Money

Ask LH: What Happens To My Warranty When The Manufacturer Goes Bust?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a portable air-conditioning unit (yes, I know the power usage is an issue, but at the time it was needed for my heavily pregnant wife to be comfortable) which I purchased in February 2011. It has a two-year manufacturer’s warranty and this weekend it failed under warranty. Unfortunately, the manufacturer (Hotpoint) went into administration in April last year.

I bought the unit from The Good Guys, and I’m thinking that under Australian consumer law the Good Guys will have to honour the warranty (replace, repair, refund). But is that actually the case? Can you shed any light? Thanks, Hot in Summer

Picture via Gumtree

Dear HIS,

As is often the case with warranty-related issues, there’s no single clear-cut answer to this question that applies in all circumstances. But I’d suggest that your best recourse is to ignore the existence of the manufacturer warranty and concentrate on your basic consumer rights.

Regardless of whether there was a manufacturer’s warranty in place or not, any goods you are sold come with what’s called a consumer guarantee, which requires that they are of acceptable quality. There are no fixed rules specifying how long the consumer guarantee should last with any particular category of product, but it seems reasonable to assume that a portable air conditioner would function for more than a single year. As such, you could argue that this represents a major defect and ask for it to be replaced. The advantage of pursuing this line of argument is that the fact the original manufacturer is no longer operating is irrelevant.

Note that it’s this consumer guarantee rather than the extended warranty which the retailer is obliged to honour. As the ACCC points out: “You have consumer guarantees regardless of any warranty provided by the supplier or manufacturer”.

From this perspective, the existence of the manufacturer warranty is essentially irrelevant, regardless of the fact the company has since gone out of business. The upside of this (from your point of view) is that you’re now more likely to get a replacement unit, rather than having to wait for a repair on your existing equipment.

Ultimately, you won’t know until you ask. When you do, be aware of your rights but don’t be overly pushy or assertive: storming into a store and demanding an instant replacement is unlikely to get you the result you want. But if the store argues that you need to take up the issue with the manufacturer, explain that this isn’t the case and that retailers must resolve problems for goods they sell; they can’t simply handball the issue to the equipment supplier. Good luck!

Cheers
Lifehacker

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