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The Supreme Court has taken on a case to decide whether or not the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is unconstitutional. (Spoiler: It’s goddamn constitutional.) Still, with consumer protections under attack, it’s worth a refresher on your rights as a consumer—especially since you might have more than you realize. Specifically, let’s take a look at what you can do when a company won’t honor their warranty.
Even if you don’t have a written guarantee that a manufacturer will repair or replace your purchase, you still have implied protections as a consumer. Here’s what to do when you need to get a company to honor a warranty, and what you can do to avoid shady sellers in the first place.
First off, understand the different types of warranties
You don’t have to be a lawyer to talk the talk, at least a little bit. If you find yourself in a situation where a company refusing to honor a warranty, make sure you understand what type of warranty you’re dealing with.
An express warranty is a written or spoken guarantee. Written warranties may have full or limited coverage. An implied warranty is an unwritten protection that is automatically assumed when you buy most products.A lifetime warranty doesn’t mean your lifetime, so check the fine print. It might refer to how long a company carries a product or how long it’s available from the manufacturer.
Watch out for tie-in sales provisions that require customers to buy products or services from a particular company to maintain warranty coverage.
In addition to the coverage of your warranty, you might be able to claim consequential or incidental damages, which are outside losses caused by a defective product.
What to do when a company won’t honor a warranty
So you know your defective product is covered by a warranty, but the seller refuses to follow through on your repair, replacement, or refund. Your first course of action is to try to follow the directions on the warranty for making a dispute. Most warranty documents will have a section on dispute resolution procedures.
If dispute resolution doesn’t work, send a demand letter. This letter should include the terms of your warranty, the issues with your product, and the resolution you want. If you need to go to a third party for repairs, send your warranty company the receipts, and demand a reimbursement.
All the while, make sure you’re documenting every step of your complaint. For instance, it’s wise to send any letters via certified mail so you can request a return receipt. If you’re struggling to get a response, go public. Post on the company’s Facebook page or tweet your complaint at them. Hey, it works for airlines.
Still no luck? Complain to the Better Business Bureau and to your state attorney general or consumer protection office. If all else fails, sue for damages. No one wants to go to small-claims court, but a warranty is a contract that holds up in court. For expensive products, look into contacting a consumer attorney.
How to avoid this issue in the first place
In order to avoid the hassle of an unhonored warranty, here are some tips before you buy:
Get everything in writing. If the warranty is spoken, follow up with a confirmation email, and keep copies of all performance promises.Avoid buying products sold “as is” or with similar language.Always ask to see the warranty. This is one of your consumer rights. If a manufacturer or retailer won’t show you the details of your warranty, even after you explain your rights, file a formal complaint or find a different seller.
Remember that you have more consumer rights than you might think. Unfortunately, some manufacturers will really make you fight for them.