Everything you need to know about warranties
You know the drill - you’re buying your new shiny TV, iPad, bike etc. The salesperson puts it through the till, and then proceeds to warn you that it could break at any time, leaving you seriously out of pocket.
Your super concerned salesperson behind the till will give you a winning smile and tell you that for £XYZ you can get an extended warranty (an insurance policy which covers you against the cost of repairs and replacements) and that it is the sensible thing to do.
Don’t do it… The warranties sold in shops are often massively over-priced and arguably all of them are a waste of time because you have a little something called Consumer Rights.
Get a free warranty
Most manufacturers will give you a years warranty for free - so use it! Keep that bit of paper/receipt safe and if there is any sort of problem, take it back asap. Our editor took an old iPod back to a shop in 2013 when it started running slow. She found out that it was no longer stocked, but instead of leaving with her dying iPod, the shop replaced it with a fancy new video one instead.
Other stores, including John Lewis and M&S, will give you a free five year warranty for TVs and two or three years for other items. However, those stores are a bit pricey to say the least, so check if it is worth it (but a nice free replacement in five years might be worth the extra few quid initially).
Don’t get ripped off in-store
Ok - you go into store and buy a £100 camera. You reckon warranties will be around the same price no matter the store you go in? Think again - they vary wildly.
The whole industry used to be completely unethical and confusing, so in 2013 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) launched a warranty comparison site so you know just how much you'll be charged or compared to a different store. This means you can make a proper, informed decision in advance.
It’s also worth considering an online warranty with a standalone company such as warrantydirect.co.uk (which is the biggest provider of extended warranties) or Surewise.com (which is the best for single items). Really make sure that the cover is what you need and remember that most policies won’t pay out within the first 30 days.
Now you’ve looked up the warranty, found the best deal and are ready to purchase. Now it’s time to haggle. Sales staff often have targets on the number of warranties they need to sell, so use that to your advantage and get them to knock some money off the price or at least throw something in to sweeten the deal.
You don’t (necessarily) need a warranty
By law, the stuff you buy has to last a reasonable length of time. What’s reasonable? Well, ask yourself, “what would a reasonable/sensible/normal person think?”. Should your TV last more than a year? Yes. More than three years? Yes. More than 10? Probably not… If the item you buy didn’t last a reasonable amount of time, you don’t need a warranty you’ll be covered by your Consumer Rights.
If you have faulty goods and you take them back within six months, the shop has to prove they weren’t faulty when you bought them (which is pretty hard) - after that, you have to prove that it was faulty when you bought it (you have six years to do this). It’s always worth giving it a shot anyway as stores care about customer service.
The odds are, if your electronic item is dodgy, it will break quite quickly and you’ll still be under the free warranty or it may break a good few years down the road when the warranty you paid for has expired anyway.
Got conned into buying a bad one?
If you buy a warranty that lasts for more than 12 months and then change your mind, you have the right to cancel it within 14 days after you’ve bought it and get a full refund. Or if you cancel it after 14 days you can get a partial refund on a pro rata basis.
If you’ve already made a claim on the warranty you won't be able to get a full refund, but you will be able to get some of your money back.
To do this, contact the store you bought the warranty from straight away and cancel it either verbally or in writing. It is best to send a letter and get proof of posting just in case you need it as evidence later.