You may be offered a guarantee when you buy certain goods (for example electrical goods) or when you pay for services such as building work. The guarantee may give you the right to have the goods replaced or repaired, or any faulty work put right. A guarantee cannot take away your existing legal rights or any additional rights included in your contract, but it may give you extra protection.
If you have bought faulty goods or had shoddy work done, and have a guarantee or warranty, you may be able to solve your problem by dealing with the company who issued it.
It may be better to follow this course of action if:
- The retailer has gone out of business or has refused to sort out your problem.
- You did not pay for the work which was carried out; for example, if something was installed in your house by the previous owner.
Types of guarantees and warranties:
- A manufacturer's guarantee or warranty included with the goods may enable you to claim a free repair or replacement within a set time.
- An extended warranty may entitle you to reclaim the cost of repairs for a longer period of time.
- If you have had home improvement work done, such as dampcoursing, you will probably have a long-term guarantee which may cover you against faulty materials or work for up to 30 years. However, this is only useful if the trader is still in business or the guarantee is backed by valid insurance.
How they work
A free guarantee for goods, including goods supplied with a service, is legally binding on the person offering the guarantee, provided that the goods were bought on or after 31 March 2003. Guarantees for goods are usually provided by the manufacturer and give you extra rights, in addition to the rights you already have against the seller.
From 31 March 2003, the law required that guarantees supplied with goods sold in the UK must be written in plain English and must be easy to understand. They must state how long the guarantee will last and the name and address of the guarantor. You are entitled to see a written copy of the guarantee if you ask for one, and it must be provided within a reasonable time. If these requirements are not met, you can complain to Consumer Direct on 0845 404 0506 or Consumerline in Northern Ireland on 0845 600 6262.
A free guarantee for services, or for goods bought before 31 March 2003, will only be binding if you can show it was part of your contract with the supplier of the goods or services, or with the manufacturer. To be part of your contract, the terms of the guarantee must have been clearly set out when you bought the goods or services. Some firms supplying services offer long-term guarantees of ten years or more. These won't mean much unless they are backed by an insurance company, because they will depend on the firm still being in business several years later.
Extended guarantees and warranties
Sometimes traders offer enhanced guarantees which you normally have to pay for. These are known as extended guarantees. Extended guarantees or warranties usually take effect at the end of any manufacturer's guarantee. The extended guarantee will always be legally binding. It will usually be run by a separate firm, different from the trader from whom you bought the goods. If you make a claim on an extended guarantee, you may lose other legal rights you have against the trader. If you have only recently bought the goods, it might be better to make your claim against the trader from whom you bought the goods.
Before agreeing to buy an extended guarantee, you will need to look at:
- What is covered by the guarantee. Some extended guarantees will only cover mechanical breakdown, but not wear and tear. Some will require you to pay labour charges. Check what is covered before you decide to buy it.
- Whether the extended guarantee is underwritten by an insurance company. If the supplier goes out of business, you should still be able to claim from the underwriters for any work that needs doing under the guarantee.
- When the extended warranty starts. You may find that your existing rights are sufficient anyway. If you have problems shortly after purchase, you should complain to the trader rather than the guarantee company (otherwise you may lose your rights against the trader).
- If the goods or service are likely to have a considerable amount of use, it may be worth considering an extended guarantee, if this will cover you for wear and tear or accidental damage.
- Whether you are already covered by your home contents insurance.
- Whether it would be cheaper to take out a separate insurance policy to cover several items.
Be sure to read the terms and conditions before buying an extended guarantee, and ask the seller to explain anything you are unsure about.
Things to watch out for:
If you have a guarantee or warranty, read it carefully to make sure that:
- You fully understand it
- It covers your problem - you may need to prove that the fault has been caused by something covered by the guarantee or warranty
- You're still inside the guarantee period
- It offers an acceptable solution
- You're willing to pay any extra costs involved. You may have to pay for any repair work yourself and then claim the money back from the company who issued the guarantee or warranty. If you are worried about this or if the cost of the repair is high, you should write to the company. Do this before you have any work done, to check that they will pay you back.
Remember you may still have rights against the supplier. If you decide to use the guarantee, you will need to:
- Make contact as soon as you discover the fault. Write to the company that issued the guarantee and enclose a copy of it. You will need to give details of where and when you bought the goods or services, describe the problem and when it first appeared and be clear about the action that you want taken under the guarantee (this will usually be a replacement or a repair). Don't demand something that isn't covered by your guarantee.
- If the company which issued the guarantee has gone out of business, write to the insurance company that underwrote the guarantee.
- Write to the supplier of the goods or services, explaining that they are not satisfactory and that you are making a claim under the guarantee. You should make it clear that the supplier is still responsible for the faulty goods or services, and that, if the problem is not resolved after using the guarantee, you will make a claim for repair, replacement or compensation against her/him.
- Write to the credit company if you bought the goods or services on credit, as it may have equal liability.