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Warranty repairs shouldn't cost you, but they can: Read the terms to avoid surprises

Posted by Mitch Lipka  April 30, 2012 01:18 PM

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Q. I have an issue regarding a new hot tub I bought in September. I have had multiple issues that have resulted in multiple warranty service calls. The dealer has been responsive, however no response alleviates the frustration of owning something that doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. The hot tub’s stereo feature stopped working and after waiting four weeks for replacement parts it was repaired. The dealer charged me a $49 travel fee to come and make the warranty repairs. Apparently the manufacturer does not reimburse the dealer after a certain number of days for travel, so they are passing that cost to me. This charge seems unreasonable in light of the spa having had multiple issues since I owned it. I did inquire in detail about the warranty prior to purchasing and this travel fee was not disclosed.

Kathy French, Framingham

A. Consumers have a right to expect that the things they buy work the way they’re supposed to. Massachusetts has laws to protect that right even when the manufacturer doesn’t include such protections.

While warranties (and rarely seen guarantees) are what manufacturers offer to provide some measure of protection – an assurance that they’ve got it covered if something goes wrong in a specified time – that doesn’t always mean the same thing from product to product. All warranties are not created equal and neither are all companies.

As much as the notion of the lifetime guarantee has become a rarity, so has the idea that a warranty will cover everything. The state’s law of implied warranty, a consumer protection that is supposed to cover you if an item is defective, says you are entitled to your choice of a replacement, refund, or repair if you receive a defective product.

But, notes state Consumer Affairs spokesman Dan Rosenfeld, a warranty can spell out entirely different terms – including various fees that you could be subject to. The salesperson might not have mentioned that detail, but the company’s warranties do include such a provision.

That being said, many companies would never subject their customers to such fees. Goodwill can be more valuable than $49.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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