When you buy an expensive new product, such as a fridge, a washing machine or a computer, there’s always the worry that it will stop working and that you’ll have to replace or repair it.
You will often be offered a document called a guarantee or a warranty, which will protect you if this happens. However, if you’re asked to pay extra for this, there are several things you should consider before agreeing.
A guarantee is usually given with the product you’re buying, for free. It’s a promise from the trader or manufacturer that they’ll repair or replace the item, or give you a refund, if it becomes faulty within a certain amount of time.
Although the guarantee is free, you’ll usually need to register it within 28 days of buying the item.
It isn’t just electrical items that come with guarantees – you might also be offered a guarantee for a service such as work you’ve had done in your house.
If you’re offered a long-term guarantee for this type of work, find out whether it needs to be backed up by insurance as otherwise it could be worth nothing.
A warranty is a term of a contract between you and the trader or manufacturer. It can also be used to describe additional protection given to you when you buy a product.
This gives the seller or manufacturer a responsibility to repair or replace the product if it is damaged or faulty.
It's sometimes known as an 'extended warranty' and will usually cost you some money and last for a specified length of time.
Take your time to find out what the warranty covers, as you might already be protected for the same thing by a manufacturer’s guarantee or by an existing insurance policy, for example, your home contents insurance.
Make sure you’re aware of how the law protects you, too. Under the Sale of Goods Act, products must be of ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘as described’, as well as lasting for a ‘reasonable’ amount of time.
It’s assumed that if a product breaks within 6 months, it was faulty to start with. However, after 6 months, depending on the trader or manufacturer, if you don’t have a warranty you might need to show proof that the product was faulty (for example, the company may refuse to refund you or replace it without you getting a report from an expert, which can be a hassle).
Find out how much it would cost to repair your item if it broke, as sometimes it might only be the same cost as paying for a warranty.
Don’t feel pressured into buying a warranty on the spot – you have 30 days to buy one after buying the product, and you can get a warranty from another company.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated warranties and was concerned that consumers weren’t getting value for money, so shop around if you decide you need one. The company you bought the product from has to give you a written price for a warranty if you ask for one.
If you buy a warranty which lasts more than 12 months and then change your mind, you have the right to cancel it within 45 days and get a full refund, or if you cancel it after 45 days, you can get a partial refund. If the warranty lasts less than 12 months, then you need to check the terms and conditions to see if you can cancel it.
Checking the small print
You should always read the terms, including the small print, of any guarantee or warranty you’re offered. Each one is different so you should make sure you’re aware of what exactly it covers before you sign up to it.
Sometimes free guarantees are referred to as warranties, so always check what you’re being offered.