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 June 13, 2003
Father's Day
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Seems Simple, But It's Not
A Warranty Is No Guarantee
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By PlanetFeedback Staff

According to my dictionary, a warranty is: �An assurance by the seller of property that the goods or property are as represented or will be as promised.�

Seems simple enough, doesn�t it? It�s not.

A common complaint among consumers involves companies that do not stand behind their warranties. Some of them, you can probably relate to. But there are ways to minimize your chances of being stuck with a worthless warranty.

Fixed for free, but at what cost?
Beware of charges that aren't covered, which can nullify the overall effect of the warranty.

While a company may offer to fix a product, it could be up to you to get that product to them. PlanetFeedback, a free Web site that helps consumers communicate with companies easily with online letter templates, has noticed the trend.

In a letter to Panasonic, Danielle L. of St. Louis writes: �I bought a VCR...after only 6 months the thing is acting up. I have never had any luck with service centers, they always take whatever I send in to have fixed and keep it for a few months. I asked if they could replace it. They said send it to the service center...there isn't one in my state. I'm not about to pay for the shipping on the VCR to have it shipped. Not worth it.�

Philips Electronics customer, Maura L. of Chicago, writes, �About six months after I bought a Magnavox 19' TV, a picture tube blew. While the picture tube is included under the warranty, the labor isn't and the labor was almost as expensive as the TV. I'm ready to throw it out, but it seems such a waste because it's practically brand new!�

Plenty of hot buttons

Even if you get the defective product to a company, it does not mean you�ll get it fixed -- or even get it back.

Another Philips Electronics customer, Steve H. of Alburg, Vermont, writes: �After my portable CD player ceased to function, I sent it back to the address I received from the automated help line. I sent it in November 99, and I still haven�t heard or received anything. From the multiple times I contacted the company, I learned that they can't find the product I sent even though I have proof from the USPS insured mail that it was delivered and signed for at the correct address.�

Jamie M. of Knoxville, Tennessee, was upset about the way the company reacted to him when his Aiwa CD player broke. �Everyone I talked to was rude to me and treated me like I was an idiot who didn't have a clue about anything,� he writes. �This is unacceptable to me.�

In a letter to Pioneer North America Inc., Marc G. of Stoughton, Mass., summarized a problem that many others have when they can�t find a qualified repair shop in their area. �A warranty is useless if there is no one to offer competent service.�

Understanding warranties

There are three types of warranties:
� Written: Although not required by law, most warranties are issued in written form.
� Implied: Almost every purchase you make is covered by an implied warranty. It means that a product will do what it is supposed to do.
� Spoken: Although attractive, a spoken warranty probably won�t stand up in a court of law. If a salesperson offers you a warranty, make sure you get it in writing.

Ask before you buy

The Federal Trade Commission suggests asking the following questions when considering a product�s warranty:
� How long does the warranty last? Check the warranty to see when it begins and when it expires, as well as any conditions that may void coverage.
� Who do you contact to get warranty service? It may be the seller or the manufacturer who provides you with service.
� What will the company do if the product fails? Read to see whether the company will repair the item, replace it, or refund your money.
� What parts and repair problems are covered? Check to see if any parts of the product or types of repair problems are excluded from coverage. For example, some warranties require you to pay for labor charges. Also, look for conditions that could prove expensive or inconvenient, such as a requirement that you ship a heavy object to a factory for service, or that you return the item in the original carton.
� Does the warranty cover "consequential damages?" Many warranties do not cover damages caused by the product, 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 the lost food.
� Are there any conditions or limitations on the warranty? Some warranties provide coverage only if you maintain or use the product as directed. For example, a warranty may cover only personal use -- as opposed to business use -- of the product. Make sure the warranty will meet your needs.

Do your part

Also make sure you do your part to keep your product under warranty.
� Save your receipt and file it with the warranty.
� Perform required maintenance and inspections.
� Figure out what you have to do to put the warranty into effect. Sometimes companies require you to fill out a warranty registration card.

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