Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), automatic consumer guarantees apply to many products and services you buy regardless of any other warranties suppliers sell or give to you. However, it is still important to understand how these warranties apply to goods or services you buy.
A warranty is a voluntary promise offered by the person or business who sold the product or service to you. Once you buy the product or service, the promise becomes a right that can be enforced under the ACL.
Warranties are separate from your automatic consumer guarantees. The consumer guarantees which apply regardless of any warranties suppliers sell or give to you, apply for a reasonable time depending on the nature of the goods or services. This means consumer guarantees may continue to apply after the time period for the warranty has expired.
Businesses sometimes make extra promises or representations verbally or in writing generally about the quality or standard of a good. For example, they may refer to:
- the quality, state, condition, performance or characteristics of the good
- what the good can do and for how long
- the availability of servicing, supply of parts or identical goods.
If a manufacturer or supplier provides such a warranty, there is a consumer guarantee under the ACL that the manufacturer or supplier will comply with that warranty. If the supplier or manufacturer fails to comply with the warranty you will have rights against them under the consumer guarantees.
You buy a book shelf and the sales person tells you that it can hold up to 100 kilograms. This is a statement about what the bookshelf can do and it must meet this standard.
Some businesses will also provide a warranty against defects, also called a manufacturer’s warranty. This is a representation to a consumer, made at or around the time that goods are supplied, that if the goods (or part of them) are defective, the business will:
- repair or replace goods (or part of them)
- resupply or fix a problem with services (or part of them)
- provide compensation to the consumer.
A warranty against defects is usually limited by time.
All suppliers, manufacturers and service providers that provide you with a warranty against defects must comply with that warranty. If they do not, you may bring an action against the person or business who provided the warranty, either under the ACL or for breach of contract.
A promise about what the supplier or manufacturer will do if something goes wrong can be a warranty against defects even if it is not provided in a formal document. Any material with writing on it could evidence a warranty against defects, for example wording on the packaging or on a label, if those words contain such a promise.
A warranty against defects is provided in addition to the consumer guarantees and does not limit or replace them.
You buy a motor vehicle that comes with a three-year or 100,000 km written warranty outlining what the manufacturer will do if there are certain problems with the vehicle. This is a warranty against defects.
From 1 January 2012, written warranties against defects must be in language that’s easy to read and understand and include:
- the name, business address, phone number and email address of the person or business giving the warranty
- what you must do to make a claim under the warranty, and what the person or business must do to honour the warranty
- a statement that the warranty is given in addition to consumer guarantees and cannot exclude them.
Retailers sometimes offer to sell you an extended warranty or care package to extend the length of time of the manufacturer’s warranty. Some may tell you that an extended warranty provides extra protections you wouldn’t usually get. This isn’t necessarily true, as you automatically have consumer guarantees that suppliers must comply with, regardless of what they say or any warranties they offer.
You don’t have to buy an extended warranty – it is optional.
Suppliers risk breaching the law if they:
- put undue pressure on you or use unfair tactics to get you to buy an extended warranty
- mislead you into paying for the rights that you already have under the consumer guarantees.
Before buying an extended warranty, always ask the supplier to list what it gives you over and above your automatic consumer guarantees.