What is a guarantee or warranty, and what are your rights for faulty goods?
Posted 25th October 2019 by Martina Nee, Press and Communications
When you buy some goods or services, they may come with a guarantee or warranty which provides additional protection if things go wrong. Sounds great! Who wouldn’t want extra protection particularly for big ticket items such as furniture or a washing machine? Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion amongst consumers, and indeed some traders, about what exactly is covered and how this cover works alongside your rights under Irish and European Union (EU) consumer legislation.
For this month’s blog post, we’re going to try to clear up this confusion by explaining what a guarantee or warranty is, what are your statutory rights and how to use both to hopefully resolve a problem.
The consumer success story of the month looks at how ECC helped a consumer avail of these statutory rights for a faulty watch after a seller refused assistance on the basis that the manufacturer warranty didn’t cover it. The consumer query features a consumer who struggled to get a replacement sofa at no extra cost.
Download a PDF version here or continue reading below!
Your statutory rights
When a product is not in conformity with the contract (it’s not as described, not fit for purpose, or doesn’t possess the quality and performance that you would reasonably expect), you have certain rights under consumer legislation. Under EU law, these rights are provided by the Sale of Goods and Associatied Guarantees Directive 1999/44/EC, which was given effect in Ireland by the European Communities (Certain Aspects of the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 11/2003).
Under this directive, 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 are enforceable against the seller for at least two years EU-wide. In Ireland, the limitation period to take legal action is six years. You may rely on these statutory rights regardless of whether an item has a commercial guarantee/warranty or not.
Points to remember about your statutory rights:
- A commercial guarantee or warranty is in addition to your statutory rights, not instead of them
- 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.
What is a guarantee and warranty?
Guarantees and warranties are written statements either provided by 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/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 – they may not cover all aspects of the goods or service. For example, a warranty on a tablet may cover a fault with the hardware (such as battery or motherboard) but not necessarily problems with the software or external damage.
- The exact duration of the cover – it may only be for a few months or extend for several years. In general, more expensive items tend to have longer warranty periods
- If there are geographical restrictions
- Details of who will be honouring the guarantee/warranty – this could be the seller, manufacturer or a third-party
- Procedure to register the guarantee/warranty if this is required by the manufacturer to activate it
- The procedure for making a claim
What to do if there is a fault?
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 it is up to them to put things right. If needs be, they may liaise with their suppliers or the manufacturer to resolve the matter.
ECC Ireland has had reports of some sellers telling consumers that it is nothing to do with them and to talk to the manufacturer. This is incorrect. 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 action against the seller.
Remember, 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.
Find out more about your rights for faulty goods.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) also has more information about guarantees and warranties.
Check out our handy infographic below showing the difference between statutory rights and guarantees/warranties.
Consumer success story of the month:
An Irish consumer bought a watch online from a UK trader for 201 GBP. Within the first six months, he noticed that there was a problem when trying to change the time. Soon after, the winder fell off and went missing. He sent it back to the seller to get it repaired or replaced but was told that the manufacturer warranty didn’t cover it and that the repair could only be offered at an extra charge. The seller refused to provide the consumer with his right to remedy under statutory rights. He got in touch with ECC Ireland who sought assistance from UK ECC to liaise on his behalf. The seller was reminded of obligations under consumer legislation to provide remedies such as a repair or replacement free of charge when a good is faulty and that a manufacturer’s warranty is in addition to a consumer’s statutory rights. The seller subsequently provided the consumer with a replacement watch.
Consumer query of the month:
Q: I bought a sofa online from a trader based in the UK. It turned out to be faulty as the base was damaged. I contacted the seller immediately after delivery and he told me to return it within 14 days at my own expense, but I refused. I asked for a replacement at no extra cost, but they would not listen. So, I’m stuck with it. What are my rights?
A: Under Directive 1999/44/EC on the sale of goods and associated guarantees, in the event of lack of conformity (e.g. faulty goods), you have the right to first request that the seller provides a repair or a replacement free of charge, unless this is impossible or disproportionate. In this case, it appears that the trader is not willing to offer these remedies.
Where the trader fails to repair or replace the goods within a reasonable time, or without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer, you may seek a refund or a reduction in the price if the defect is minor. Further, under the (UK) Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers can avail of a straight short-term right to reject within 30 days from the time of delivery. This Act also states that if the goods are rejected, “whether or not the consumer has a duty to return the rejected goods, the trader must bear any reasonable costs of returning them”.
The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.
© 2019 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland), CLG incorporated in Ireland, No. 367035, Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708. Located at MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7.
This article was funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).
The content of this article represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.