Today, a seller of consumer products priced at $15 or more that offers a warranty on its products – or wishes to limit any implied warranties – must disclose the full text of specified warranty terms to consumers, prior to sale, on a written document that is attached to the product, printed on the product’s packaging, is posted nearby the product, or is available on premise (in the case of a bricks-and-mortar retailer) for customer inspection as indicated by prominently posted signs. This requires a great deal of paper, makes updating warranty terms difficult, and is particularly vexing for sellers of diminutive products.
All of this is about to change.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a 388-2 vote, passed the E-Warranty Act of 2015, which would permit companies to satisfy the existing legal requirements for consumer warranties by making the warranty terms available on the product manufacturer’s website and indicating on the product or its packaging the Internet address where the warranty may be found. (In recognition of the fact that Internet use is not universal, manufacturers also would have to provide a phone number or address by which a consumer could contact the manufacturer to obtain a copy of the written warranty.) Bricks-and-mortar retailers would still have to make the warranties available on premise, but would no longer need to keep paper copies on hand – a tablet, computer, or other device capable of retrieving warranties from the Internet would suffice.
The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent in July, meaning that it is now headed to the President’s desk for signature, which is highly likely.
The Act recognizes that consumers increasingly conduct comparison shopping online; that the existing rules are environmentally unfriendly; that printed warranties are cumbersome and not susceptible of easy revision; and that electronic warranties are less expensive and more easily distributed than printed warranties.