When you buy goods or services, they may come with a guarantee or warranty which provides additional protection if things go wrong. Here we explain what a guarantee or warranty is, what are your statutory rights and how to use both to resolve a problem with a faulty product.
Faulty Goods – Your Statutory Rights
When a product is not in conformity with the contract, you have the right to request the seller to provide remedies such as repair, replacement or refund in the event of non-conformity. These remedies below are enforceable against the seller for at least two years EU-wide. In Ireland, the limitation period to take legal action is six years.
- Your right to redress for faulty goods is the same for new or second-hand goods (bought from a trader)
- If the product is defective, seek remedies from the seller first
- If a fault appears within the first six months, it is presumed to have existed at the time of purchase and it is the seller who must prove otherwise. You do not have to prove it!
- If the fault appears after six months, the burden of proof reverses and you may need to prove that the fault was not the result of normal wear and tear or your own misuse. This may be done by obtaining a report from an independent expert.
- Where there is non-conformity, the seller may first offer a repair or replacement item. If this is not possible or fails to correct the problem, a refund may then be provided. If the defect is minor, a reduction in the price may also be considered. Remedies for faulty goods must be provided free of charge.
A commercial guarantee or warranty is in addition to your statutory rights, not instead of them.
Guarantees and Warranties
A guarantee or warranty is an undertaking by a seller or producer to the consumer to reimburse the price paid, or to replace, repair, or proceed – during the period specified – in the manner set out in the relevant guarantee statement or advertising. These undertakings, even if provided in a voluntary basis, are legally binding on the offerer/guarantor under the applicable terms and conditions. In any case, guarantees/warranties are in addition to, and not a substitution for, your statutory consumer rights against the seller. Accordingly, if a seller offers you a car or computer at a lower price, on a ‘no guarantee’ basis, this only means that you don’t have this additional level of protection; your statutory rights as a consumer are unaffected and cannot be waived by way of contract or agreement between the parties.
If you are considering an extended guarantee/warranty/cover, or intend to make a claim pursuant to same, do check the applicable terms and conditions to find out exactly what is covered, i.e. all parts or just specific parts are covered. The guarantee must state its content in simple and understandable terms and indicate the conditions for claiming under it, e.g. how long it lasts and where it applies, and the name and address of the guarantor. At the consumer’s request, the guarantee shall be made available in writing or another durable medium.
Guarantee vs Warranty
Guarantees and warranties are written statements provided by either the seller or the manufacturer agreeing to undertake certain actions if it turns out there is a problem with the product or service. These differ from statutory rights in that the terms are largely set by the seller or manufacturer. They provide additional protection and do not replace your statutory rights.
A guarantee is an agreement from the manufacturer confirming that they will repair or replace an item if something goes wrong within a certain amount of time after you buy it. Guarantees are usually offered free by the manufacturer.
A warranty is an extra optional protection offered at additional cost, and may be offered by the retailer of the product. It is similar to an insurance policy and covers the product beyond the manufacturer’s guarantee period.
A guarantee/warranty should be provided in a durable and accessible format (for example, in hard copy or email) and include the following information:
- What exactly is covered
- The exact duration of the cover
- Geographical restrictions, if any
- Who is responsible for dealing with the guarantee/warranty (seller/retailer, manufacturer or a third-party)
- Procedure to register the guarantee/warranty, if required for activation
- Procedure for making a claim
Even if your guarantee/warranty has expired, or the problem is not covered, you may still be able to avail of your statutory rights to seek a remedy.
If there is a problem, you should always contact the seller first to report the issue. Your contract is with the seller who sold you the product and under consumer legislation and it is up to them to put things right. They may liaise further with their suppliers or the manufacturer to resolve the matter. (Consumer legislation provides that, “Where the final seller is liable to the consumer because of a lack of conformity resulting from an act or omission by the producer/manufacturer, a previous seller in the same chain of contracts or any other intermediary, the final seller shall be entitled to pursue remedies against the person or persons liable in the contractual chain.”)
Read more in this consumer redress bumper guide in the Irish Times here.
Note that even if you have additional protection under a guarantee or warranty, you should still report the issue to the seller first. Otherwise, if the manufacturer attempts repairs or replaces the item and the problem persists, you may no longer have grounds for a claim against the seller.
Check out our handy infographic below showing the difference between statutory rights and guarantees/warranties.
Commercial Warranty FAQ
Q: Who is responsible for the application of the warranty?
The party offering the warranty, be it the seller, the producer or a third-party guarantor. Always refer to the documentation provided.
Q: On average, how long is a commercial warranty?
1 to 5 years, but in most cases 2 years as with the legal guarantee. More expensive goods usually have a longer warranty which often applies to specific parts of the product.
