Manufacturer Warranty Law

Manufacturer warranty law, governed by the UCC, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the FTC rules, covers retailers’ express or implied guarantees of a product’s quality and/or reliability. The seller is promising that the product will perform as described. If the product breaks or does not work as promised, then it has failed to meet the warranty’s requirements. The consumer or purchaser may, under the warranty, be able to return the item for a refund, receive a replacement, or have the item repaired for free.

There are three ways that a warranty can be communicated:

  1. Express (when purchased)
    • Any written or spoken claim made a retailer in an advertisement or on a package may be considered an express warranty.
  2. Extended warranty offered after initial purchase (additional cost)
  3. Implied

There are also many different kinds of warranties. Some cover a product for the product’s lifetime. This is called a lifetime warranty. Some are limited to a few days. Some warranties cover all types of damages that may occur to the product. Others are limited to very specific types of defects found.

There are certain activities, such as misuse of a product, that will invalidate a warranty. This will negate your ability to return the product if it is broken. Understanding a) how the warranty was communicated and b) what the warranty covers will help you understand when/if you can return a product if it is damaged or defective.

Written Warranty Requirements

The requirements for all written warranties are as follows:

  1. Be written in non-legalese plain language in a single, clear, and easily readable and available document
  2. Include the name and address of the seller
  3. Delineate the product or parts covered by the warranty
  4. Specify as to whether the warranty provides for a refund, replacement, or repair
  5. Express whether the customer is responsible for any costs related to refund, replacement, or repair
  6. Identify how long after the purchase date the warranty extends
    • If the products cost more than $10, warrantors must “title” a written warranty as either “full” or “limited”
  7. Include information as to what type of product use invalidates the warranty: illegal, improper, etc.
  8. Any dispute resolution or arbitration clauses, if necessary
  9. Include clear information regarding the buyer's legal rights
    • The Act promotes resolving disputes informally, but it also makes it easy for buyers to sue for breach of warranty in court.

Once a merchant offers a written warranty, they are required to follow the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s provisions. Merchants do not have to do so for:

  1. Oral warranties
  2. Service warranties
  3. Products resold to other merchants

Implied Warranty of Merchantability

No matter how narrowly a written warranty is, buyers virtually always have the basic protection of the implied warranty of merchantability guaranteeing the product will work as described, free of substantial defects, and will function properly for a reasonable period of time depending on the type of product and the cost. This protection is provided automatically by the UCC. Implied warranties typically apply for four years after purchase. However, a "limited" written warranty, may limit the duration of the implied warranty of merchantability to the duration of the limited warranty.

Implied warranties apply only to products sold by retailers. Private sellers are not bound by implied warranties.

Invalidated Warranty

The following are prohibited or will invalidate the warranty if included:

  1. Deceptive or misleading terms in the warranty
  2. A warranty seeming to provide coverage but doesn't actually
  3. A warranty promising a service that the warrantor has no intention of providing
  4. A warranty promising a service that the warrantor can't provide
  5. Including “as is” will invalidate implied warranties

If a claim against a manufacturer is brought after the warranty expires, the warranty is typically invalidated. A warranty will also be invalidated if:

  1. The problem with the product was not designated in the warranty
  2. The product failure is caused by the buyer’s improper use (see above)
  3. Someone who is not the original buyer brings the claim

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