Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 24: Warranties

Chapter Overviews

A warranty is a seller's guarantee about the quality and performance of goods and services. The warranty may also include a statement of what the seller or manufacturer will do if a problem occurs. If the seller does not honor the warranty, the seller has breached, or broken, his or her contract with the consumer.

Express Warranties  An express warranty is a written or oral statement concerning the quality, or performance, of goods offered for sale. This statement becomes part of the bargain between the parties. For example, a salesperson who says that a certain TV will not require repairs for five years has offered an express warranty that is enforceable by law. However, not everything the seller says is an express warranty. A seller's mere opinion or an obvious exaggeration—called puffing—will not be enforced.

Implied Warranties  Even if there is no written warranty, the consumer still has certain protections if the item fails to work properly for an adequate length of time. An implied warranty is an unwritten promise, created by law, that ensures a product will do what it is supposed to do. In this way, the law requires that products meet certain standards. Implied warranties do not apply to goods sold by a casual seller, such as a friend selling a used video game. There are three types of implied warranty. A warranty of merchantability is an unwritten promise that the item sold is at least of average quality for that type of item. A warranty of fitness for a particular purpose exists when a consumer tells a seller what the specific purpose of the item will be. A salesperson who sells an item with this knowledge has created an implied warranty that the product will work for the stated purpose. A warranty of title is a seller's promise that he or she owns the item being offered for sale and is not selling stolen property.

Disclaimers  A disclaimer is an attempt by the seller to limit responsibility to the consumer in case anything goes wrong. Sellers can usually disclaim the implied warranty of merchantability as long as the disclaimer is easily visible and is written in terms that can be easily understood by the average consumer.

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