Goods that carry a lifetime guarantee
When we need to buy specific goods it is always in our interest to shop around for the best deals.
We should look out for the lowest prices on the market and, in case of goods usually carrying a commercial guarantee, also for best guarantees. Sometimes, the goods we are interested in buying promise a lifetime guarantee.
We would think this is the best deal we could ever make. Unfortunately, the lifetime guarantee may not entail everything we may believe to be part of the package.
When we see products promoted with a lifetime guarantee, we may be inclined to believe this kind of guarantee will provide free repair or replacement for as long as we own the item.
In actual fact, this is rarely the case. When promoting a lifetime guarantee, sellers may refer to the product’s lifetime. Hence, the lifetime refers to the number of years the product is reasonably expected to last.
Lifetime guarantees may also focus on the duration of ownership, that is, the guarantee remains valid as long as the original customer owns the product. As soon as the product is sold or passes on to a new owner, the lifetime guarantee becomes null and void. When this is the case, such condition should be clearly written in the guarantee documents.
Even though a lifetime guarantee is better than a standard commercial guarantee, as the latter usually only lasts a few years, it is important to understand exactly what is meant by a lifetime guarantee offer before a purchase is made. Such information would help us make an informed buying decision.
If the terms and conditions do not specify the amount of time the guarantee covers the product, then we should specifically ask the seller how long the product is covered for.
If the length of the guarantee refers to the average lifespan of the product, then it would be in the interest of both consumer and trader that a specific number of years are stated in the guarantee.
We should always remember that such guarantees are given out voluntarily to consumers.
Traders are not obliged to give out commercial guarantees with the products they sell, but if they do, they must honour what the guarantee promises and must also clearly write down its terms and conditions.
It is then our responsibility to read and understand these conditions before making any buying decision. Therefore, when we are about to purchase a product that carries a lifetime guarantee, we need to make sure we are given documentation as proof of the guarantee given to us and we should also be made aware of the conditions that regulate the use of the guarantee.
Lifetime guarantees can be different or shorter than we think. The best advice is to read the fine print before we buy. This is especially so if we are basing our buying decision on the fact that we are being promised a lifetime guarantee.
Ms Vella is senior information officer, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.