IF a store does not provide a consumer with a written warranty, the law stipulates the application of an implicit warranty of six months; however, businesses can give warranties of less than six months if an explicitly written warranty is issued.
Many stores, at least around Georgetown, when asked by customers about warranties offered for items often indicate, verbally, an offer of a warranty of less than six months, or no warranties at all. However, no written affirmation is given, neither on the printed receipt nor otherwise.
Issued to purchasers, a warranty is a time period whereby consumers are guaranteed a promise that the item will be repaired or replaced if necessary, if it has become defective due to the manufacturer’s fault.
The warranty is not supposed to cover damage caused to the item by the consumer’s own carelessness.
The Consumer Affairs Act of 2011 Section 19 covers warranties, with subsection six stating that “goods sold by a supplier to a consumer shall, in the absence of an explicit warranty, be deemed to have a warranty of six months on parts and labour.”
The Act however does have a few grey areas. There is no minimum time limit that businesses can offer on warranties, when they are explicit.
“The act doesn’t speak to a limit. They can give one month, two months, three months, it’s based on what you [the consumer] accept, but it has to be in writing,” notes Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC), Communication Officer, Alison Parker.
Parker stressed that the warranty should be written in order to be explicit, in the similar way that consumers need to ensure that they receive receipts to document and verify their purchases.
“They have to give you it in writing to say that this is it, if there is no explicit warranty then implicitly, in place of it, you get six months,” Parker further related.
Apart from implicit six-month warranties, the Act also speaks to stores and suppliers in Guyana being held accountable for manufacturers’ warranties offered on products, even if the manufacturer’s warranty does not extend to Guyana.
Subsection (3) notes that “where a manufacturer’s warranty is attached to goods sold or goods provided… the supplier of the goods or service shall be deemed to have issued the manufacturer’s warranty as an explicit warranty by the supplier to the consumer; and shall, notwithstanding any geographical limitations placed by a manufacturer on its warranty, honour that warranty as though it is the supplier’s warranty”.
At several stores visited by the Guyana Chronicle on Saturday, sales clerks were adamant that the store does not offer warranties on items, including electronic ones; however in some cases, when a store manager was contacted, the identified person indicated that the store has a warranty policy and the sales clerks simply were not aware.
Several of the stores are owned by Indian and Chinese nationals; some indicate that they are not aware of the country’s laws governing warranty policies.
At one store on the Avenue of the Republic, after being repeatedly told by a sales clerk that the store does not offer warranties, the manager, an Indian national, indicated that the store does offer warranties, but at an additional cost.
The business sells clothes as well as several electronic appliances including irons, blenders, microwaves and washing machines.
“We give warranty. We sell cheap, but if you want warranty you pay more. We buy local and we sell cheap; if we have washer [for] $30,000, you go to Courts washer is $80, 000, and they give warranty. If you want I give you one-year warranty, washer is $30,000, you pay $15,000 more and you get warranty. But 20 years we do business and never problems. If washing machine break down, they come back and we fix it, no problem,” the businessman explained.
Of five stores along Avenue of the Republic between Regent Street and Robb Street, four have electronic items included in their sales items; at three of the four stores female sale clerks indicate that no warranties are given.
One store manager, a Chinese national, says customers have seven days to see if the item is defective, and can return it within that time limit, he says he is not aware of what Guyana’s laws are on warranties.
At another store, customers are told by the sales clerk that one-month warranties are offered. The store’s owner, however, says the warranties vary from one to three months depending on the size of the item. The warranty however is not in writing.
This store stocks, among other items, fridges, stoves, washing machines and flat screen televisions; the proprietor indicated that he was not aware of Guyana’s laws on warranties, and is willing to work with what whatever is in the law, had he known.
At a popular household store on Regent Street one-month warranties are offered on electronic appliances; once again the warranty is not in writing, the cashier simply indicates that the one-month warranty becomes effective from the date on the receipt.
At another store, this time on Water Street, which deals in flat-screen televisions (TV), yet another sales person informed this newspaper that the TVs are not sold with warranties, and customers buy at their own risk.
The issue with warranties comes just as the CCAC has been increasing awareness on the illegality of businesses displaying “No Refund” notices in stores. Parker notes that this past year the CCAC has carried out a massive countrywide campaign covering several areas.
“We went as far as Lethem, had touched Essequibo, Berbice, Bartica, Mabura. We did downtown Georgetown, particularly the Robb Street, Hincks Street, Longden Street, Regent Street. We did Region Three, the Vreed-en-Hoop area, and Parika; we did Berbice, New Amsterdam in particular; we did Essequibo at Anna Regina,” Parker noted
“We visited shops, we appraised them of the duties of a supplier, which includes, the no-refund no- return information, letting them know that customers are entitled to a refund and returns. Just in case they forget , we left with them excerpts from the Consumer Affairs Act, which addresses those particular parts, warranties and so on; we intend to continue it more aggressively in the new year.”
Parker says that the commission expects that it will be during the period after the Christmas season that they will get an influx of complaints, as is usually the case.