An extended warranty is a prolonged form of protection offered to consumers when buying certain types of products. This additional protection comes at a cost, as it provides a remedy should the product purchased breaks down after the standard guarantee expires.

However, before purchasing additional protection, consumers should inform themselves about the terms and conditions of use of the extended warranty. You should look out for conditions that provide information on the parts of the product the warranty covers and the type of problem it covers.

Does the warranty only cover mechanical breakdowns or does it also cover wear and tear and accidental damages? Special attention should also be given to the solutions or remedies the guarantee offers. Usually, such a warranty would cover repair costs and when repairs are not enough to solve the problem, the warranty would provide free replacement of the part or product.

What is also worth checking before paying for an extended guarantee is whether it provides you with a replacement if the damages cannot be repaired or replaced. Consumers should also carefully check if the guarantee mentions any additional costs, such as costs to transport the goods from the consumer’s house to the seller’s repair centre. If this is the case, then the guarantee should stipulate the amount of the additional cost.

Prior to buying an extended warranty, consumers should consider the cost of the warranty, the value of the product it covers and the cost of replacing the item or repairing it outside the guarantee. An extended warranty is usually worth its price if the product it covers is very expensive.

Furthermore, before concluding a purchase, consumers have the responsibility to shop around and compare products with different standard warranties. While comparing brands, consumers should check what different sellers are offering as standard guarantees.

When carrying out such comparisons, consumers may discover products with standard guarantees that provide the same benefits as the extended guarantees that some sellers are requesting extra payment for.

When comparing guarantees and products, consumers should keep in mind the legal protection they are automatically entitled to when purchasing goods. The law entitles consumers to request a free remedy if the product purchased does not conform to the contract of sale. When this happens, the defective or non-conforming goods must be repaired or replaced free of charge by the seller. If these two remedies are not possible or turn out to be inconvenient to consumers, then part or full refund of the money paid may be opted for.

Consumers are entitled to these remedies for up to two years from the date of delivery of the product purchased. Hence, an extended warranty should only be purchased when it provides additional protection than that established at law.

Whether or not to purchase an extended warranty is up to the consumer. In other words, consumers cannot be obliged by sellers to buy an extended warranty. Furthermore, when such a warranty is purchased, consumers must ensure that any terms and conditions promised to them by the seller are clearly written on the guarantee’s documents. Legal action may be taken by consumers if the seller fails to provide any of the benefits promised in the guarantee.

Odette Vella is director, Information and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

odette.vella@mccaa.org.mt

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