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|The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2010)|
In contract law, a warranty has various meanings but generally means a guarantee or promise which provides assurance by one party to the other party that specific facts or conditions are true or will happen. This factual guarantee may be enforced regardless of materiality which allows for a legal remedy if that promise is not true or followed.
Although warranties are used in many contractual circumstances, they are a common feature in consumer law for automobiles or real estate purchases. For example, new car sales typically include a factory warranty which guarantees against the malfunction of the car for a certain time period. In real estate transactions, a general warranty deed may promise good title to a parcel of land while a limited warranty provides a limited guarantee of good title.
A warranty may be express or implied, depending on whether the warranty is explicitly provided (typically written) and the jurisdiction. Warranties may also state that a particular fact is true at one point in time or that the fact will be continue into the future (a "promissory" or continuing warranty).
Warranties provided in the sale of goods (tangible products) vary according to jurisdiction, but commonly new goods are sold with implied warranty that the goods are as advertised. Used products, however, may be sold "as is" with no warranties.
In the United States, various laws apply, including provisions in the Uniform Commercial Code which provide for implied warranties. However, these implied warranties were often limited by disclaimers. In 1975 the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act was passed to strengthen warranties on consumer goods. Among other things, under the law implied warranties cannot be disclaimed if an express warranty is offered, and attorney fees may be recovered. In some states statutory warranties are required on new home construction, and "lemon laws" apply to motor vehicles.
Implied warranties are unwritten promises that arise from the nature of the transaction, and the inherent understanding by the buyer, rather than from the express representations of the seller. In the United States, Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (which has been adopted with variations in each state) provides that the following two warranties are implied unless they are explicitly disclaimed (such as an "as is" statement):
In the United States, the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act of 1976 provides for enforcement of a satisfaction guarantee warranty. In these cases, the advertiser must refund the full purchase price regardless of the reason for dissatisfaction.
A lifetime warranty is usually a guarantee on the lifetime of the product on the market rather than the lifetime of the consumer, although it can be defined in various ways. If a product has been discontinued and is no longer available, the warranty may last a limited period longer. For example:
Warranties are violated when the promise is broken or the goods are not as expected. The seller may honor the warranty by making a refund or a replacement. The statute of limitations depends on the jurisdiction and contractual agreements. In the United States, the Uniform Commercial Code § 2-725 provides for a four-year time limit, which can be limited to one year by contract, starting from the date of delivery or if future performance is guaranteed from the date of discovery. Refusing to honor the warranty may be an unfair business practice. In the United States, breach of warranty lawsuits may be distinct from revocation of contract suits; in the case of the breach of warranty, the buyer's item is repaired or replaced while breach of contract involves returning the item to the seller.
In addition to standard warranties on new items, third-parties or manufacturers may sell extended warranties (also called service contracts). These extend the warranty for a further length of time. However, these warranties have terms and conditions which may not match the original terms and conditions. For example, these may not cover anything other than mechanical failure from normal usage. Exclusions may include commercial use, "acts of God", owner abuse, and malicious destruction. They may also exclude parts that normally wear out such as tires and lubrication on a vehicle.
These types of warranties are provided for various products, but automobiles and electronics are common examples. Warranties which are sold through retailers such as Best Buy may include significant commission for the retailer as a result of reverse competition. For instance, an auto warranty from a car dealership may be subcontracted and vehicle repairs may be at a lower rate which could compromise the quality of service. At the time of repair, out-of-pocket expenses may be charged for unexpected services provided outside of the warranty terms or uncovered parts.
Statements of fact in a contract or in obtaining the contract are considered to be either warranties or representations. Traditionally, warranties are factual promises which are enforced through a contract legal action, regardless of materiality, intent, or reliance. Representations are traditionally precontractual statements which allow for a tort-based action if the misrepresentation is negligent or fraudulent. In U.S. law, the distinction between the two is somewhat unclear; warranties are viewed as primarily contract-based legal action while negligent or fraudulent misrepresentations are tort-based, but there is a confusing mix of case law in the United States. In modern English law, sellers often avoid using the term 'represents' in order to avoid claims under the Misrepresentation Act 1967, while in America 'warrants and represents' is relatively common. Some modern commentators suggest avoiding the words and substituting 'state' or 'agree', and some model forms do not use the words; however, others disagree.
New car factory warranties commonly range from one year to five years and in some cases extend even 10 years, with typically a mileage limit as well.
In the United Kingdom, types of warranties have been classified as either a:
In the United Kingdom, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which began to regulate insurance contracts in this context in 2005, determined that additional warranties sold by car dealerships are "unlikely to be insurance". Insurance warranties may offer greater protection to the consumer.
A home warranty protects against the costs of home and appliance repair by offering home warranty coverage for houses, town homes, condominiums, mobile homes, and new construction homes. When a problem occurs with a covered appliance or mechanical system such as an air conditioning unit or furnace, a service technician repairs or replaces it. The homeowner pays for a service call fee and the home warranty company pays the balance for the repair or replacement of the covered item.
Warranty data consists of claims data and supplementary data. Claims data are the data collected during the servicing of claims under warranty and supplementary data are additional data such as production and marketing data. This data can help determine product reliability and plan for future modifications.