Guarantees and warranties

What is a guarantee or a warranty?

It can be hard to understand the difference between guarantees and warranties and how these work alongside your consumer rights.

Guarantees are usually free and offered by the manufacturer.  A guarantee is an agreement from the manufacturer confirming that they will repair or replace an item if something goes wrong within a certain amount of time after you buy it. Household products like electrical appliances and furniture often come with a guarantee.

Warranties usually cost money and may be offered by the shop where you are buying the product. It is similar to an insurance policy and covers the product beyond the manufacturer’s guarantee period. The benefit of a warranty is that it normally protects you from having to pay for repairs if the item breaks or becomes faulty within the period covered by the warranty. It is important to know that a warranty is completely optional.  If you are buying a product that you’re going to have for a long period of time you may want the peace of mind a warranty gives.  Warranties may last longer than guarantees and may offer wider protection.

Often, companies require you to register the item to validate the guarantee. If you haven’t registered your guarantee, the manufacturer or retailer may say the guarantee isn’t valid – always check the terms and conditions. It’s also a good idea to register your product so that the manufacturer can easily contact you if there’s a safety alert or product recall.

Do I have rights in addition to a warranty or guarantee?

A guarantee or warranty gives you additional protection if something goes wrong. However, you are still protected by your consumer rights regardless of any warranty or guarantee. Often warranties can be more generous, for example, they may also cover accidental damage, but they do sometimes have exclusions and many run out after one year whereas your consumer rights don’t.

What should I think about before taking out a guarantee or warranty?

  • Always check the terms and conditions of the guarantee or warranty. For example, you may need to register the guarantee with the manufacturer in order to activate it.
  • Find out exactly what is covered. For example, with electrical goods, are all parts or just specific parts covered? Is labour included and is there a limit on the amount of labour covered?
  • The salesperson may be earning commission for each warranty they sell. A warranty is completely optional and can be expensive, so don’t feel pressurised into buying one.
  • Work out what it would cost to replace the item and compare this to the cost of the warranty. Replacing it may cost less than a warranty.
  • Guarantees and warranties are legally binding on the business – they are enforceable through the courts if necessary.