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Ask Tina: How to be wise about those warranties...

Are you clumsy or accident prone? Have you ever managed to smash your television or get DVDs stuck in the player? Maybe you accidentally put a few knives in with your clothes wash and wrecked the machine?

That last scenario might be a stretch too far but then so too might extended warranties. These are the warranties that you can buy along with electrical products. They can offer peace of mind in providing replacement cover or repair for a year or two after your manufacturer's warranty has expired.

But do you really need them? When you buy an electric product chances are you will get a warranty from the manufacturer. It is their guarantee to you that they will provide some remedies for defects or breakdown within a specified timeframe after purchase.

These are offered because the manufacturer wants to stand over the quality of their product. And knowing that defects can occur, they want to ensure their customer gets a good after-sales service from them, in order to promote loyalty and trust in their products.

That is all fine, but then you may be presented with the choice of buying extended cover, whether directly from the manufacturer, or provided by the retailer. This is like an insurance policy in that you are paying for extra cover for when the free manufactuer's guarantee runs out.

On an average DVD player you could pay anything from €20 to €75 for two or three years extended cover. In Argos the cost of their 'replacement product care' increases relative to the price of the item. For example, it costs €2.49 for general electrical items of €5-€9.99 and €20.99 for items costing €105-€114.99. For extended cover on your iPod classic you'll pay €59 with Apple.

Given the cost that can be involved relative to the cost of the product, ask yourself how long you expect to have the item and if you think you are likely to break it. But the crucial thing to take into account is that any warranty is in addition to your statutory rights and not instead of them. And they are free.

Your consumer rights will cover any product that is defective or not 'as described' and in Ireland you have six years from the time of purchase to make a claim. It is the shop where you bought the item, and not the manufacturer, that has to provide a remedy.

Your rights won't cover accidental damage, however. This may be covered by your manufacturer's warranty, but do check the terms of the policy as cover can vary.

Things to check for in warranties

l How long does it last?

  • Does it cover call-out charges as well as repairs?
  • Does it place a limit on the number or repairs or start charging after a number of repairs?
  • Does it cover replacement?
  • Does it cover accidental damage? Does your home insurance cover that anyway?
  • If you buy in another jurisdiction, is cover limited to that country?
  • Do you have to register to activate the guarantee?

What happens when your warranty runs out?

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The majority of standard manufacturer's guarantees last six months to one year.

Let's say your washing machine has broken after 13 months and so is no longer under guarantee.

You return to the shop who tells you that you must contact the manufacturer. The manufacturer either says they can do nothing as it is outside the guarantee period, or they can repair but you must pay. This is a common occurrence and you should remember that in such a case the shop is still liable to repair the defect at no cost to you.

If they say no, put your complaint to them in writing and as a last resort you can take a small claims action against the shop.

Contact our columnist with your questions and comments at tleonard@independent.ie

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