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Buying electrical items this Christmas – think twice about that extended warranty 1 December 2008

Making your money go further at Christmas can be important, so if you are thinking about buying an electrical item as a present this Christmas, make sure you know the true cost of extended warranties, the OFT advises.

From MP3 Players to games consoles, TV's, cameras and laptops extended warranties are often offered to give you 'peace of mind'.

But consumers should think carefully about the value for money offered by an extended warranty because it is likely to be expensive compared with the amount you would normally pay out in repair costs.

Some people forget that the goods they buy new have a manufacturer’s guarantee that usually lasts for one year, so there may well be no need to buy an extended warranty when you buy the goods.

Consumers are also protected by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1996 which states that goods must be:-

  • as described – they must meet the description given to them either on the label, on notices in the shop or verbally by the retailer,
  • of satisfactory quality – they must be of a standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory from the point of view of appearance, finish, freedom from defects, safety and durability, and
  • fit for the purpose – they must do the job they are meant to do.

If you decide that you would like a warranty, you do not have to buy one at the shop where you bought the goods. There are a number of firms - including insurance companies and the manufacturers themselves - that sell extended warranties on everyday household goods, from toasters to computers. In some cases, they may be cheaper and more comprehensive than retailers' extended warranties. It is now also possible to buy warranties that cover a number of appliances, such as all the electrical equipment in your kitchen. So it is certainly a good idea to shop around for some quotations before signing up to a warranty. You should also make sure that the warranty company has an agent here to carry out any repairs otherwise you might have to send it away and pay the postage.

Chairman of the OFT Bill Henderson MHK says “Many people like the peace of mind that warranties can offer but consumers should be aware that this often comes at a price. How often have your expensive electrical items failed? Modern goods are generally very reliable. If one has failed just how expensive was it to have it repaired? Would the saving you made on not buying the warranty have covered the cost of the repair? Having a warranty does not necessarily make the repair happen any quicker or more effectively. If you are happier to have the comfort of the extended warranty then shop around for the best deal – don’t take the first one offered.”

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