Learn Your Way Around Returns & Warranties

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Have you bought something recently, and it broke immediately? Knowing a few key Massachusetts laws can help you get the most out of your products, and more importantly, get what you paid for.  The first thing to understand is Massachusetts return policy laws.  Massachusetts requires that a merchant clearly and conspicuously disclose the store’s refund, return, or cancellation policy.  Clear and conspicuous disclosure is means that the merchant must display a written return policy that the buyer can see and understand before the purchase is made. As long as the product is not defective, a merchant can choose any return policy, provided the merchant discloses this policy to the buyer before the purchase. Furthermore, stating the policy on the receipt would not satisfy this disclosure requirement, because it is not provided until after the sale. (see M.G.L. c. 93A, §2(c))

The second group of laws to understand is warranty laws.  A warranty is a two-part pledge to you. First, it promises that the merchandise sold is as represented.  Second, it promises that you will receive repairs, a replacement, or a refund if it is not the quality or condition represented.  A seller does not have to use formal words such as “warranty” or “guaranty,” for a warranty to exist.  There are two types of warranties: express and implied.

An express warranty is one where the seller makes a promise, by showing a sample or model, or describes the goods to you. The written warranties provided by some manufacturers are express warranties. Express warranties can be oral or written, but you should try to get all promises in writing for your protection. (see M.G.L. c. 106, § 2-313 (1) for the complete law).

An implied warranty is one which does not have to be explicitly stated to apply.  There are two implied warranties, the Implied Warranty of Merchantability and the Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose.  Every item sold by a merchant in Massachusetts automatically comes with the implied warranty of merchantability.  A merchant is someone who is a commercial dealer of the goods in question.  There is no warranty of merchantability if the seller is not a merchant, or if the seller is a merchant but does not ordinarily sell goods of that kind.  For example, a computer purchased from a restaurant that does not usually sell computers will not have this implied warranty.  Under the implied warranty of merchantability, the merchandise must do what it was designed to do with reasonable safety, efficiency and ease, and for at least a reasonable period of time.  For example, a toaster must toast, a TV set must have a picture and a clothes dryer should not overheat and catch fire when properly operated.  Under this law, a merchant cannot sell merchandise “as is”, “with all faults”, or with a “50/50″ warranty.( see M.G.L. c. 106, §2-314 for the complete law)

The second implied warranty is the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.  This warranty arises when all three of the following conditions are met: 1) the seller has reason to know your particular purpose for buying a product; 2) you rely on the seller’s skill or judgment in selecting or providing a product to meet that purpose; 3) the seller has reason to know that you are relying on his/her skill and judgment.  (see M.G.L. c. 106, §2-315 for the complete law). If you ask a salesperson to recommend a sleeping bag for camping in sub-zero temperatures, then the recommended bag should keep you warm. If it does not, then the merchandise is not fit for its particular purpose, and the seller had failed to follow this implied warranty.

One final note is worth mentioning.  Under state law, it is an unfair or deceptive act or practice to fail to honor a warranty.  (see M.G.L. c. 93A, §2(c)).  For more information on warranties and consumer protection, contact the Law Gang or your local attorney.