Trading Standards Institute Advice

Guarantees and warranties

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

Guarantees and warranties are additional to the legal rights you have as a consumer and must not affect those rights in any way

What is a guarantee?  

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, a guarantee is an agreement given by a trader to a consumer, without any extra charge, to repair, replace or refund goods that do not meet the specifications set out in the guarantee. A guarantee is usually issued by the manufacturer of goods or by a trader that provides goods as part of a service - replacement windows, for instance. Generally, a guarantee provider undertakes to carry out free repairs, for a set period of time, for problems that can be attributed to manufacturing defects.

An insurance-backed guarantee provides the consumer with protection where the trader who provided the goods or service under guarantee ceases to trade and can no longer fulfil their obligations under the guarantee. The insurance company underwrites the terms of the guarantee for the remainder of the guarantee period.

What is a warranty?  

A warranty (or extended warranty) is broadly defined in law as a contract for cover for goods, which is entered into by a consumer and for which they pay a fee. A warranty is a form of insurance policy that provides cover for the unexpected failure or breakdown of goods, usually after the manufacturer's or trader's guarantee has run out, although it can cover the same time period as a guarantee because it may offer additional cover. Check the start date of the warranty before you go ahead. Some warranties are service contracts rather than insurance-backed (you should check the status of the warranty before you purchase it).

Warranties can vary and they offer different levels of protection, from the most basic cover to those that provide comprehensive cover. For instance, you may be covered only for the 'market value' of the goods (which means their second-hand value after use) or you may be covered 'new for old'. Do not assume that a warranty will provide cover for all problems encountered with the goods. They usually have exclusions that set limits on the cover you receive.

What legal protection do I get with warranties & guarantees?  

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that if a guarantee provider offers a guarantee on goods supplied to consumers, the provider takes on a contractual obligation to honour the conditions set out in the guarantee. For example, if the guarantee provider refuses to repair goods as set out under the terms of the guarantee, you can take legal action against the provider of the guarantee for breach of contract. This could be claiming back the cost of repairs if you have had them carried out elsewhere.

The guarantee should be written in English and the terms should be set out in plain intelligible language. The name and address of the guarantee provider, the duration of the guarantee and the location it covers must also be given. You have the right to ask the provider to make the guarantee available to you within a reasonable time, in writing and in a form that you can access.

If you have a problem with an insurance-backed extended warranty that was sold to you, and you have been unable to resolve it with the warranty provider, you are entitled to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (opens in a new window). For problems with non-insurance-backed extended warranties, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service.

The Supply of Extended Warranties on Domestic Electrical Goods Order 2005 requires traders that supply extended warranties on domestic electrical goods to provide consumers with certain information before the sale of the extended warranty.

Traders supplying this type of extended warranty are required to:

  • clearly display the price and duration of the warranty
  • make it clear that the warranty is optional
  • give you information on your statutory rights
  • inform you that the warranty does not have to be purchased at the time the goods are purchased
  • provide details of cancellation and termination rights
  • inform you that warranties may be available elsewhere
  • provide a statement on the financial protection consumers have if the provider of the extended warranty goes out of business
  • state whether or not the warranty will cease if a claim is made
  • inform you that your household insurance may be relevant to the purchase of the goods
  • give a quotation in writing and inform you that the quotation price is valid for at least 30 days if the warranty costs more than £20
  • allow you to cancel it within 45 days and get a refund if a claim has not been made and if the warranty that was supplied has an initial duration of more than one year
  • allow you to cancel it and receive a pro rata refund after 45 days even if a claim has been made and if the warranty that was supplied has an initial duration of more than one year
  • inform you about your cancellation rights in writing and no more than 24 days after the warranty was bought if the warranty cost more than £20 and is over a year long

If insurance-backed guarantees and warranties are marketed and sold at a distance - without face to face contact between the consumer and trader, such as online - the Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004 apply. These Regulations cover the distance marketing of consumer financial services and specify the information that must be given to you before and after a contract is concluded. You have the right to cancel a financial services distance contract and the cancellation period for this type of insurance is 14 calendar days, which runs from the day after the day the contract is concluded. The 'Distance marketing of financial services - your rights' guide gives more information.

The guarantee provider must ensure the guarantee states that you have statutory rights in relation to the goods and that your rights are not affected by the guarantee. See the guide 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' for more information.

Please note that, in relation to the rules on guarantees, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 only covers goods and not services or digital content.

What should I consider before I buy an extended warranty?

