2012 blogpost warranties

How Warranties Work: Which Law Governs Warranties?

How Warranties Work: Which Law Governs Warranties?

Continued from Warranties Explained part one...

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

[caption id="attachment_2458" align="alignright" width="600" caption="Sponsors of the 1975 law governing warranties, one Magnuson and two Mosses."]
California Representative John E. Moss Washington Senator Warren G. Magnuson Utah Senator Frank Moss


It turns out that not everybody had the ethics of Mr. Wanamaker, so on January 4, 1975 congress and President Gerald Ford decided to improve market competition as well as the quality of information available to customers (primarily to prevent deception on the part of sellers) by codifying into law some requirements for any written warranty, should one be offered. Here is what any written warranty must do.

1. It must be available to the customer before the purchase is made, and it must clearly explain, in language that is simple to understand, the full terms of the guarantee. No language may be used which could mislead a reasonable person. The seller has full responsibility for making the wording clear. It is not the customer’s job to decode it. 2. It must have the names and addresses of those responsible for backing up the guarantee, the people you go to when your thing breaks. Warranty in hand photo by trenttsd

3. It must state exactly who may benefit from the warranty. For instance, some warranties are only in effect for the original purchaser of a product. If that person sells or gives it to someone else, the warranty expires because the original seller can’t control the condition it's in when it is re-sold, or what is said about it at the time of the resale. The reseller may make promises the product can’t keep, you see, so we don’t get to expect Michelin to stand behind tires we buy off of Craig’s List.

4. It must make clear exactly what the customer must do, and what costs she may bear, to keep the warranty in force. This would include general maintenance, explained step by step, as well as things like “Warranty void if Mogwai is fed after midnight” or “if customer rolls the Fabergé egg down a dry, rocky hill in the desert” (this is where the warranty protects the seller from, you know, the generally careless). Warranty void image by By jonssonNow, the seller may designate people, or types of people (like "Certified Apple Technicians"), to be authorized to perform any of the obligations they list, including repair or even maintenance. They may not turn the warranty into an underhanded sales agreement by insisting that in order to keep it valid you must use their brand of cleaners, or their own services. Only if they can prove to the Federal Trade Commission that really, they alone can make or do these things properly, then in such a case the FTC may waive this restriction.

5. The warranty must list the exact products or parts it covers, and any characteristics, properties or parts that it does not cover. It must also state the duration of the warranty, and exactly what will be done in the event the product fails to meet the warranty’s guarantees.

6. It must list any exceptions and exclusions affecting the warranty, and give at the very least a brief description of the legal remedies available to the customer.  

 Not covered by this law.

The Magnuson-Moss law does not cover any oral agreements, so spoken guarantees are not bound by this particular law, only the written ones. It also does not cover services. Only consumer goods are covered.

If you want to go straight to the source, the law itself can be found here, on the website “U.S. Government Printing Office

It’s only a couple of pages long, and most of it is surprisingly clear. It didn’t come up very easily in my searches, so I wanted you to have it handy here. You can also find Wikipedia articles and other pages about the law by Googling “Magnuson-Moss” or “15 USC § 2301” (that's the law’s number), but the link above takes you right to the source.


The full series:

pt.1: What is a Warranty

pt.2: Which Law Governs Warranties

pt.3: The Express Warranty

pt.4: Implied Warranty #1

pt.5: Implied Warranty #2

pt.6: Full and Extended Warranties

pt.7: The Limited Warranty

pt.8: The Caveats (the “bewares”) 

pt.9: Used and “ As Is” Sales 

pt.10: Who is Responsible?

pt.11: How Warranties Work: Who is Responsible? The Installer? The Shipper?

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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with  W. David Lichty


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