If an item you have purchased develops a fault, should you rely on your legal rights or make a claim under the warranty?
What is a warranty?
A warranty is, in essence, an insurance policy for your purchase. It is in addition to your statutory legal rights. It may be provided by the retailer or the manufacturer, and usually incurs a fee.
It may cover your purchase in its entirety or only part of it (and any resulting repairs) and will have conditions on when and how it can be claimed against.
It is therefore always in your best interests to make yourself familiar with exactly what the warranty covers your item for.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015
You also have rights as a consumer under the Consumer Rights Act which was introduced in October 2015, replacing the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, all products must be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for purpose
- as described
Should the product fail to meet any of these conditions, it is considered to be ‘faulty’ and must be remedied by refund, repair or replacement by the retailer.
Should you claim through your warranty or the Consumer Rights Act?
This will largely depend on when you noticed the fault.
30-day right to reject
Under the Consumer Rights Act, if the item develops a fault within the first 30 days of ownership (starting from when you first received it), then you have a legal right to reject the item and receive a full refund.
This 30 day right to reject does not apply to items which are purchased as downloads, such as games, music or apps.
Where you buy perishable goods, for instance, milk or vegetables, the 30-day right to reject is altered to the shelf-life of the perishable items. Within that time, you still have the right to receive a full refund.
In the first 30 days, you would not need to claim against your warranty as your consumer rights cover you.
In the first 6 months
After the first 30 days have passed but within the first 6 months of ownership, it is automatically assumed that the fault was present when the item was bought.
It is the retailer’s responsibility to prove that the item wasn’t faulty when it was bought.
If repair or replacement cannot be made or the retailer refuses either of these options, you are entitled to receive a full refund and reject the item. The retailer is not allowed to make any deductions from your refund.
Where the faulty item is a motor vehicle, however, the retailer may reduce the refund amount to take into account any use you have had of the vehicle after the first 30 days of ownership.
In the first 6 months, it would be advisable to exercise your consumer rights as described above rather than claim against your warranty.
After 6 months
If you notice the fault after 6 months of ownership has passed, it is your responsibility to prove that the item was faulty when bought, gathering supporting evidence and possibly seeking expert advice.
At this point, it is down to you to decide whether it is easier to exercise your consumer rights or to claim against your warranty.
The time limit for making a claim in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 6 years. In Scotland, it is 5 years.
One benefit of making a claim for faulty goods under the Consumer Rights Act is that if the fault becomes apparent before 6 months of ownership has passed, you generally won’t be required to provide supporting evidence.
In comparison, most warranties will ask you to provide evidence of the fault.
What if your warranty has run out?
If your purchased item develops a fault after your warranty has run out, you are still covered by the Consumer Rights Act.
By the time 6 months has passed, you bear the responsibility to prove that the item was faulty when it was bought and must therefore provide supporting evidence to make a claim.
It can be difficult to prove that the item was faulty (of unsatisfactory quality, not fit for purpose, or not as described) at the point of sale but seeking expert advice may help.
If the item requires repair, you can ask a local repair expert to advise you on the condition of the item, the repairs required and the source and age of the fault. Do check with your retailer first that the expert you approach is acceptable to them.
Have other people complained about the same fault happening when they purchased this item? Read online reviews to source such information. This could be a widespread defect.
The more evidence you can gather, the more likely it is that the retailer will accept your faulty goods claim.
Retailer or manufacturer? Who should I make my claim against?
Should you make a claim by exercising your consumer rights, it must be with the retailer. Under the Consumer Rights Act, the retailer bears complete responsibility for faulty goods.
If, however, you make a claim through your warranty, it must be made to whomever provided you with the warranty. This could be the retailer or the manufacturer.
What if your item develops a fault that your warranty doesn’t cover?
If your item develops a fault that isn’t covered under your warranty, you can still make a claim under your consumer rights. This consumer claim would be through the retailer, not the manufacturer.
You have 6 years to make a claim in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 5 years in Scotland.
Is it worth taking out an extended warranty?
Your consumer rights regarding faulty goods are covered for 6 years (or 5 years in Scotland) under the Consumer Rights Act, therefore taking out and paying for an extended warranty isn’t generally necessary.
However, it may be to your advantage to take out an extended warranty where the conditions of the warranty are more generous than those provided under the Consumer Rights Act.
Other ways to further your faulty goods claim
Should you experience difficulties dealing with either the retailer or warranty provider, what else can you do?
If you are unhappy with the response from the retailer or warranty provider, you may contact the Consumer Ombudsman, who will in turn contact the relevant party on your behalf.
Small claims court
Should you have problems dealing with the retailer, you may take your claim for a faulty item to a small claims court within 6 years (or 5 years in Scotland).
Take legal advice
A solicitor can act on your behalf to contact a retailer or warranty provider who will not respond or who rejects your faulty goods claim.
Even if your claim is accepted, a solicitor can ensure that you are treated fairly and get the best result for you.
How legal advice can help
The process for making a claim for faulty goods where the item is under warranty is complex and can be lengthy.
Take legal advice to ensure your claim is correctly compiled and processed with as little upset as possible, improving your chances of a successful outcome.