FAQ Friday: Guarantees, warranties & consumer rights

April 23, 2021

Every Friday, we share the answer to one of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the hundreds of consumers who contact us each week. This week, we take a look at a consumer question on product guarantees, warranties and what they mean when it comes to your consumer rights.

“I bought a new oven a little over two years ago. Last week, it suddenly stopped working. It came with a five year manufacturer’s guarantee and I paid for a warranty for extra protection, but it expired last year. Given that the oven is faulty, am I still entitled to a refund, or is it too late?”

When you buy something in a shop, you are protected by consumer law. Regardless of the size, cost or value of the item purchased, under consumer law, the item must be:

  • Of merchantable quality: this means it must be of a reasonable and acceptable standard.
  • Fit for the purpose intended: it must be capable of being used for its purpose.
  • As described: it must match the description given verbally, or in an advertisement.

If you buy an item (such as an oven) that turns out to be faulty, or does not meet the standards outlined above, then you are entitled to either a full refund, a repair or a replacement oven. Consumer law does not set out exactly which option you are entitled to when returning a faulty item, so it is up to you to negotiate with the business you bought the oven from, as to which option would be most suitable.

Additionally, the law does not give a specific time limit to return a faulty item, however, we would recommend that you contact the business about the fault as soon as possible. This is important to note, as how the issue is resolved will likely depend on how long the item was used and also the length of time it took you to return it.

Guarantees versus warranties

Often household electrical items, such as an oven, will come with a guarantee for a certain period of time, for example, one or two years. A guarantee is usually free and offered by the manufacturer as an agreement that they will repair or replace an item if something goes wrong within a certain amount of time after you buy it. Warranties, on the other hand, are an extra optional protection that usually costs money and may be offered by the shop selling the item. A warranty is similar to an insurance policy and covers the product beyond the manufacturer’s guarantee period.

Your consumer rights remain

Guarantees and warranties differ from statutory rights in that the terms are usually set by the seller or manufacturer. However, it is important to be aware that both are in addition to your consumer rights, they do not replace them! It’s important to note that even if your guarantee or warranty has expired, or the problem is not covered, you may still be able to avail of your statutory rights (as outlined above) to seek a remedy.

Top tips when buying goods with a guarantee or when considering a warranty
  • Check the T&Cs: always check the terms and conditions (T&Cs) of a guarantee or warranty. Find out exactly what is covered – for example, with electrical goods, are all parts or just specific parts covered? Is labour included and is there a limit on the amount of labour covered? Check whether you need to take any steps like registering a guarantee with the manufacturer to activate it.
  • Don’t feel pressured to buy a warranty: a warranty is completely optional and can be expensive, so don’t feel pressurised into buying one. Your consumer rights will still apply.
  • Compare costs: work out what it would cost to replace the item and compare this to the cost of the warranty. Replacing it may cost less than a warranty.
  • Remember! guarantees and warranties are legally binding on the business which means they are enforceable through the courts, if necessary.
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