• Is There a Warranty? - Knowing Where You Stand as a Consumer
  • October 26, 2015 | Author: Harpreet Dosanjh
  • Law Firm: Singleton Urquhart LLP - Vancouver Office
  • “Is there a warranty?” In our daily lives, we are constantly purchasing goods, usually not giving much thought to warranty concerns unless we purchase a high-priced item. It’s then we often ask ourselves this question.

    Warranties provide a level of security and protection that ensures any problems or defects with the product will be the seller’s responsibility. With “big ticket” items, it is not uncommon to purchase additional warranty coverage for even greater security.

    As a seller, your preference would be that no warranty is attached to your product so you can avoid a battle over potential product defects. But unless an additional warranty is purchased with terms that are clearly stipulated, very often buyers and sellers can disagree on what the warranty is on a product, if any. At that point we ask, what does the law say?

    For every purchase, the Sale of Goods Act applies, even if you are buying something in British Columbia and the vendor is located outside the province. Specifically, Section 18 of the Act stipulates that the seller of a good makes no warranties as to its quality or fitness. But wait! What about protection for the innocent buyer? Fortunately, there are five significant exceptions which undoubtedly ensure warranties are indeed attached to goods that are sold.

    The first exception is when the buyer makes known to the seller the purpose for which the goods are required. This does not mean a buyer must tell the seller the purpose of the item when he or she purchases it—common sense will prevail based on the circumstances of the case. For example, if a courier service purchases several bicycles from a bike shop, one can assume that the purpose is to use them for delivering items. The seller does not have to be expressly told that couriers intend to ride the bicycles. So if the bikes have defects and cannot be ridden, this would likely be covered under warranty.

    The second exception is when the goods are bought from a seller who deals in such items, irrespective of whether the seller is the manufacturer. Such an example is when you buy a brand new washing machine from the manufacturer. Whether or not the manufacturer provides an express warranty as to the quality or fitness of the washing machine, the legislation states there is an implied condition that it is of merchantable quality.

    However, it is important to know that if you examine the goods, this implied condition no longer applies. Let’s assume you buy a used vehicle from a car dealership. To be prudent, you have it independently inspected and it meets your approval. You take the vehicle home but it does not start. Unfortunately, under Section 18(b) of the Act, because of the inspection, there is no implied condition with regard to any defects as they should have been revealed by the inspection.

    The third exception applies when there is an implied condition that purchased goods will be durable for a “reasonable period of time”. This means if you purchase a computer that malfunctions after the first week, even without the purchase of an additional warranty, you would be able to rely on the Act to either have the computer replaced or repaired. Given that a “reasonable period of time” is not a defined term, this period will vary depending on the item sold.

    With exception four, an implied warranty as to the quality of fitness may be annexed by the use of the goods. This can be important regarding specialized goods in a specific industry. For instance, if an engineering company is purchasing a tunnel-boring machine, the quality of fitness will be determined after considering the type of machine and what it will be used to bore. Depending on these criteria, the same tunnel-boring machine may be suitable for one project but not for another, and therefore the terms of warranty for the machine may differ based on the project.

    Finally, if the seller makes an express warranty, it will not negate any of the implied warranties described above, unless the warranties are inconsistent. For example, if someone sells you a coffee maker and provides an express warranty as to its quality and fitness as well as a replacement provision for up to six months after its purchase, and that coffee maker malfunctions after six months, the seller would not be responsible for the breakdown.

    As consumers, we all want to be protected from defects in the goods we purchase, especially those we pay a lot to acquire. Familiarizing yourself with the kinds of warranties—both direct and implied—that the Sale of Goods Act provides should help you better understand your rights in this regard and what steps you need to take to protect yourself.