Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the federal law that governs consumer product warranties. Passed by Congress in 1975, the Act requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to provide consumers with detailed information about warranty coverage. In addition, it affects both the rights of consumers and the obligations of warrantors under written warranties.
Generally, a warranty is a seller’s promise to stand behind the product. It is a statement about the integrity of the product and about the manufacturer’s commitment to correct problems when their product fails.
The law recognizes two basic kinds of warranties—implied warranties and express warranties.
Express warranties are promises and statements that the manufacturer voluntarily makes about their product or about their commitment to remedy the defects and malfunctions.
Express warranties can take a variety of forms, ranging from advertising claims to formal certificates. An express warranty can be made either orally or in writing. While oral warranties are important, only written warranties on consumer products are covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
Implied warranties are unspoken, unwritten promises, created by state law. There are two types of implied warranties that occur in consumer product transactions. They are the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.
The implied warranty of merchantability is a merchant’s basic promise that the goods sold will do what they are supposed to do and that there is nothing significantly wrong with them. In other words, it is an implied promise that the goods are fit to be sold. The law says that merchants make this promise automatically every time they sell a product they are in business to sell. For example, if you, as an appliance retailer, sell an oven, you are promising that the oven is in proper condition for sale because it will do what ovens are supposed to do—bake food at controlled temperatures selected by the buyer. If the oven does not heat, or if it heats without proper temperature control, then the oven is not fit for sale as an oven, and your implied warranty of merchantability would be breached.
The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is a promise that the law says you, as a seller, make when your customer relies on your advice that a product can be used for some specific purpose. For example, suppose you are an appliance retailer and a customer asks for a clothes washer that can handle 15 pounds of laundry at a time. If you recommend a particular model, and the customer buys that model on the strength of your recommendation, the law says that you have made a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. If the model you recommended proves unable to handle 15-pound loads, even though it may effectively wash 10-pound loads, your warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is breached.