Full Versus Limited Warranties

The five facets of a full warranty, explained
By Susan MacKay
July 30, 2019
THE TALK... | Strategies & Practices

Have you ever wondered why so many manufacturers include the word “limited” in the title of their warranty? This is thanks go to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal statutory scheme that requires warranties for consumer goods to be designated as either “full” or “limited.”

It is more common to see a limited warranty in the window industry because full warranties must meet the following requirements. 

1. Duration of implied warranties are not limited.
With a full warranty, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose cannot be disclaimed or limited in duration. With a limited warranty, a warrantor can shorten the period in which a claim can be brought for breach of implied warranties.

2. Warranty service is provided to anyone owning the product during the warranty period.
One way to manage potential liability of a full warranty is to restrict coverage to a specific number of years (e.g. Full 10-Year Warranty) or restrict it to the period in which the product is owned by the original purchaser (e.g. “for as long as the original purchaser owns the home”).

3. Warranty service is provided free of charge.
“Without charge” includes installation without charge if the product only has utility when installed, even if the consumer did not originally pay for installation by the warrantor. This is likely the biggest reason why window manufacturer warranties are generally limited—window products do not have utility unless they are installed in a structure and a window manufacturer who did not perform the original install is unlikely to assume this potential liability.

4. Option for replacement product or refund.
If, after a reasonable number of tries, the warrantor is unable to repair a defective product, the consumer can choose to either receive a replacement product or a refund.

5. To receive warranty service, the consumer only has to notify the warrantor that service is needed.
The warrantor cannot require that the consumer do anything other than request service unless it can be demonstrated that the duty is reasonable. For example, it has been found that requiring the submission of a warranty registration card is an unreasonable requirement.

Given these requirements of a full warranty, it is likely that we will continue to see more limited warranties in the window industry. The key is to make sure that the warranty is titled either full or limited if consumer goods are sold.

Susan MacKay is an attorney with The Gary Law Group, a law firm based in Portland focusing on legal issues facing manufacturers of windows and doors. Contact her at 503/620-6615 or susan@prgarylaw.com.