Warranty and guarantee – where are the differences?

Warranty and guarantee - where are the differences?

Differences between warranty and guarantee

The term warranty has become a magic word of marketing. Retailers advertise with "two years warranty" and suggest that they grant the customer special rights. Falsely, the impression is often created that the consumer thus receives a claim that seemingly goes beyond the legal warranty rights. In fact, the terms warranty and guarantee are improperly lumped together. Instead of legal clarity, there is considerable legal uncertainty in many places.

Warranty applies at the time of handover

The terms warranty and guarantee must be kept strictly separate. The law only regulates the warranty. In sales law, a legal warranty means that the seller must hand over the sold item to the buyer in perfect condition. Every seller has to take responsibility that his product works according to contract and is usable. The defect must therefore have existed at the time of transfer of the purchased item. The right to this warranty is valid for a period of two years (§ 438 para. 1 no. 3 BGB) and has nothing to do with a warranty. The case is different with the warranty. With a warranty, many manufacturers grant contractual claims in the event that their product was in order when it was handed over and only breaks after the handover.

Consumers benefit for six months from the allocation of defects to the seller

In the case of warranty claims, the burden of proof is regulated differently. If a material defect occurs within the first six months after the transfer of the purchased item, the law presumes in favor of the private consumer that this defect already existed at the time of transfer (§ 477 BGB). Therefore, consumers are advised to thoroughly inspect the object of purchase during the first six months. If a defect is then discovered, the customer can complain about the goods without further ado.

The customer can also claim for defects after the expiry of six months. However, the burden of proof is then reversed. Then the buyer must prove that the defect was already present at the time of handover. To state it clearly once again Warranty rights refer to the fact that the object of purchase was already defective when the contract was concluded and the goods were handed over. The seller is therefore not liable for defects that arise only after the time of transfer. Operating errors, material fatigue or simply unexplainable and defect-related coincidences do not establish a warranty case.

Return of faultless goods only against goodwill

If the consumer wishes to return faultless goods, he must rely on the seller’s goodwill. The latter does not have to accept the buyer’s request to return the goods. It is his subjective assessment, with which he buys the goods. If this assessment changes, this is to its detriment. This legal situation does not change the fact that retail chains generously exchange faultless goods. The focus here is on service. One wants, regardless of the legal situation, that the customer is satisfied.

In order for the consumer to claim their rights in the event of a warranty claim, they must be able to prove purchase. He can normally only do this if he has kept the proof of purchase and can present it to the vendor. If the receipt is untraceable, he can also prove the purchase by a witness or other circumstantial evidence (z.B. account statements or credit card statements) try to prove. If the dealer disputes the purchase, the consumer has a problem of proof.

Warranty is based on the time after delivery

The guarantee, on the other hand, is the voluntary promise of the manufacturer or the seller to the consumer that the sold item is free of defects. For example, vehicle manufacturers grant a three-year warranty with no mileage limit for the entire car. Or eight-year warranty against rust-through. Opticians guarantee the lifelong durability of your eyeglass frames. The warranty statement gets its legal significance from the fact that it grants claims for compensation for goods that break after they have been delivered. The statutory warranty rights, on the other hand, are based exclusively on the fact that the object of purchase must have been defective at the time of delivery. Since the guarantee is given voluntarily, the guarantor may attach any conditions to his guarantee and, for example, prescribe regular maintenance by an authorized dealer. Insofar as the defect is due to normal wear and tear or improper handling by the consumer, there are no claims even under warranty.

In the case of a quality guarantee, the manufacturer or seller of a product guarantees that the product has a certain quality and is free of defects at the time of handover and thereafter. In the case of a durability guarantee, the manufacturer or seller guarantees that the purchased item will retain a certain quality for a certain period of time and that it will remain functional during the guarantee period.

Warranty certificate informs about the rights under the warranty

The consumer’s rights in the event of a warranty claim are set out in the warranty certificate. The information on the warranty declaration must be written in a simple and understandable way and must contain all the necessary information that the consumer needs to make a claim under the warranty. These include the duration, content and territorial scope of the guarantee, as well as the name and address of the guarantor. The warranty statement is usually limited to a repair or replacement claim. In contrast to the statutory warranty, the consumer has no right of withdrawal.

This is what the warranty rights look like according to the law

If the customer wants to assert statutory warranty claims, he must first request the seller to provide subsequent performance (§ 439 BGB). The seller can then, at his own discretion, either attempt to rectify the defect by means of a repair or deliver defect-free goods. In principle, the customer must give the dealer a second chance to fulfill the purchase contract by repairing the purchased item. The expenses incurred in the process, i.e. transport, labor and material costs shall be borne by the seller. Only if the supplementary performance has failed, further rights open up to the buyer.

Right of withdrawal only after failure of subsequent performance

The buyer can first reduce the purchase price and has to pay only as much as it corresponds to the reduced value of the goods. If the defect is significant, the buyer can also withdraw from the purchase contract. The seller must then refund the purchase price in full. Minor blemishes that do not affect the usability or defects that the buyer could remove himself without significant effort do not entitle the buyer to withdraw from the contract. The situation is different if the seller has expressly warranted a property. Then even minor defects in relation to this property can entitle the customer to withdraw from the contract.

If the seller has also acted culpably, he must also pay damages beyond the simple warranty rights. These are cases in which the seller knew the defect or should have known with reasonable care. They also cover consequential damage caused by a defect, for example, if the seller sells a vehicle with knowledge of the defect and the buyer suffers an accident as a result of a faulty brake system.

Additional right of withdrawal for online purchases

It does not matter whether the purchase is made in a retail store or online on the Internet. With on-line purchases the customer is even better placed, since it transacts a remote paragraph business and the legislator grants it a right of revocation up to 14 days after receipt of goods.

Exclusion of warranty only allowed in private sales

A commercial seller cannot exclude these warranty claims in his general terms and conditions. At most, a private seller can specify a warranty exclusion. If a commercial seller sells used or reduced goods, the statutory warranty rights remain in force. If he wants to limit his liability, he must expressly point out to the buyer any existing defects or weak points of the object of purchase and thus make them the basis of the purchase agreement.

Vehicle purchase has special features

When buying a car, the buyer must take into account the special terms and conditions of the seller’s side. Dealer terms and conditions may not exclude statutory warranty claims. The dealer can modify them, however, by specifying deadlines for subsequent performance or by describing certain aspects of the vehicle in such detail that the buyer cannot derive any warranty claims from them.

Favorable examination in the case of lack

If a purchase object proves to be defective, the customer must consider whether he asserts a legal warranty right or a warranty claim granted to him. Decisive is, among other things, when the defect occurs. If the goods prove to be defective in the first six months after purchase, the customer is better off with the normal warranty claim, as he does not have to prove in this period that the defect was present from the start. Here the law is on the side of the consumer. If the defect occurs after six months, the manufacturer’s warranty may be more favorable, as this may relieve him of having to prove the defect at the time of delivery or at all.

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