Warranties of Merchantibility, Express Purpose or Particular Purpose
Warranties are promises by a manufacturer, made to the consumer purchasing the manufacturer's product, that the product will serve the purpose for which it was designed. The Uniform Commercial Code is a law, adopted in some form in all states, that regulates sales transactions and specifically the three most common types of consumer warranties: express, merchantability, and fitness.
Express warranties are promises included in the written or oral terms of a sales agreement that assure the quality, description, or performance of the product. Express warranties are usually included in the sales contract, or are written in a separate pamphlet and packaged with the merchandise sold to the consumer. These warranties may be less obvious than are product advertisements. A consumer who relies on a written description of a product in a catalog or on a sample of a product may have a cause of action if the actual product differs. Express warranties can also be verbal, such as promises made by salespeople. However, because oral warranties are extremely difficult to prove, they are rarely litigated.
Merchantability and fitness warranties are both implied warranties, which are promises that arise by operation of law. A warranty of merchantability concerns the basic understanding that the product is fit to be purchased and used in the ordinary way—for instance, a lamp will provide light, a radio will pick up broadcast stations, and a refrigerator will keep food cold. A warranty of fitness concerns the consumer's purpose in purchasing a product, and allows the consumer to rely on the seller to offer goods only if they are suitable for that particular purpose. For example, there may be a breach of the implied warranty of fitness if a salesperson knowingly sells a consumer software that is not designed for operation on the consumer's computer. For a breach-of-implied-warranty claim to be successful, the consumer must establish that an implied warranty existed and was breached, that the breach harmed the consumer, that the consumer dealt with the party responsible for the implied warranty, and that the consumer notified the seller within a reasonable time. Implied warranties may be disclaimed by the seller if they are denied expressly and specifically at the time of the sale.
The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (15 USC 2301 et seq) is a federal law that requires sellers to explain, in easy-to-understand language, the terms of warranties that apply to written sales contracts for items costing $5 or more. Under this act, when a product fails to meet the standards promised by the warranty, the seller must repair it, replace it, or refund the purchase price.
Laws protecting consumers vary in the remedies they provide to consumers for violations. Many federal laws merely provide for public agencies to enforce consumer regulations by investigating and resolving consumer complaints. For example, in the case of a false advertisement, a common remedy is the FTC-ordered removal of the offensive advertisements from the media. In other circumstances, consumers may be entitled to money damages, costs, and attorneys' fees; these remedies can be effective in a case involving a breach of warranty. Depending on the amount of damages alleged, consumers may bring such actions in small-claims courts, which tend to be speedier and less expensive than trial courts.