Understand your consumer rights before you buy

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You never know when life – or a manufacturer – might throw you a lemon. That’s why consumers should understand what warranties will and will not cover. A product may be defective upon delivery or become defective over time. Product warranties acknowledge this possibility and generally allow consumers to seek product repair, replacement, or refund within a designated time after purchase.

However, warranty terms vary from product to product regarding duration and amount of coverage. Consumers should be careful not to assume a warranty will always cover the repair or replacement of defective items. Consumers may shop wiser by reviewing the terms of a warranty and knowing their warranty rights before purchase. Consumer warranty rights differ under federal and state laws.

The following questions and answers highlight important aspects of California warranty law and different types of warranties consumers should know about before buying.

How do you know if a product is covered by a warranty?

• In California, most expensive purchases including electronics, appliances, and cars come with some form of express warranty detailing the product’s performance coverage.

• Express warranties or guarantees are typically written but can be verbal.

• Consumers should confirm any verbal guarantees in writing. Goods advertised “as is” or “with all faults” may be exempted from warranties. 

What is the difference between a general warranty and an extended warranty?

• General or manufacturer warranties attach to the product at the time of purchase.

• The duration and terms of the coverage vary with expiration occurring after a predetermined time.

• For example, many warranty claims require proof of purchase, and the failure to produce a receipt can prevent even a qualifying warranty claim from being honored.

• Consumers should always keep proof of purchase information to ensure that a valid warranty will be honored. 

• Extended warranties or service contracts either cover maintenance not included in the general warranty or extend the general warranty coverage.

• Extended warranties are generally sold separately from the product, and the terms and types of coverage may be different from the general warranty and exclude refunds.

• Buyers should review all new service contract terms to ensure they understand any changes in coverage.

• Keep in mind that service contracts are administered by third-party providers.

• Providers must have a valid license with the Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS) to do business. Consumers may check a provider’s license status on the BHGS webpage or call (916) 999-2041.

What is the Bureau of Household Goods and Services?

• The BHGS regulates all licensed contract service providers, while working to protect consumers and educate businesses.

• The BHGS also acts as an enforcement agency and has jurisdiction over the following industries:

• Household Movers

• Appliance Service Dealers

• Furniture and Bedding Wholesalers

• Furniture and Bedding Retailers

• Bedding Sanitizers

• Thermal Insulation Manufacturers

• Service Contract Administrators

• Electronic Service Dealers

• Furniture and Bedding Manufacturers

• Furniture and Bedding Importers

• Custom Upholsterers

• Supply Dealers

• Service Contract Sellers

• Service Contract Obligors

For more information about service contracts or to file a complaint contact the BHGS on their website (www.bhgs.dca.gocv) or by phone (916) 999-2041.

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and the public. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.

The Consumer Protection Unit is comprised of Deputy District Attorneys, Investigators and Paralegals dedicated to protecting consumers and law-abiding businesses from fraudulent or unfair business practices. To report a consumer complaint, you can call (619) 531-3507 or email consumer@sdcda.org.