The Legal Warranty: Automatic Protection for Consumers

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When you buy or rent a product, you expect it to work. In an ideal world, everything you buy would be of high quality, durable, safe, free of defects and would meet your expectations! Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

 

The Legal Warranty: Automatic Minimum Protection

The legal warranty is a minimum legal protection for consumers. It applies automatically when you buy something.

The legal warranty says that, if a merchant sells you something that isn't of good quality, durable, safe and in line with any expectations created by the merchant, you can, among other things, get a refund or have the product replaced. (Merchants are people doing business.) The legal warranty also protects consumers against hidden defects.

A legal warranty covers products bought or leased (rented) in Quebec, even if they come from somewhere else. It is provided to consumers free of charge

Merchants and manufacturers must respect this legal warranty. Before offering an extra warranty to consumers, such as an extended warranty or other protection plan, they must inform consumers orally and in a written notice that they already benefit from the free legal warranty. 

 

The Legal Warranty Is Attached to the Product

The legal warranty is attached to the product. What does that mean?

This means that if you sell the product to someone else, the other person can use the legal warranty, unless it has expired.

Important! Did you buy something from someone (an individual) who is not a merchant? A merchant is someone whose business is to sell goods or services. 
  • If so, beware! If you buy something from an individual "as is," you can't use the legal warranty against that person.
  • But you can use the legal warranty against the merchant who first sold the product.

 

Various Kinds of Protection Under the Legal Warranty
 

1.       QUALITY

You must be able to make normal use of the product. In other words, it has to work. This is protection against a product sometimes called a "lemon."

For example, a lawnmower that doesn't mow your lawn doesn't work for its normal use. 
 

2.       DURABILITY

The length of time a product lasts, also called the "life expectancy", should be reasonable given the price paid, the terms of the contract and any conditions that apply to the use of the product.

In other words, you are protected against defects in a product that appear after you buy it if you use the goods properly.

Of course, an expensive high-end product will be under the legal warranty for a longer time than a cheaper low-quality product.

Since consumers and merchants don’t always agree on what is a reasonable length of time, this question is often debated in the courts. Here are a few examples of life expectancy considered to be too short: 

  • two years for a refrigerator
  • three years for heat pump
  • five years for a washer

These examples give you a general idea of reasonable life expectancy. Each situation is different depending on the product and the evidence brought before the court.
 

3.       PRODUCT MUST MATCH DESCRIPTION

Products you buy must reflect

  • the description of the product in the contract,
  •  the merchant’s advertising, and
  • statements or representations made by the merchant verbally or in writing at the time of the sale (or lease).
     

4.       SAFETY

A product you buy must be safe: it must not pose a danger to people who use it. You must be warned of any risks.

Careful! If a consumer is careless with the product, the legal warranty doesn’t apply.
 

5.       HIDDEN DEFECTS

For the warranty against hidden defects to apply, the defect must be significant, serious and hidden. Let's look at this in more detail:
  • A significant defect: if you had been informed of the defect, you wouldn't have bought the product or you wouldn't have paid as high a price.
  • A serious defect: if the default prevents the product from working properly or being used for the purpose for which it was bought, or if it results in repair costs and inconvenience.
  • A hidden defect:
    • It was not mentioned to you even though the merchant or the manufacturer was supposed to tell you about it, and
    • You could not have discovered it by an ordinary examination of the product.For example, cracks in wood flooring that are easy to see are not a hidden defect.
      For example, cracks in wood flooring that are easy to see are not a hidden defect.

For the warranty against hidden defects to apply, the defect must also have existed before you bought the product. In some cases, help from an expert is necessary to prove that the defect existed before the product was sold). 

Some specialized sellers are professionals in their particular field. This is the case for manufacturers. Because of this, the defects in the products they sell or manufacture are considered to exist when the product is sold, unless the manufacturer proves that the buyer caused the defect by improper use of the goods.

 

How to Use the Legal Warranty

The first thing you must do is notify the merchant or manufacturer in writing as quickly as possible. You need to say that you’ve discovered a defect and give the merchant or manufacturer a chance to correct the problem.  This is called the notification stage.

To meet the requirements of the legal warranty, the merchant or manufacturer generally suggests one of these solutions:

  • give you a full refund or reduce the purchase price
  • replace the product or pay you the cost of replacing it
  • repair the product
  • replace defective parts so the product can work properly 
  • do necessary maintenance work for a reasonable amount of time

The merchant or manufacturer might tell you that the last two solutions will not be possible if there is ever a problem with the product. However, they must notify you about this in writing before you purchase the product.

If you have any trouble enforcing your rights when using the legal warranty, or if you want to file a complaint against a merchant, you can contact the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau).

To find out more about enforcing your rights as a consumer, read our article Solving Problems: Options for Consumers.

Other Legal Warranties: Vehicles, New Homes, Buildings

Consumers benefit from different warranties when they buy a used vehicle from a merchant.

Also, if you buy a new house, you might benefit from a special warranty. 

To find out more about warranties on buildings, read our article Hidden Defects in Buildings.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.