A warranty is a manufacturer’s or seller’s promise to stand behind its product and correct problems if the product fails due to a manufacturing defect or because it doesn’t work as promised. The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act governs written warranties on consumer products and protects consumers. It requires manufacturers and sellers of personal, family, or household goods to give consumers detailed information about warranty coverage.
If the manufacturer or seller of a product makes you a promise (written or oral) during a sales transaction—for example, that a product is of a certain quality, will work for a certain amount of time, or will function in a particular way—this is an express warranty. Here are a couple of examples of express warranties:
- I guarantee this product against defects in workmanship and materials.
- We promise to repair or replace defective parts for five years.
Most of the time, you can find any express warranties in the sales contract, an advertisement, or written on a sign in the store. Oral express warranties are less common, but they do happen. For example, if a salesperson says, “This vacuum cleaner will work for at least five years,” that’s an express oral warranty. But, again, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act covers only written warranties, not oral ones.
State law often gives consumers more protections than the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. For example, all states have laws that govern implied warranties (unspoken, unwritten promises from a manufacturer or seller to its customers). The most common type of implied warranty—the "warranty of merchantability"—guarantees that a product will work if you use it for a reasonably expected purpose. For example, if a merchant sells you a microwave, the implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that it will heat food. The other type of implied warranty—the "warranty of fitness for a particular purpose"—comes into play when you buy an item based on the seller’s advice that it will work for a particular purpose. For example, if you tell a merchant that you want a bicycle to use on mountain trails, and the merchant sells you a road bike that isn’t suitable for off-road trails, the seller has breached the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.
In addition, some states have warranty laws that specifically apply to certain kinds of products, like new cars, recreational vehicles, boats, and mobile homes. These laws provide additional protections to consumers in those areas.
Consumers who buy faulty products often have questions about warranties. For example: Does the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act cover all products or prohibit anything? What’s the difference between a “full” warranty and a “limited” warranty? How much time do I have to raise a warranty issue once I’ve discovered the problem? Learn the answers to these common questions and others by clicking the links below.