Q: Is the guarantee free of charge?
Not necessarily. The trader can fix the conditions, so it can be free of charge or offered against payment.
Q: Does it have to be confirmed in writing?
The seller has to provide the commercial warranty in a written document or in a durable and accessible format.
Q: What information is required?
Content of the warranty, all essential elements such as duration, price and geographical coverage, details of the company offering it and a reminder of the legal guarantee.
EU and Ireland Consumer Legislation on Defective Products
Directive 1999/44/EC establishes product guarantees for consumers by requiring traders selling consumer goods in the EU to remedy defects that existed at the time of delivery and which become apparent within two years.
In the context of the legislation,
- “seller” shall mean any natural or legal person who, under a contract, sells consumer goods in the course of his trade, business or profession;
- “producer” shall mean the manufacturer of consumer goods, the importer of consumer goods into the territory of the Community or any person purporting to be a producer by placing his name, trademark or other distinctive sign on the consumer goods;
- “guarantee” shall mean any undertaking by a seller or producer to the consumer, given without extra charge, to reimburse the price paid or to replace, repair or handle consumer goods in any way if they do not meet the specifications set out in the guarantee statement or in the relevant advertising;
Under the same legislation, “consumer goods” are presumed to be in conformity with the contract if they:
- comply with the description given by the seller and possess the qualities of the goods which the seller has held out to the consumer as a sample or model;
- are fit for any particular purpose for which the consumer requires them and which he made known to the seller at the time of conclusion of the contract and which the seller has accepted;
- are fit for the purposes for which goods of the same type are normally used;
- show the quality and performance which are normal in goods of the same type and which the consumer can reasonably expect, given the nature of the goods and taking into account any public statements on the specific characteristics of the goods made about them by the seller, the producer or his representative, particularly in advertising or on labelling.
The rights of the consumer are as follows:
- The seller shall be liable to the consumer for any lack of conformity that exists at the time the goods were delivered.
- In the case of a lack of conformity, the consumer shall be entitled to:
- have the goods brought into conformity free of charge by repair or replacement (i.e. not pay for postage, labour and materials)
- have an appropriate reduction made in the price
- rescind the contract
Note: The consumer may require the seller to repair the goods or he may require the seller to replace them, in either case, free of charge, unless this is impossible or disproportionate. A remedy shall be deemed to be disproportionate if it imposes costs on the seller which, in comparison with the alternative remedy, are unreasonable. The consumer must inform the seller of the lack of conformity within a period of two months from the date on which he detected such lack of conformity.
Any repair or replacement shall be completed:
- within a reasonable time
- without any significant inconvenience to the consumer
The consumer may require an appropriate reduction of the price or have the contract rescinded:
- if the consumer is entitled to neither repair nor replacement, or
- if the seller has not completed the remedy within a reasonable time, or
- if the seller has not completed the remedy without significant inconvenience to the consumer.
Note: The consumer is not entitled to have the contract rescinded if the lack of conformity is minor.
The seller shall be held liable where the lack of conformity becomes apparent within two years as from delivery of the goods. If, under national legislation, the rights laid down in Article 3(2) are subject to a limitation period, that period shall not expire within a period of two years from the time of delivery.
In Ireland, S.I. No. 11/2003 – European Communities (Certain Aspects of the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003, regulates the rights of consumers in relation to faulty goods, as follows:
- “producer” means any manufacturer of consumer goods, importer of consumer goods into the territory of the Community or any person purporting to be a producer by placing his or her name, trademark or other distinctive sign on the consumer goods;
- “seller” means any natural or legal person who, under a contract, sells consumer goods in the course of his or her trade, business or profession.
- “repair” means, in the event of lack of conformity of consumer goods, to bring the goods into conformity with the contract of sale
- “guarantee” means any undertaking by a seller or producer to the consumer, given without extra charge, to reimburse the price paid or to replace, repair or handle consumer goods in any way if they do not meet the specifications set out in the guarantee statement or in the relevant advertising.
A guarantee shall be legally binding and set out in plain intelligible language the contents of the guarantee and the essential particulars necessary for making claims under the guarantee, including the duration and territorial scope of the guarantee, as well as the name and address of the guarantor. On request by the consumer, the guarantee shall be made available in writing or another durable medium available and accessible to him or her.
Note: “Any lack of conformity resulting from incorrect installation of the consumer goods shall be deemed to be equivalent to lack of conformity of the goods if installation forms part of the contract of sale of the goods and the goods were installed by the seller or under his or her responsibility. The foregoing also applies if the goods, intended to be installed by the consumer, are installed by the consumer and the incorrect installation is due to a shortcoming in the installation instructions.”
Read more about how to deal with faulty goods
bought in the EU and in Ireland here.