Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Fri Jul 03 2015, 03:30PM

The consumer right you should exercise --and companies should honor!

Do you believe in coincidences?  While I was gnashing my teeth about 2 contractors who failed to provide me with written warranties, I heard from the folks at that online retailers often fail to do this as well.

In my case, first I had an under-sink water filter installed.  Then I got a new garage door opener system.  Neither contractor provided me with a copy of the warranty for the equipment they sold me, even though these warranties certainly existed.  (They should have put their installation warranty in writing too, but that’s another story.)  

To add insult to injury, when I contacted the companies and asked for a written copy of the warranty on the equipment, they acted like I was the unreasonable one!  This is not just my personal annoyance.  It’s a common problem.  Companies fail to furnish —and, frankly, consumers fail to demand— written copies of warranties.  

Guess what?  When a mechanic installs something like a new battery in your car, there’s a written warranty on that too.  Have you ever received it?  I doubt it.  My message here is simple: get in the habit of asking for written warranties in non-traditional situations.  We expect a warranty when we shop at a brick and mortar store.  We may not remember when we’re “shopping” with a contractor who sells us something at our home or when we’re shopping online.

ConsumerWorld’s Edgar Dworsky spot checked 20 online retailers to see if they provided people with a way to read the warranty before purchasing a product.  In his small test, he found that as a group they neglected to post the warranty four out of five times.  Worse yet, two-third of sellers didn’t post any warranties at all!

Once again, this is not just a consumer advocate being picky.  The Federal Trade Commission requires online retailers to post the actual warranty or give instructions for obtaining it. This information must be on or near the product description of all items over $15.

"One of the most basic protections shoppers have is the product warranty, so to not disclose it right there on the website or make it hard to obtain is inexcusable," commented Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky.  

If I can pile on, don’t forget, a good warranty is a reason to buy one product over another.  If you’re making a small purchase maybe it doesn’t matter.  But if you’re spending a substantial sum of money, checking for a solid warranty should be part of your comparison shopping process.

To see which E-tailers Dworsky looked at and how they fared, you can view the full ConsumerWorld online warranty report here.