What are your rights? A Fair Trading guide to warranties

By Claire Reilly

Increasing focus has been placed on extended and manufacturer’s warranties in the consumer electronics and appliance retailing industry, following news that a number of major retailers and suppliers have parted ways with United Warranties.

After being contacted by a number of consumers who said they had been forced to raise their concerns with United Warranties with higher government regulators, Current.com.au contacted NSW Fair Trading to establish the rights and responsibilities of consumers, warranty providers and authorities in relation to warranty claims.

While the government body acknowledged that complaints were often made about companies in the industry, a spokesperson added that, “The mere existence of a complaint or allegation against a trader does not, in itself, mean that the trader has contravened the law.  

“Fair Trading does not comment on individual complaints against a trader unless the complaint has been substantiated and formal action has been taken. This may include a public warning, cancellation of a licence or prosecution action.”

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However, the spokesperson was able to provide information for consumers that were concerned about their rights with when purchasing a warranty.

“An extended warranty is an additional warranty that some retailers try and sell you which provides repair and maintenance for a specified period,” said a spokesperson for Fair Trading. “It may or may not extend the manufacturer’s warranty. Before purchasing an extended warranty, you should carefully check the warranty brochure or document so you are clear what it is offering you.

“An extended warranty does not replace a consumer’s rights under consumer guarantees. Consumers may still be entitled to a repair, refund or replacement if a consumer guarantee is broken even when a manufacturer’s or extended warranty has ended.

“You should check what parts or labour the warranty covers and whether the product needs regular maintenance or servicing for the warranty to apply. Some extended warranties may only replace the product or refund customers based on annual depreciation of the product. This means the product you get as a replacement may be inferior to the one you originally bought or you may be refunded less money than you originally paid. Check if an annual depreciation applies to the extended warranty before you buy it.

“Some extended warranties start from the date you buy the item and not when the manufacturer’s warranty ends. You should read the terms and conditions of the extended warranty brochure carefully and assess whether it is worth the extra money before you buy it. If you don’t meet the extended warranty conditions you may not be able to claim on the warranty or it may be cancelled.

“Consumers who are experiencing problems in contacting the company are encouraged to contact Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.”

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