Many consumers ask what the difference is between a
“warranty” and a “guarantee.” There is no difference between the terms, but
there can be a big difference between the warranties of two similar products
manufactured by different firms.
There is a federal law covering warranties called the
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2312). The law does not require manufacturers to issue
warranties on their products. If they do, the warranty must be easy to read and
understand. No “legalese,” just ordinary language is allowed. Every term and
condition must be spelled out in writing.
Magnuson-Moss also creates two types of warranties: FULL and
LIMITED (15 U.S.C. § 2303).
Full warranty (15 U.S.C. § 2304)
The label FULL on a warranty means:
A defective product will be fixed (or replaced) free of
charge, and within a reasonable time, including removal and reinstallation if
You will not have to do anything unreasonable to get
warranty service (such as shipping a piano to a factory).
The warranty is good for anyone who owns the product during
the warranty period.
If a problem is reported and not dealt with during the
warranty period, the company is still obligated to deal with the problem even
if the warranty runs out.
If the product cannot be fixed (or has not been after a
reasonable number of tries), you get your choice of a new one or money back.
Check what parts the warranty covers. A full warranty may
not cover the whole product.
If a warranty gives you anything less than the full
warranty, it is LIMITED. A limited warranty may:
Cover only parts, not labor.
Allow only a prorated refund or credit.
Require you to return a heavy product to the store for
service (the piano).
Cover only the initial owner.
Charge for handling.
A product can carry a full warranty on part of the product
and a limited warranty on the remaining parts (15 U.S.C. § 2305).
Magnuson-Moss generally requires manufacturers to have a copy
of their warranty available for you to review before your purchase (15 U.S.C. § 2302). This allows
you to comparison shop for the best warranty coverage.
Implied warranty (15 U.S.C. § 2308 & Wis. Stat. s. 402.314)
Implied warranties are rights created by state law, not by
the company. The most common implied warranty is that the product you buy is
fit for ordinary uses – an electric mixer has to mix; an ice crusher has to
crush. If it does not, you have a legal right to get your money back. Implied
warranties come automatically with every product, even though they may not be
written out. However, watch out for “as is” or “no warranty” sales as they
cancel out your implied warranty (Wis. Stat. s. 402.316(3)(a)).
Express warranty (Wis. Stat. s. 402.313)
Express warranties, unlike implied warranties, are not “read
into” your sales contracts by state law; rather, businesses explicitly offer
these warranties to their customers in the course of sales transactions. They
are promises and statements that businesses voluntarily make about their
product or about their commitment to remedy 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 (15 U.S.C. § 2303).
Read warranties before you buy. Keep copies of all
performance promises, no matter where you find them.
Make sure any verbal promises by the sales representative
are included in the written warranty. If they are not, try to get the spoken
claims in writing. For example, you could send an email confirming the spoken
promises and keep the response.
Keep your sales slip with your warranty. You may need it to
prove the date you bought the product or that you are the original purchaser.