Navigating the maze of warranties, returns |

Navigating the maze of warranties, returns

Staff reports

If you are in the market for an electronic gift for Christmas, it is important to understand the terms of extended warranties and service contracts.

And if the slippers you bought for Great Aunt Blanche don’t fit, she needs to know the terms of the retailer’s returns policy.

The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to take the following steps to help them shop wisely:

For extended warranties and service contracts:

• First, read the terms of the warranty or contract carefully before purchasing.

• Take your time before buying one. Many extended warranties and service contracts don’t have to be purchased at the point of sale and can be purchased at a later date up to a specified period of time.

• Make sure you understand what the policy covers (parts, service, shipping, etc.) and be clear about what is covered under accidental damage versus product failure.

• Anticipate and calculate what it would cost for average repairs over the specified time period of the contract, and compare it to the total cost of the service contract. If the product has a track record of not breaking down or needing average repairs over that specified time period, then the service contract could end up costing more money.

• Make sure you don’t duplicate coverage. Some protection may already be covered for a specified period of time under what is known as “implied warranty” depending on state laws. And sometimes you may even be covered for a certain period of time through your credit card if you use it to purchase the product or service.

• Be sure to understand the cancellation terms. Some state laws require a “free-look” period, which allows you to get a full refund if you change your mind within a specified period of time. Some contracts can be transferred to a new owner.

• If you purchase a service contract, make sure to keep the paperwork, receipts and all maintenance records together.

For returns and exchanges:

• Make sure to keep receipts. If giving a gift, ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present.

• Read the retailer’s policy before you purchase products. Make sure you understand whether you or the recipient of your gift can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise. Also, if returns are permitted, ask what procedures and timeframe need to be followed.

• Understand what the return policies are for on-sale and clearance items, which may be different than merchandise sold at full price.

• Don’t remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping because the original packaging may be required for a return.

• Some merchants charge a restocking or “open-box” fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items. Ask if that is their policy.

• Be sure to look for return policies when buying online or from catalogs. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a store; otherwise, you may be charged a shipping fee to return or exchange an item.