What Guarantees Mean
Many products come with a free guarantee or warranty from the manufacturer. What they promise can vary - a guarantee will often extend to the replacement or repair of the product if something goes wrong within a year, for example, or even longer. We know when we receive a guarantee with something, but do we really know what a guarantee is and how if affects your rights?
Your RightsWhen you purchase something in a shop, by post, phone, or online, you get certain basic rights. If you buy an item that's faulty, that's covered by the Sale of Goods Act. That's the baseline and anything a guarantee offers comes on top of those rights (which is what the phrase "this does not affect your statutory rights" means with a guarantee). Even after the guarantee period expires, those rights will still apply, although you should be aware of their various limitations under the Act.
The Limits of a GuaranteeA guarantee is free, provided by the manufacturer, not the retailer. That means, in law, a guarantee isn't a contract; instead it's deemed to be a promise, since you didn't pay for it. But about the only time a guarantee is really effective is if you bought something directly from the manufacturer (at which point he's also the retailer). Still, there are times when you might find it distinctly easier to use the guarantee than your Sales of Goods rights - perhaps the retailer has gone out of business, for example.
Sometimes though, guarantees come with conditions attached to them and if you don't keep to them, that could invalidate your guarantee. Let's say, by way of example, that a manufacturer tells you that your new car should be serviced at specific intervals. If you don't do that and the car breaks down, then they might not have to fix it for free. However, even invalidating a guarantee doesn't alter your Sale of Goods Act rights; those remain rock solid.
WarrantiesAlthough, on the surface they seem to do the same thing, a warranty is different from a guarantee. Since in most cases you pay for a warranty, it constitutes a contract between you and the company issuing it. That means it's enforceable in law; if a manufacturer refuses to honour your warranty, you can sue them. You should of course, read all guarantees and warranties thoroughly and make sure you obtain written copies. Make sure you understand the terms of a warranty fully before you agree to purchase it.
It seems as if every time you buy a component, car or appliance these days, you're offered an extended warranty on it by the manufacturer or retailer. Remember though, that they're optional, not mandatory. Think of them as being like an insurance policy - you pay a small amount hoping you'll never need to use it, but if you do, it could save you quite a lot of money. On the other hand, it might not. What you need to do is weigh up the cost of the warranty against the cost of replacing the item. It can be a gamble sometimes, but unless a fault develops, in lower-priced items you'll probably come out ahead by not buying the warranty.
The warranty should always specify exactly what problems and faults are covered. In almost all cases, that's not going to include normal wear and tear. But once again, you should always take time to check the terms thoroughly before you buy the warranty.