Warranty in Law

Warranty in law is a promise made by one party that a statement is true and can be relied on by the other party. Warranties are used in all types of business deals, as most companies will voluntarily offer a warranty to the other party. For example, assume that you purchase an appliance for your kitchen. The store selling it, along with the manufacturer of the product, will likely offer warranties for a specified period of time, ensuring that the product will not break or otherwise stop working.

There are two main types of warranties:

  1. Express, which is clearly specified either orally or in writing
  2. Implied, which is an automatic warranty for goods of a certain value

When it comes to the breach of an express or implied warranty, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) provides for liability for the seller. However, the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer (store selling the product) could all be held jointly and severally liable for such breach.

Express Warranties

The express warranty can take two main forms; verbal or written. It is essentially a promise or guarantee that the product being purchased will meet a certain level of quality, or that it will simply not break and become unusable. If, during the period in which the warranty is covered, the product fails to work, the manufacturer will either fix or replace it at no additional cost to the purchaser.

While most warranties are included, some warranties are available only if the purchaser submits proof of purchase and receipt on the manufacturer’s website.

An example of a verbal express warranty could be a car dealer stating to a potential customer that he or she promises that the engine of the car will last 200,000 miles. Thereafter, if the engine fails at any point when the car has 200,000 miles or less, the purchaser of the car can reach out to the car dealer and request the car be either fixed or replaced. However, keep in mind that verbal warranties, similar to verbal contracts, are much harder to prove.

An example of a written express warranty is any such warranty offered in writing in the actual contract, on the company’s website, or even on the packaging. For example, if you purchase a light bulb, and the package indicates that the bulb will last for 5,000 hours, then this would be considered a written express warranty, even if the manufacturer doesn’t think it constitutes as a warranty since it didn’t use the term “warranty.” Nevertheless, such words aren’t required, and the purchaser can communicate to the seller that a warranty did in fact exist.

Implied Warranties

Most products are covered by an implied warranty referred to as the implied warranty of merchantability, meaning that it is guaranteed to work as it should. For example, if you purchase a blender that doesn’t properly blend the items you put in it, then the manufacturer has breached the implied warranty of merchantability.

But while most people might assume that there is always an implied warranty, there are actually certain criteria that must be met in order for the product to be merchantable. Federal law identifies such criteria as follows:

  1. The product must conform to the standards of the trade, i.e. blender must be able to blend items, vacuum cleaner must be able to properly clean, etc.
  2. The product must be fit for the purpose it is generally used for
  3. The product must be uniform as to the quality and quantity
  4. The product must be packaged and labeled
  5. The product must meet the exact specifications that are on the package labels

The sale of used goods are even covered by this implied warranty. However, some states will allow retailers to indicate that the product is being sold “as is” in order to prevent the implied warranty of merchantability from taking effect.

Implied warranties are part of every UCC contract unless disclaimed by the seller; such warranties are in fact usually disclaimed. This is not allowed in any express warranty, as such sellers cannot disclaim an express warranty.

If you need help learning more about an implied or express warranty or if you need help determining whether the manufacturer, seller, or distributor breached the implied or express warranty, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5-percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.