Warranty rights and wrongs

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  • Updated:3 Dec 2009

02.Warranties explained - what you need to know before you buy

For any product you purchase, the law provides for comprehensive warranty protection. For goods, the retailer is obliged to repair, replace or refund the faulty goods. For services, the retailer is obliged to redo the service or pay for the costs of having the service supplied again. These warranties are often known as statutory or implied warranties. Read on for more details on the protection for products you purchase. Knowing your true warranty rights will help you then better decide whether, for example, you need to spend extra money buying an extended warranty.

The statutory warranty/guarantee are a strong consumer protection

The statutory warranty/guarantee provides strong consumer protection for at least six good reasons:

  1. Free: It’s free
  2. Automatically applies: By law it applies to virtually every purchase of goods or services, regardless of any manufacturer’s warranty or any extended warranty you may purchase.
  3. No specified time limit: It’s not limited to a pre-determined time-period.
  4. Comprehensive protection: It provides comprehensive protection for goods if they break down or don’t do what you’d reasonably expect of them. For services, if they’re not of a standard you’d expect of a person in the particular trade or profession. More details below on specific protections.
  5. You are entitled to repair, refund or replacement for goods or getting the job redone for services: You, the customer, are entitled to a solution which puts you in the same situation as if the problem had never happened. For goods this may mean repair, refund or replacement. For services, it may be to have the job redone or being paid for the costs of having it redone.
  6. Follow up with retailer: You only have to follow it up with the retailer – no running around to manufacturers or special repairers.

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What protection does a statutory warranty give me?

For GOODS, basic statutory warranty rights include that the goods are:

  • Of merchantable or acceptable quality — work the way you’d expect it to, given the price and how the goods are described. Goods should not have any hidden defects. If any exist, they should be pointed out prior to sale
  • Fit for purpose — does the job the customer told the retailer, or that is implied
  • Matches description or sample — must match any sample presented either in person, on the labelling or packaging, or in any ads  

For SERVICES basic statutory warranty rights include that the:

  • Service must be carried out with due care and skill — the work should be of a standard you’d expect of a person in the particular trade or profession
  • Materials supplied in connection with the service must be reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are supplied — they must achieve the result the customer wants
Other warranties you many have There are two other main types of warranties manufacturers’ warranties and extended warranties. While these may be more familiar, the protections they provide are limited.
  1. There are pre-determined time limits: Manufacturers warranties are subject to pre-determined time limits (often 12 months), meaning you can miss out on getting protection
  2. You may be required to contact the manufacturer: Manufacturers warranties and extended warranties often require the customer to contact the manufacturer, or someone else, who you generally haven’t bought the goods or services from, rather than being able to return to your retailer, which is often more convenient 
  3. Extended warranties can be expensive: Although the cover you get often overlaps with what you should reasonably be able to claim under statutory warranty, and with extended warranties you pay a significant additional cost for this ‘privilege’

CHOICE recommends you think twice about whether you need to buy an extended warranty. You should feel confident that the statutory warranty is likely to protect you in the event that the product you purchase breaks down or doesn’t work in a way that you’d reasonably expect. If you’re unsure, ask the retailer, or call up your state or territory fair trading office for more details.

Important: You should always keep hold of receipts, and store them somewhere easy to retrieve. Photocopying or scanning receipts may be a good way to ensure that if they fade you still have a receipt you can provide to the retailer.

Use the player below to listen to the CHOICE Radio podcast on your warranty rights.

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