What's the difference between a guarantee and a warranty?

Learn about the differences and what you should look out for when purchasing items


Guarantee

  • A guarantee is usually free and is a promise about an item by the manufacturer or company
  • It's a promise to sort out any problems with a product or service within a specific, fixed period of time
  • Whether you paid for a guarantee or not, it is legally binding
  • The guarantee must explain how you would make a claim in a way that is easy to understand
  • It adds to your rights under consumer law
  • It will take effect whether or not you have a warranty

Warranty

  • A warranty acts like an insurance policy for which you must pay a premium - Sometimes a warranty is called an 'extended guarantee'
  • May last longer than a guarantee and cover a wider range of problems
  • A warranty is a legal contract
  • The terms of the contract should be clear and fair
  • Does not reduce your rights under consumer law
  • A warranty can be in place with a guarantee

More about guarantees

Some items you purchase may come with a manufacturer's guarantee. Often there will be a registration card that needs to be completed and returned. Before you leave the shop, ensure the seller has filled in any details of the purchase he needs to otherwise the guarantee may not be valid. Once you have sent off the card keep all the documentation in a safe place in case you need to make a claim later.

Many different businesses and service providers will offer guarantees. Whilst this may give you confidence in them, be careful not to choose a business just because of a guarantee. It may turn out to be worthless if the organisation goes out of business. Some guarantees are insurance backed and these may prove more secure.

It is important to remember that guarantees are there to increase your protection and they can not be used to limit or exclude responsibility of a business for selling faulty products.

More about warranties

A warranty is a formal statement of a fact and is part of the contact, or a contract in its own right.

Most warranties will be specific to the item they are covering. For example, if you get new brakes on your motorbike, the work and materials may be guaranteed to work for a specified number of miles or a certain time period. If an item is 'sold as seen' it is unlikely to be covered by a warranty.

Not all warranties are the same and most will have limitations. These limitations may be in relation to time or use of the product. In addition, they may also only cover certain things, for example motorbike warranties for instance, may not include things like tyres or brakes. Most vehicle warranties do specify exactly which parts are covered.

Using guarantees and warranties

If you do find that you have a problem with the goods or services and you have a guarantee or warranty, read it carefully and check that:

  • it covers your problem
  • that the fault has been caused by something covered by the guarantee or warranty
  • the timeframe has not expired
  • it offers a reasonable solution
  • you understand and are happy to pay any extra costs involved

Once you have done this, go or write to the business which sold you the item or provided the service. Explain what the problem is and show them that you have a valid guarantee or warranty. They should then provide you with options of how they can resolve the problem. These may include sending the item away for repair or providing you with a new one.

The EU position

There has been some confusion of the impact of European law with regards to warranties. A common misunderstanding is that a business must give a two year warranty. This is not the case. The confusion has arisen over the translation and the use of the word 'warranty'.

The EU law actually entitles people to have a 'right of action' against a business for two years. English law protects consumers more than this and allows a person to bring a claim within six years, some four years longer than required by EU law.

English law

There are many acts and regulations, most notably, the Sale of Goods Act, which protect someone when buying something or using a service. These acts and regulations can always be relied upon whether or not you have a warranty or guarantee. They also apply to everyone, from a huge dealership to a guy selling his bike on eBay.

As you would expect, a buyer has no real grounds for complaint if they were told about the fault before they bought the item or caused the damage themselves. What may surprise some people however is that generally that if you are buying something you have limited grounds for complaint if you examined the item, or had the opportunity to examine the item, when you bought it and should have spotted the defect. Once you have accepted an item it is very difficult to try and reject it or allege a fault later.

In saying this, the item should be of satisfactory quality. This is based on what a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory taking into account description, price and other relevant factors. It must also match any description given in a brochure, or given to you by a sales representative. In addition, it should also be fit for its purpose. This includes any purpose specifically indicated to the seller, even if it is not usually used for that purpose!

What to do next

If you have a problem with an item or service check and it is not covered by a warranty or guarantee contact the seller or service provider.

Try and remain calm and polite and make a note of names, times and dates that you speak to people along with everything which is said. If things become more complicated or take longer put or respond to a complaint in writing and ask that the other party respond in writing.

If you are a buyer, be realistic in what you are trying to achieve, and keep details and evidence in support of any of those losses. If you are made an offer, consider it carefully and don't immediately disregard it as the first offer. You may not get any more by going to Court. If both parties are reasonable you may well be able to come to an agreement that suits everyone.

If you are still having problems or an agreement can not be reached please either visit our consumer rights page or contact one of our team, who will be more than happy to help you.

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All documents should be read and used in accordance with the terms and conditions. This document is for your general information only and is not a detailed statement of the law. It is provided to you free of charge and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. If you require specific legal advice please contact our helpline on 03700 86 86 86.

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