You’d think that if a manufacturer offers a warranty, getting service or a replacement under that warranty would be easy. You’d think that al you’d have to do is call the manufacturer, provide proof of purchase, and get your problem taken care of. Oh, if only it were that simple. While some manufacturers are great about honoring their warranties (and some will even help you out if the warranty is long expired), others are less so. Some will do all they can to get out of doing an under-warranty repair because they know they aren’t getting paid for it. They’d rather make the process are difficult and frustrating for the consumer as possible, seemingly in the hope that you’ll just give up and go away.
If you ever have trouble getting a manufacturer to honor its warranty, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of success. Here are some ideas and steps you can take.
Make sure that your warranty covers the repair you need
Most warranties are very specific and exclude even common problems. Get your paperwork out and read it thoroughly. You may find that you are being denied because your problem is excluded from protection.
Make sure you have the required documentation
It’d be nice if the company would take your word for it that the item is still under warranty but they’re going to want to see a proof of purchase. If you’ve tossed all your receipts and paperwork (or you bought the item used and didn’t get the paperwork) you’re in trouble. This is why keeping your receipts is important.
Make sure you haven’t voided the warranty
Many warranties prohibit modifications of the item and will refuse to pay out if the item wasn’t properly maintained or was damaged due to user carelessness or improper use. If you need service and you fall into one of these categories, you’re likely out of luck. Keep any paperwork showing that maintenance was done by the manufacturer or to the manufacturers’ timetable. If you have something extra like a police report that shows that the damage to the item wasn’t your fault, be prepared to submit that, too.
Make sure you’re calling the people who can help you
Often, the standard customer service line isn’t the line you need to call for warranty work. Depending on the sophistication of the manufacturer, the customer service department may not be able/willing to connect you with the warranty department. Check your paperwork for the correct number.
Work your way up the chain
If the first person you speak with blows you off, ask for a supervisor or manager. If you don’t get satisfaction there, work your way up the corporate ladder. Sometimes you have to get all the way to the top (and detail all of the problems you encountered along the way) before you get any satisfaction. Send any letters return receipt requested and keep copies of all of your correspondence. Take notes of your phone conversations, too, including the date and the name of the person who helped you. All of this may come in handy if you have to prove that you tried to get help but were unsuccessful.
Try the store
If the manufacturer is stalling you, try going to the store from which you bought the item. They may be able to exert some pull on your behalf. I once bought an appliance that failed under warranty and the manufacturer was no help. I went back to the store and they jumped all over the manufacturer and got me the help I needed. They basically told the manufacturer, “Look, if you won’t stand behind your product, we won’t sell it anymore.” Since the store was quite a large retailer, the manufacturer took notice.
Try Twitter or Facebook
It’s either sad or funny (I can’t decide which) that many manufacturers these days give priority service to the people who complain in the most public forums such as on twitter and facebook. They don’t want their reputations damaged. If you’re not getting any help over the phone, put your complaints out in public. You might get a call back.
Seek consumer protection
You can contact your state’s consumer protection office for help. They may be able to help you, or at least verify that you’re doing things correctly. They can also direct you to dispute resolution organizations that may be able to help.
Keep records of any work you pay for
If, during your dispute, you just have to get the item repaired (as with a car that you have to get fixed so you can get to work), keep all records so that you can get reimbursed if the dispute is eventually resolved in your favor.
Keep your emotions in check
It’s tempting to scream at people and write long, rambling missives, but stick to the facts. Just report what your problem is, why you believe it’s a warranty issue, and what you’ve done to resolve the issue. Getting all emotional will only get your complaints relegated to the “crazy customer” bin, so it’s important to learn to complain effectively.
Know when to quit
You don’t want to spend years of your life trying to resolve a warranty issue that amounts to just a few dollars. At some point you have to give up and simply resolve to never buy from that manufacturer/seller again. However, if you’re dealing with big money, you’ll want to keep going until you’re satisfied.
If, after trying these items you still have no success (and you are positive that you’re in the right and have the documentation to prove it), it may be time to think about suing the manufacturer. If your claim is for less than $750, you can usually get it taken care of in small claims court. For larger amounts (as with cars and houses), you may have to take the manufacturer/seller to court. Get the advice of a reputable attorney before you proceed. While no one wants to be overly litigious, sometimes it’s your only choice when a manufacturer refuses to honor their promises.