  • consider whether you actually need an extended warranty - for example, does your home insurance policy provide all the cover you need?
  • there are a wide variety of warranty providers, so shop around for the best warranty at the right price before you buy. You don't have to buy in-store at the same time as buying the accompanying product
  • visit the Compare Extended Warranties (opens in a new window) website to compare extended warranties offered by providers
  • be careful when purchasing extended warranties that are paid for on a monthly basis as long term these can be very expensive
  • watch out for high pressure selling of warranties at the point of sale
  • ensure you have clear information on the costs and the benefits of the warranty
  • it is important to find out what the warranty does not cover

Frequently asked questions  

Q. I bought a fridge freezer 18 months ago and the freezer section has completely failed. I went back to the shop, but they refused to do anything as it was outside the original 12 month guarantee. What are my rights? 
A. If the time limit has expired on the guarantee, you cannot make a claim. However, if you can show that the goods were not of satisfactory quality at the time of sale then you may have a claim against the trader under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. See the 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' guide for more information.

Q. I had damp-proofing work carried out on my house five years ago by a limited company but I've noticed some rising damp under a bay window. I didn't think this should have happened so soon. I complained to the company that carried out the work as I had been told it was covered by a ten year guarantee. However, the company claims that the original company went into liquidation and it is an entirely separate legal entity. It is refusing to honour the guarantee or carry out any remedial work unless I pay. Can they do this? 
A. Your contract for the work and the guarantee was with the original limited company, and it is liable to you only for as long as it is trading. If it ceases trading or the premises have been taken over by another business, you cannot enforce the guarantee. If you paid for the work by credit card or on finance arranged by the trader and if it cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, you are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the card / finance provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or a misrepresentation. You are entitled to take action against the trader, the card / finance provider or both. This does not apply to charge cards or debit cards. Some companies offer insurance-backed guarantees for this sort of work. This means that the guarantee is underwritten by an insurance company and exists in its own right, separate from the company that carried out the work. If the company disappears or goes bust, you should still be able to make a claim under the guarantee from the insurance company for the lifetime of the guarantee. Check your guarantee carefully. The 'I can't contact the trader - what can I do?'  guide gives more information.

Q. I bought a used car six weeks ago and the dealer persuaded me to buy a 12 month warranty. I thought that this would cover me for everything that went wrong during this period. The cam belt has just failed and this has led to a very high repair bill. However, the warranty company have just pointed to a clause in the policy that excludes liability for cam belt failures and the dealer won't pay for the repair. What are my rights? 
A. With any warranty it is essential that you read the terms and conditions before you decide to buy it. The warranty company may be entitled to rely on this exclusion clause. You still have a contract with the dealer who sold you the car. You could argue that the dealer is in breach of contract and that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 the car is not of satisfactory quality.  The 'Used motor vehicles - your rights' and 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' guides give more information.

Q. I arranged for a builder to build a small extension last year. He told me that all his work was 'guaranteed' but I didn't get anything in writing. The pointing in the brickwork is now defective, but he refuses to put it right. When I mentioned the guarantee, he said: 'What guarantee?' What rights do I have against him? 
A. This shows the importance of getting a written guarantee. Without this, it is impossible to prove that you were offered a guarantee or indeed, what the extent of the cover might be. Remember that you have a contract with the builder that is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and he should have carried out the work with reasonable care and skill. The 'Supply of services - your consumer rights' guide gives more information.

Q. I bought a new motorbike last year that came with a manufacturer's six year anti-corrosion and paintwork guarantee. The exhaust has started to rust and the paint on the tank is peeling so the bike will probably need major re-painting and re-chroming work, which will be costly. The manufacturer is refusing to honour the guarantee and, as this was one of my main reasons for buying this brand, I am very annoyed. What should I do? 
A. Even though you did not pay for it, the guarantee provider takes on a contractual obligation to honour the terms of the guarantee under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You are entitled to take legal action against the manufacturer. You can also complain to the dealer who you bought the motorbike from as you have rights under the same law if the motorbike is not of satisfactory quality. If you paid for the motorbike on your credit card or on finance arranged by the dealer then you may have rights against the card or finance provider. See the 'Buying a motorcycle' guide for more information.

Q. I've heard that under European Union (EU) law I'm allowed a two year minimum guarantee on goods. Is that correct? 
A. EU Directive 1999/44/EC states that all European Union member states must allow consumers to make a claim for faulty or misdescribed goods under their consumer rights for a minimum of two years. English law already allows you to make a claim for up to six years from the date you bought the goods and for up to five years in Scotland. Therefore if you buy any goods from any other EU member state, you can assume that you can make a claim for faulty or misdescribed goods for at least two years after. The 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' guide gives more information.

Q. I bought an extended insurance-backed warranty online. I have changed my mind and want to cancel. What can I do?
A. Under the Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004 you have the right to cancel within 14 calendar days from the day after the day you bought the warranty. You should check the website for details of how you can exercise your right to cancel and then inform the supplier. The supplier must refund your money within 30 calendar days from the day you cancelled. See 'Distance marketing of financial services - your rights'  for more information.

Q. I think that the trader deliberately misled me over the guarantee. What can I do?
A. The trader may have breached the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which prohibit traders from engaging in unfair trading practices. You should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which will be able to advise you and refer your complaint to trading standards. If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices - your right to redress'  guide gives more information.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: August 2016

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website (opens in a new window) or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

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