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What does federal law require in consumer warranties?

Companies providing services and products aren't legally required to provide warranty coverage. If they do offer a warranty, however, they have to follow federal guidelines spelled out in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which was originally enacted in 1975.

One of the most important parts of the warranty law for consumers is the fact that warranties have to be spelled out in writing in a way that is easy to understand. You shouldn't have to wade through complex legal language to understand what a warranty offers and how you can take advantage of it. If you do have trouble understanding the requirements and promises of a warranty -- especially if you think you are dealing with a defective or dangerous product -- consider speaking to a lawyer who can help you understand your options.

Warranty information must provide certain data for the consumer. The address of the company who is extending the coverage must be included, because it's not always the same name as the company listed on the product. It could be a parent company, for example. The warranty should also define what exactly is covered, including various parts, products and damage types.

Warranties must also include the length of time coverage is in force. While some coverage is for a lifetime, you could see warranties for 30 days, 90 days, a year or several years. It's also important to note when that time period starts. Most of the time, it's from the date of the original purchase of the product.

Warranties, and whether they are still good, come into play in product liability law. However, you don't need a warranty to file a lawsuit if you are injured or experience damages because a product was defective.

Source: FindLaw, "Consumer Warranty Basics," accessed Sep. 16, 2016

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