't be used, the warranty need not cover use of replacement parts, repairs, or maintenance that is inappropriate for the product. The following is an example of a permissible provision that excludes coverage of such things.

      "While necessary maintenance or repairs on your AudioMundo Stereo System can be performed by any company, we recommend that you use only authorized AudioMundo dealers. Improper or incorrectly performed maintenance or repair voids this warranty."

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