If you complained about a problem with a product while it still was under warranty, you are entitled to get it repaired under the terms of your warranty contract.

Even if your warranty has ended but you complained about a problem before the expiration, a company still is expected to repair the product under the warranty terms. However, keep copies of repair orders and the warranty if you need to back up your claims.

To help prevent future problems when you make a major purchase, compare warranties on competing products.

Questions to Ask About Warranties 

  • What parts and repairs are covered by the warranty?
  • Are any expenses excluded from coverage? (Some warranties require you to pay for labor charges.)
  • How long does the warranty last?
  • What will you have to do to get the product repaired? (Look for conditions that could prove expensive, such as requiring you to ship a heavy object to a factory for servicing.)
  • What will the company do if the product fails? Will the company repair it, replace it or return your money?
  • Does the warranty cover "consequential damages?" (Most do not. This means the company will not pay for any damage the product caused or your time and expense in getting the damage repaired. For example, if your freezer breaks and the food spoils, the company will not pay for that food.)
  • Are there conditions or limitations on the warranty? (Some warranties only provide coverage if you maintain or use a product as directed. For example, a warranty may not cover business uses.)

Spoken Warranties

Sometimes a salesperson will make an oral promise, for example, that the store will provide free repairs. Have the salesperson put the promise in writing, or do not count on the service.

Service Contracts

When you buy a car, home or major appliance, you may be offered a service contract. Although often called extended warranties, service contracts are not warranties. Warranties are included in the price of the product.

Service contracts come separately from the product at an extra cost. To decide whether you need a service contract, consider several factors:

  • Whether the warranty already covers the repairs you would get under the service contract;
  • Whether the product is likely to need repairs and what the potential costs might be;
  • How long the service contract is in effect; and
  • The reputation of the company offering the service contract.

Resolving Warranty Disputes

If you are faced with any problems with a product or with obtaining the promised warranty service, here are some steps you can take:

  • Carefully read the product instructions and warranty. Do not expect features the product was not designed to give or assume warranty coverage that never was promised. Having a warranty does not mean you automatically get a refund if a product is defective. The company may be entitled to try to fix it first.
  • Discuss your complaint with the retailer. If you cannot reach an agreement, write the manufacturer. Your warranty should list the company's address. Send all letters by certified mail and keep copies.
  • If this doesn't work, you can call your local consumer protection agency; contact the company's dispute resolution organization; take your case to small claims court; or consider a lawsuit.