Extended warranties generally aren't needed for electronics because manufacturers' warranties and consumer laws protect you.

Your legal right to a repair, refund or replacement can last longer than the manufacturer's warranty. This covers devices and appliances, and digital products used on them.

There are no set time limits in laws protecting your consumer rights. Businesses cannot tell you otherwise.

Businesses often offer extended warranties when you buy gadgets and appliances:

  • Only buy an extended warranty if it offers extra protection you think is worth paying for.
  • If you buy it, you must be given important information in writing.

Your rights under the CGA

The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) offers protection against things going wrong. If your device or appliance is put to normal household use, this protection can last longer than the manufacturer's warranty.

If your gadget or appliance doesn't work as it should, the CGA gives you the right to a remedy — either a refund, free repairs or a replacement.

This right covers problems with both physical and digital products bought from New Zealand businesses, eg a computer's hardware (screen, keyboard) and its software (operating system, apps).

The seller must cover the cost of putting it right, whether it's fixing a faulty battery or replacing a glitchy operating system. This includes paying some extra costs related to the problem, eg:

  • repairer's call-out fee
  • hiring a replacement if your faulty appliance is taken away for repairs
  • fixing extra damage, eg to recover lost digital files.

Consumer Guarantees Act

Streaming and downloads

Time limits

Your CGA rights can extend beyond the time specified in the manufacturer's warranty.

The CGA does not specify a time limit. Instead it says products must last a reasonable amount of time. What "reasonable" means varies. Factors include:

  • how much you paid for it
  • how you used it, eg a dryer used weekly vs several times each day on the highest setting
  • what the business told you it could do.

Businesses cannot tell you consumer laws specify time limits. The Commerce Commission issued a public warning in 2018 to a big-name electronics brand for telling customers the CGA only covered their products for two years.

Example — Expired manufacturer's warranty

Ellen's washing machine stops working several months after its two-year warranty runs out. She calls the store, and is at first told she will have to pay for repairs. She asks to speak to the manager. She tells him the Consumer Guarantees Act says products should last a reasonable amount of time — it's reasonable to expect a washing machine used several times a week to last longer than two years. The manager sends a repairer to check the washing machine. It's faulty, so the store agrees to cover the cost of repairs and the callout fee.

Electronics warranties compared

Manufacturer's warranty

Free with most new products.
 
Often lasts one or two years for electronics and appliances — time period depends on product type, eg basic microwave will have shorter warranty than high-end model.
Covers repair or replacement if a product fails during the warranty's time period. Doesn't cover loss or accidental damage.

Extended warranty

 

Costs extra, typically linked to product's price.
Generally lasts at least one year longer than manufacturer's warranty — time period depends on how much extra you pay, eg three-year or five-year extended warranty.
Should add extra protection — above what's available under the CGA and manufacturer's warranty, eg free repairs for accidental damage.

Manufacturer's warranty

These come free of charge with new products.

A manufacturer's warranty is a promise to repair or replace a faulty product within a set time period. It covers faults caused by the way the product was made, eg substandard parts or materials, production line problems.

Contents insurance generally covers most devices and appliances against loss, theft and accidental damage. House insurance can cover built-in appliances, eg ovens.

 Insurance

Extended warranty

These are optional and cost extra.

It's common for stores to offer extended guarantees on electronic devices and appliances. But you already have long-lasting rights to remedies for faulty products under consumer law.

When offered an extended guarantee, think about:

  • what extra protection is offered — is it more than you get under the CGA, or your own insurance?
  • if you need this extra protection
  • if the extra protection is worth paying for.

Examples of extra protection include:

  • free screen replacement if you drop your phone, as accidental damage is not covered by the CGA (it might be covered by contents insurance, if you have it)
  • free tech support
  • no call-out fees to check and repair household appliances.

Cooling-off periods must be included. If you do buy an extended warranty, it's a good idea to use this time to think about whether you need it. Cancel during the cooling-off period, and you get your money back.

For more detail, including what to do if things go wrong, see our warranties page:

Warranties

What businesses must give/tell you

If you buy an extended warranty, the Fair Trading Act says you must get a written description of:

  • extra rights it gives on top of the Consumer Guarantees Act
  • how much it costs
  • when it starts and expires
  • terms and conditions you must follow to keep the warranty valid
  • cancellation period — the legal minimum is five working days.

The Commerce Commission enforces the Fair Trading Act. It can investigate businesses breaking the rules.

Example — Smashed screen

When buying a new smartphone, Senali is offered an extended warranty. Her young son likes playing with her phone, so she asks if the extended warranty includes free screen repairs. It covers two accidental damage claims — and costs about the same as one screen replacement. Senali decides it's worth buying. Nine months later, she's back in the shop with a smashed phone screen and a copy of her extended warranty. The shop must replace the screen free of charge.

Example — Fridge repairs

Carey thinks about an extended warranty when she buys a fridge. It sounds good at first — faults repaired for free for three years, a year longer than the manufacturer's guarantee. Before agreeing, Carey compares this to her CGA rights. Consumer law says products must be fault-free for a reasonable time. Carey's old fridge didn't need any repairs for six years. She decides it's not worth paying extra for the extended warranty.

Buying an extended warranty — Commerce Commission