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WARRANTIES: UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE (UCC)

Q. What is a warranty?
A.
It is a guarantee of the product's quality and performance. A warranty may be written
or oral. Three kinds of warranties could be given by a car seller under the UCC. These are
an express warranty, an implied warranty of merchantability, and an implied warranty of
fitness for a particular purpose. A seller may also sell a car "as is."

Q. How does a seller create an express warranty?
A.
Whenever a seller makes any declaration of fact, description, or promise on which the
buyer relies when deciding to make the purchase, the seller creates an express warranty. A
seller may create an express warranty orally, in writing, or through an advertisement.

Q. What about the seller's opinion of the car?
A.
An opinion or recommendation does not form an express warranty. Sales talk, called
"puffing," will not create an express warranty. An example is "This car runs like a dream."
Statements such as "This car needs no repairs," or "This car has a V-8 engine," however,
will create an express warranty.

Q. When does the implied warranty of merchantability arise?
A.
It occurs automatically if the seller is a merchant, such as a car dealer. It requires that
the car be of a quality that would pass without objection in the trade, and be fit for the
ordinary purposes for which the buyer will use it. This warranty essentially provides for
the overall quality of the car, and means that the car will do what it is supposed to do.
Most people agree that the implied warranty of merchantability is part of a new car
purchase. All states provide for implied warranties for used cars bought from dealers,
unless the warranty is disclaimed specifically, in writing, by words like "as is" or "with all
faults.

Q. How does someone create the implied warranty of fitness for a particular
purpose?
A.
Suppose that you tell the seller that you need the vehicle for a special purpose, such as
towing a trailer, and the seller recommends a specific vehicle. You buy it, relying on the
seller's skill or judgment. This creates an implied warranty that the vehicle can do what
you told the dealer you needed it to do.

Q. What if I bought my car "as is"?
A.
Then you accepted the car with all its faults. Any post-sale defects are your problem. A
car may be sold "as is" through a dealer or a private person. The implied warranty of
merchantability does not automatically arise in "as is" purchases. Some states do not
permit "as is" sales for used cars.

Q. Do I get these warranties every time I buy a car?
A.
Not necessarily. A seller may disclaim or change warranties. Obvious language that
mentions merchantability may exclude or modify the implied warranty of merchantability.
An obvious disclaimer in writing may exclude the implied warranty of fitness for a
particular purpose. Language such as "sold as is" cancels implied warranties. If the seller
has given you an express warranty, however, courts will not uphold any attempted
disclaimer that is inconsistent with or cancels the express warranty.

Q. What if the seller gives me express and implied warranties that are inconsistent?
A.
According to the Uniform Commercial Code, the parties' "mutual intention" decides
which warranty takes priority. If there is no way to decide this, the following rules
determine priority:
1. Specific or technical language usually wins over descriptive language that is
inconsistent and general.
2. Express warranties override inconsistent implied warranties of merchantability.
3. Implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose survive other inconsistent
warranties.

"Salvage" Titles

Question
My vehicle has a "Salvage" title--is the warranty still valid?

Answer

Vehicles with titles that have been branded as salvaged, scrapped, or dismantled are not covered under the manufacturer's warranty, with the exception of applicable emissions warranties. For further information regarding the branding of vehicle titles, please contact your state's department of motor vehicles.

Secret Warranties
Strictly speaking, a "secret warranty" is not a warranty at all. Rather, it is more in the
nature of a deceptive practice that is secret because it is an unpublicized policy. A secret
warranty develops when a manufacturer knows that many cars have the same problem, but
tells dealers to charge customers for the repairs unless they complain. Unlike a recall
(discussed later in this chapter), the manufacturer is not required to notify owners of the
problem. By hiding what it knows about the defect, the manufacturer makes a lot of
money from unsuspecting consumers.

If you suspect that a warranty should have covered your car repair or that the defect is
widespread, complain to the dealer. Perhaps the dealer will fix your car without charging
you. Follow up with a complaint to the consumer protection division of your state attorney
general's office. If they find that a secret warranty exists, the manufacturer may be
required to notify owners, to pay for repairs, and to reimburse those owners who have
already paid to fix the problem.

- Remedies for Breach of Warranty

- What is the difference between "limited" and "full" warranties?

 

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