Sony's offer of an extended three-year warranty on new Bravia TVs sounds like a good bargain. While we'd never advise turning down an offer of extra protection, the deal, like many warranty extensions, might not be quite as tasty as it first appears.
From October 1 until the end of the year, Sony is extending the standard warranty on Bravia LCD TVs from one year to three. Customers have to register online for the deal, which is always something of a worry, since any redemption-based scheme tends to create problems and many people simply won't get around to it. But the bigger question is over how much extra protection over your existing entitlements the extended warranty confers.
Buying (or getting given) extended warranties when you purchase goods often sounds appealing, but very few of those warranties ever get used. In a post earlier this week, we noted that one alternative is to effectively self-insure by putting the same amount of money into a warranty fund. However, as one commenter suggested, you could also "learn your legal rights, then no need for warranties at all".
That's an allusion to the fact that in Australia, you have statutory warranty rights independent of any extra (or "express") warranty rights conferred by the consumer. In the words of the ACCC:
The goods must be of merchantable quality. That is, they must meet a basic level of quality and performance, taking into account their price and description. They also should be free from defects that were not obvious to you at the time of purchase.
In practice, if you had paid several thousand dollars for a television set and it stopped working 13 months in, that would feel like a complete rip-off. More to the point, you'd be able to mount an argument that relative to the price of the goods, that wasn't an acceptable level of quality and performance, and that you shouldn't be forced to pay for repairs as a result.
Pushing that point will require a fair degree of persistence, since you're likely to get bounced from the retailer to the manufacturer and back again several times. While you'll need to be firm, remember that reciprocity and being a better customer can work wonders.
None of this is to suggest that anyone purchasing a new TV in the next couple of months should turn down Sony's offer of an extra warranty period if a Bravia turns out to be the right purchase in other respects. It's always easier to work within an agreed warranty scheme than to get into an argument about rights. But if you happen to have purchased a TV in the last month and it breaks down next October, don't automatically assume that you'll have to pay to get it fixed.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.