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What does a factory warranty cover?

By Jeff Frank

Warranties can have very different purposes depending upon the type of product that is covered.

  • For example, although auto warranties do vary, in general they are designed to protect consumers.
  • In the furniture industry (which is my field of expertise) factory warranties are primarily designed to protect the factory against both the retailer and the end customer.
    • Factory warranties absolve manufacturers of responsibility for the vast majority of potential complaints by consumers.

    How do warranties protect furniture manufacturers?

    • Furniture manufacturers’ warranties typically begin with clear cut terminology in bold print that customers think (mistakenly) are firm guarantees. For example:
      • Frames – 10 years
        Cushions – 5 years
        Fabric – 3 years
      • Much further down the document, in smaller print, there will be exceptions and exclusions which can make the bold print terms virtually meaningless.
      • Exclusions for problems resulting from “normal wear” and “customer abuse” are the most common of these clauses.
        • For example, cushions often begin to lose their shape and resilience within one year. That is considered “normal wear” despite the bold print 5 year warranty claim.
        • “Customer abuse” exclusions can include: Use of cleaning or polishing products, allowing pets on the furniture, use of the furniture by overweight individuals, etc. etc.
        • Frames that “squeak” or have loose joints are normally excluded as “normal wear.”
      • Bedding warranties are virtually useless after the “trial period” has expired.
        • Almost anything that can go wrong with a mattress or foundation after the “trial period,” including all comfort issues, will be dismissed as “normal wear.”
        • Major defects like broken springs that might be covered are extremely rare.

      Extended Warranty Plans

      • Extended warranties always void any manufacturer’s warranty that might have been in effect.
      • Furniture manufacturers will refuse to help if they are told you have an extended warranty.
      • They may or may not be willing to supply parts to the repair firm used by the extended warranty company.
      • A significant percentage of damages occur during the shipping or delivery process.
        • When furniture is shipped directly from the factory to a customer (either end consumer or retailer) the warranty will clearly state that the factory will accept responsibility only if the recipient notes the damage on the receipt when the item is received.
          • If damage is noted the factory can issue a claim against the shipper.
          • If no damage is noted on the delivery receipt, neither the shipper nor the factory will accept any responsibility in most cases.
        • Furniture factory warranties will explicitly state that consumers must submit all claims through the retailer who sold the item.
          • The retailer has the responsibility for covering most potential warranty costs including:
            • Costs for sending a service person to examine the product.
            • Shipping costs for product pickups and returns.
            • Minor repairs for damages that occur during shipping. Many retailers routinely remove furniture from boxes and “touch up” minor damages in their warehouse before delivery to the customer.
            • Customers who pick up their own furniture sign receipts stating that they have received the furniture in good condition. Retailers may deny responsibility if the customer discovers “concealed damage” when opening the boxes at home. Manufacturers have no responsibility for this type of damage.
          • Manufacturers will only work directly with customers if the retailer who sold the item is no longer available.
            • When a manufacturer does accept warranty claims, the customer is often responsible for the cost of getting the furniture to and from the factory repair facility.
            • Transportation costs can amount to hundreds of dollars for large items.

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