What is a warranty or guarantee?

Many of us and many retailers and manufacturers often use the name guarantee and warranty interchangeably. However, there are differences.

  • Guarantees are usually free and offered by the manufacturer. They are an assurance regarding quality / lifespan with a promise to repair or replace if the product doesn’t live up to billing. Often, companies require you to fill out a registration card to validate the guarantee.
  • Warranties are akin to an insurance policy and are often not free. Standard and extended warranties may last longer than guarantees and may offer wider protection in cases of accidental damage.
  • You also have statutory rights that apply to everything you buy. These rights set a legal minimum and run in parallel to a warranty or guarantee. A warranty or guarantee does not replace your statutory rights.

If you have or are thinking of getting a manufacturer guarantee or extended warranty from the retailer, always be clear on what it covers – especially if you are paying money for it, as it may only cover part of the item.

Because a manufacturer warranty or guarantee claim will be a contractual claim, you need to be clear about what it will and won’t cover. 

Do I have to register my guarantee?

Usually a guarantee requires you to fill in a registration card and send it back to the manufacturer to validate the guarantee.

If you haven’t registered your guarantee, the manufacturer or retailer may say the guarantee isn’t valid - always check the terms and conditions.

It's always a good idea to register your product so that the manufacturer can easily contact you if there's a safety alert or product recall.

How do I use a warranty or guarantee?

The route you decide on to get your money back will depend on when you found the fault.

The first six months In the first six months after taking ownership of the product, it will usually be more straightforward to use the Consumer Rights Act and make a faulty goods complaint.

After the first six months it will be down to you to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase, whether you claim through your warranty or use your consumer rights.

So, after this time, you might be easier to claim on your warranty or guarantee.

Usually you’ll need proof of purchase, details of the problem and a photocopy of the warranty or guarantee to make a claim.

It was a gift  If a product you received as a gift is faulty or subject to a product safety recall, you can still claim.

The easiest route to getting your money back in either case will be to get proof of purchase from the person who bought your gift, if this is possible.

Can I still claim if my warranty has run out?

If your warranty runs out after a year and your product develops a fault, you still have consumer rights and can make a faulty goods claim.

You may need to get an expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range.

The retailer can also make a deduction from any refund for fair use after the first six months of ownership if an attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful.

You have up to six years from the date of purchase to take a claim to the small claims court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland.

What if my warranty claim is refused?

A warranty or guarantee is a contract between you and the provider, and you’re both bound by what that contract says.

For example, if your warranty excludes fixing the part of your product that is faulty, the warranty provider doesn’t have to fix it.

Don’t be fobbed off

If it's necessary for you to make another claim, and the warranty provider continues to say that the warranty has ended when it hasn’t, send it an estimate for the cost of fixing the item.

Warn the provider that if it doesn't comply with its obligations, that you'll claim back the cost of getting a third party to fix the item.

Alternatively, if it's possible to buy a replacement warranty that will provide the same level of cover to run until the original warranty should have ended, then you could seek this cost from the original provider.

Escalate your complaint

A warranty is a type of insurance, so it is possible to take your dispute with the warranty provider to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Before you take this step you will need to have exhausted the provider’s internal complaints procedure first and given the provider a chance to remedy the situation.

You can also take the dispute to the small claims court, but this is usually a last resort.

Is an extended warranty worth it?

Extended warranties that you have to pay for are rarely necessary, as you have rights which last up to five years in Scotland and up to six years in the rest of the UK.

Extended warranties are a way of getting extra protection for a new product in addition to the standard warranty and are offered for purchase on a variety of products including fridges, laptops and TVs, but:

1. You don’t have to buy one

It is an optional product and no-one has to buy an extended warranty.

Whether or not you buy an extended warranty, you are still entitled to your statutory rights, which may include a refund, repair or replacement if something is faulty.

2. You might be covered anyway

Call your home contents insurance provider and ask them what you are covered for. Some bank accounts also cover gadgets, so check with your bank.

If you’re not covered already, think about whether you need protection. 

How long is the standard manufacturer’s warranty? If the product breaks after the standard warranty runs out, would it be more cost effective for you to buy a replacement than pay for additional protection?

3. There might be better options than an extended warranty

There are other products which might be more suitable for you. If you have lots of gadgets, it might be better for you to buy multiple item insurance, which could cover a range of your items.

If you think that an extended warranty on one product would suit your needs, remember that you don’t need to make a decision at the time you purchase a new product. 

You can shop around, and don’t be pressured into making a decision on the spot. Check comparison sites to explore pricing and features that would suit you best.

Once you’ve found the best value extended warranty, check its total cost against the cost of buying a replacement product. Is it worth it?

Warranty mis-selling: what to look out for

A business selling an extended warranty must make sure it does not give you false information, or present information in a misleading way. 

It can’t omit or hide important information; and information must be clearly and prominently provided so that you have everything you need to make an informed decision. 

For example you should be told about any important things that you would not be covered for, such as cosmetic damage.

If you purchase an extended warranty for an electrical product for use in the home, such as a fridge or a TV, from the retailer where you purchased the product, you have extra rights. The ACM requires those retailers to:

  • give the price and duration of an example extended warranty next to the price of the goods or range of goods
  • make clear that the purchase of an extended warranty is optional
  • provide information on your rights to cancel the extended warranty.

Please tell us what you think of the Which? Consumer Rights website.

Your feedback is vital in helping us improve this site. All data will be treated confidentially. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Please take our survey so we can improve our website for you and others like you.