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Warranties aren't all we'd want them to be

Posted by Mitch Lipka  June 10, 2013 10:57 PM

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It’s time to get some perspective folks. Two consumers I wrote about recently ended up with new replacement products after the ones they bought turned out to be lemons. One got a new washer and the other a new computer system.

It seemed to be clear (at least to me) that what these people got was much more of an exception than the rule. Most warranties do not offer a brand new product to take the place of one that failed.

But several letters from readers followed making demands for brand new merchandise because of repair issues. Warranties are intended to ensure that you get a product that functions as it is supposed to. That usually means a repair.

While it is a plus for consumers that Massachusetts has a law of implied warranty (you have protection even without a written warranty), it isn’t a ticket to get something new every time you have a product that fails. The law is vague, saying the product should work as it is supposed to “for at least a reasonable period of time.”

Is it reasonable to expect that period to be a few weeks, a few months or a few years? That all depends. But it’s safe to say that the more time that goes by, the less likely you are to convince anyone it’s reasonable.

Additionally, the law doesn’t say you get a brand new product to replace the faulty one. What it does say is, “You will receive repairs, a replacement, or a refund if it is not the quality or condition represented.”

While it is understandable to want a brand new item, most situations don’t call for that. If the product was recently purchased, or is defective and can’t be fixed, you could end up with a new one. But most companies won’t want to give up a new product when they could provide a refurbished model or make repairs instead.

If you’re going demand a new product as a replacement, consider that the company has some latitude, so make a clear case for why. It’s OK to make a play for what you’d really like, but the odds can be long and your expectations should be set accordingly.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at


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