Almost always, the expectations we have for corrective measures after the sale comes from that little piece of paper in the product package—or the booklet in the vehicle’s glove box—called a warranty.
Product Warranties Against Defects
In common terms, a warranty is an assurance by the seller or maker that the product you just purchased will function in a normal or expected way for some period of time or they’ll do something to fix it. If you have warranty questions, our attorney at H.C. Bradley LLC can help you determine if a warranty remedy may be available.
Within this period, you can expect help if you have a problem. Once expired, however, you may find the manufacturer is unwilling to assist you. In general:
- If you do have a warranty: you’re in good shape when something breaks.
- If you don’t have a warranty: you’ll likely have a challenging time forcing the retailer or warrantor to remedy any problems.
Warranties carry a specific legal outcome providing some exceptions and/or limitations. This depends on either 1) how it’s written or 2) the state in which the item was purchased. However, the vast amount of limitations, exceptions, exclusions, state specifics and legal technicalities could fill a book all on their own. It’s challenging, and almost pointless, to try and give a general overview. So we’ll stick to what’s most common and skip the legalities.
“I have a problem with my product. What now?”
Your first step when something breaks—or ceases to function correctly—is always to take it back to the seller or authorized repair facility and demand repairs. You shouldn’t assume that you can return a product for a refund when you have your first problem.
If the seller or warrantor has a consumer-friendly policy in place that allows the return or exchange of a product on the first problem, that’s fantastic. But that’s not the Lemon Law standard for a refund.
Under the Lemon Law, you are only entitled to a refund or exchange once the warrantor has had a reasonable chance to fix the problem(s). Actually, the warrantor is entitled to try to fix the problem up to three or four times before you can say you’ve had enough. This is called the “reasonable number of repair attempts” standard and is generally comprised of three to four visits to the repair facility with your product and notifying them of the product’s failure to operate correctly.
Therefore, your first step with any failure is:
Get the product back to the service department as quickly as possible and keep a good record of the failures as they occur. And, the repairs as they are performed. Always get an invoice for every visit! This service and repair documentation will be absolutely necessary to pursuing a refund or exchange later if the problems continue without a cure.
Limited Warranty Vs. Full Warranty
The law provides the warrantor with a reasonable opportunity to cure before allowing additional options. That’s because the warranty that comes with the product is most likely a limited warranty as opposed to a full warranty.
Barely any manufacturer or seller gives a full warranty with new products anymore. You should review your warranty manual or booklet to be sure. But almost always, the title of the warranty document will say “Limited Warranty.”
“What is limited about it?” you ask? The options—or recourse—you have when noticing a problem or defect are limited. At least initially. The limit of available options under a limited warranty at the start of problems is usually only the free parts and labor needed to correct it.
A limited warranty does not automatically provide a return, refund or replacement of the product. Luckily, the Lemon Law doesn’t permit those limits to stand after a period of time when problems persist. The period of time which must lapse before you seek a refund or replacement is: the amount of time it takes for the warrantor to have a reasonable number of repair attempts. After this period, the limitations of the limited warranty dissolve and you can seek a refund or replacement.
A Key Takeaway
The primary job of the Lemon Law and its importance in consumer protection is that:
The Lemon Laws remove the “limited” part of the warranty when the warrantor can’t fix it, and open up again the full range of remedies available for your consumer protection.
What you have to do at the first sign of a problem before invoking the Lemon Law is to give the warrantor a reasonable opportunity to fix it. Once you have, and the problems persist, you now have other options available besides the free, repetitive and unhelpful warranty repairs. You need to allow the warrantor three to four times to try fixing the problem before you can claim you have offered a “reasonable” chance.