Should we go for an extended warranty?
When we go shopping for certain products, such as electric and electronic goods, we usually ask about guarantees: the time frames, what they cover and the solutions they offer.
In certain instances, we may be told that the shop also offers the possibility of buying an extended warranty, which is a prolonged warranty at an extra cost. Before forking out more money on the product we need, we should first evaluate whether we really need to purchase such a warranty.
We should first ask what we get for free. Usually these kind of products are sold with a commercial guarantee, which is standard and is offered at no extra cost.
The terms and conditions of these guarantees vary according to the type of product and how much it costs. The more expensive the product, the longer the guarantee.
Furthermore, these guarantees usually cover repairs or replacement of defective parts.
Commercial guarantees are given out voluntarily by sellers, so there is no legal obligation for a shop or supplier to provide them. However, if sellers issue a commercial guarantee, they are legally bound to honour it.
Besides commercial guarantees, which are part and parcel of certain products, we also have specific legal rights if we happen to buy something that does not conform with the contract of sale.
If, for instance, the product bought is defective or is not fit for the purpose for which it was bought, the seller must provide a remedy – free repair or replacement. When these two remedies are not possible or are inconvenient to consumers, then a part or full refund may be paid.
Legally, the time frame for these remedies is two years from the date of delivery of the product. These are our legal consumer rights and any other guarantee given to us by sellers does not replace or take precedence over our statutory rights. In actual fact, commercial guarantees should provide additional benefits to consumers over and above the basic legal protection.
If we feel our legal rights and commercial guarantee may not offer us enough protection for the product we are about to buy, we may consider buying an extended warranty.
However, before doing so, we should first take a close look at terms and conditions. We should check what the benefits are. Does an extended warranty offer new for old or just repair? If it offers repair, make sure both labour and parts are included. Does it cover damage in cases of accident or misuse?
An extended warranty is worth our money when the product we are about to buy is very valuable. In other words, it is advisable to weigh up the cost of the extra guarantee against that of replacing the item.
Furthermore, before deciding to spend more money on an extended warranty, we should first shop around for different brands – some may be a bit more expensive but may offer a better free guarantee.
Whatever the choice we make, what is important is that it is our choice and not the seller’s.
The purchase of an extended warranty is optional and the seller should not pressure us into spending more.
Furthermore, we should always remember that regardless of our decision, our legal rights must not be affected.
Ms Vella is senior information officer, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.