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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we explain breach of warranty claims, including “what is a warranty?”, “what is an express warranty?”, “what is an implied warranty of merchantability?”, “what is an implied warranty of fitness?”, “what is a lifetime warranty?”, and “what is a breach of warranty?”

What is a Warranty?

A warranty is a promise made by the product’s manufacturer or seller that the product is of a certain quality or that the company will repair the product for a stated period of time. When a product is under warranty, the consumer is guaranteed that the product will perform in a specific way or up to a specific expectation. If the product turns out to have a defect that is covered by the warranty, the manufacturer or seller is legally obligated to put the consumer in the position he or she would have been in had the product not been defective.

There are three kinds of warranties involving a product’s quality or fitness for use: express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability, and implied warranty of fitness. These warranties, as well as others, are codified in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).

What is a warranty

What is an Express Warranty?

Express warranties, or consumer warranties, are typically related to sales contracts or promises a seller makes that claim a product will perform a certain way. An express warranty can be created by one of three ways: through an affirmation of fact made by the seller to the purchaser, by way of a description of the product, or through a sample or model of the product. This can be anything from verbal agreements during negotiations to an earlier purchase of the same kind of product.

If the product fails to meet a specified standard, the consumer may hold the seller accountable and receive a replacement or have the product fixed for free. While sales contracts can be submitted in court as a proof of breach, verbal promises are much harder for attorneys to prove. For example, if a salesperson says that a particular model of washing machine is silent, but the product actually makes noise, the consumer may be able to sue for breach of express warranty. However, it’d be difficult for a lawyer to prove that the salesperson said this. Also, under the Uniform Commercial Code, when a seller excludes all express warranties, it does not matter what he or she said about the goods. The buyer has agreed not to rely on oral statements.

What’s an Implied Warranty of Merchantability?

In most retail sales of consumer products, an implied warranty of merchantability states that the product is fit for the ordinary purposes for which it is used. For example, it’s implied that a lawn mower will cut grass, a tire will hold air, and a calculator will add and subtract. Implied warranties exist in addition to any express written and oral warranties to ensure a product’s performance. Even if a seller prints a statement on the product saying no warranties exist beyond the express written warranty, or even that no warranty exists at all, the implied warranty still applies.

Implied warranties may be invalidated by the words “as is” or “with all defects” in some states. When it comes to second-hand goods, or used products, implied warranties come into play. If the merchant regularly sells similar products, like a record store that offers used CDs or a thrift store that sells vintage clothing, his or her goods are covered by implied warranties. Private sellers, like an individual selling an old dryer at a garage sale, are not bound by implied warranties.

What’s an Implied Warranty of Fitness?

In comparison to implied warranties of merchantability, implied warranties of fitness cover products guaranteed for a specific purpose beyond what is explicitly intended by the manufacturer. Implied warranties of fitness arise when sellers know consumers are buying a product for a specific purpose; sellers understand that their consumers are relying on their skill and judgment when selecting the right product to accomplish that purpose. A product doesn’t have to be defective to violate the implied warranty of fitness. For example, if a salesperson sells you a pair of slippers for running – assuming you’ve made it clear that you’re searching for running shoes – your purchase is covered under and implied warranty of fitness.

What is a Lifetime Warranty?

Lifetime warranties are often stated in the fine print. Usually, a lifetime warranty only covers the product for its lifetime on the market. For example, the warranty ends when the item is discontinued or officially taken off the market. Some lifetime warranties last as long as you own the product, which means the warranty is voided the moment it is resold or given away. These restrictions are usually accompanied by the words, “limited lifetime warranty.”

What is breach of warranty?

A breach of warranty is when a promise about a product – made by either a manufacturer or a seller – is broken or untrue. Provided under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), rules for federal and state laws govern conditions that invalidate a warranty. Merchants typically invalidate warranties if:

·      The claim is made after the warranty expires

·      The policy does not cover a particular defect or part

·      The product failure is caused by misuse

·      The claim is made by someone other than the original owner

If you believe you have a product with a warranty that has been breached, you should immediately notify the seller and manufacturer in writing, keeping copies of both letters. Allow the company to make necessary repairs or replace the defective product. If they do not respond to you or fail to make amends, you should consider filing in small claims court.

Before filing, it’s important to realize that small claims court judges tend to approach warranty disputes based on their own personal view of what is fair under your circumstances. In other words, if you are clearly acting in good faith and have done everything in your ability to let the seller replace or fix the product, your chances of winning are excellent.

To win your case, here’s what you’ll need to prove:

·      The warranty existed in the first place

·      The defect is “substantial” or major

·      The defect was not caused by the consumer misusing the product

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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