Warranties are promises that a business owner makes to stand by his product and protect consumers against damages or injuries caused by defective products. A warranty is a limited promise made by a manufacturer or seller of a product that guarantees some aspect of the product.
An express warranty is a warranty explicitly given by a manufacturer or seller. Express warranties are terms that usually go to the essence of the contract.
There are several ways to make an express warranty, but the most common way is to make a written or oral representation of fact or promise. The exact terms “warrant” or “guarantee” need not be used to create an express warranty.
For example, if the seller’s television infomercial offers a suitcase that will “hold up to four cubic feet of clothing,” they’re expressly warranting that the suitcase will hold that amount of clothing.
An implied warranty means you’re promised that the product will work the way it is supposed to work.
- The expectation that a new car will run and will stop when the brakes are applied.
- Assuming a new monitor will display text and graphics.
Also called an “implied warranty of merchantability,” the implied warranty arises silently out of the transaction itself.
Warranty of Fitness
A warranty of fitness for a particular purpose arises when the seller knows the buyer is going to use the product for a special purpose, relying on the seller’s knowledge. For example, you go into a hardware store and ask for a saw that will cut a three-inch steel bar. The sales rep tells you that a particular saw will do that job, and sells you the saw. If the saw can’t do that job (even if it is otherwise a very good saw), the seller has broken the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.
Exclusion or Limitation of Warranties
You can exclude or limit a warranty only by using clear language stating that warranties are limited or excluded. It’s very difficult to exclude express warranties, precisely because they are express. In other words, a seller can’t say in big letters on the box “this lawnmower will also chip wood,” and take back the warranty in the fine print on the form inside the box. It’s also difficult to exclude an implied warranty if the seller is trying to deny his or her duty to provide a product free of defects.
But exclusions and limitations can limit the length of the warranty and restrict the remedy the consumer has when the warranty is broken.
- A seller may limit the length of the warranty to one year.
- If the warranty is in effect, the seller may require a consumer to return a defective product to give him a chance to correct the defect.
- A seller may also limit the warranties to exclude subsequent purchasers of the product.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the federal law governing written consumer warranties. The Act requires the seller to give the consumer complete information about the warranty so that the consumer can understand it and compare its terms to that of warranties offered by competitors in the marketplace. A consumer can bring a lawsuit against a business that violates the act, and can recover the costs of the lawsuit and attorney’s fees if the consumer prevails.
Author: Sherrie Bennett is the former director and staff attorney at the University of Washington Student Legal Services in Seattle.