Whether it’s your mobile phone which started malfunctioning after just a few months, or the lifetime guarantee that barely covers the lifetime of the goldfish, never mind the water filter itself, pretty much everyone has fallen foul of the small print in warranties.
They can be as deceptive as they are frustrating because they’re written to protect the warranter, rather than the warrantee. (FYI the warranter is the person who dictates the terms, the warrantee is the individual who doesn’t have time to decipher the small print.)
So, let's embark on a crash course on warranties and help you identify when they offer protection and redress, and when they don’t. And we’ll show you a few rather entertaining examples of what large companies have tried to get away with in the LED lighting industry.
On that note, let’s start with a few classic examples. This company, who we won’t embarrass publicly, try to sneak in a questionable provision at number 5 below. The 3-year warranty is not valid “if the anomaly is caused by the standard wear of a product’s components due to use over time”. Pardon?
This warranty is literally not worth the paper it’s printed on. Unfortunately, many people have probably been left disappointed when they called the online LED retailer to ask for their money back.
Warranties like the above are what prompted LUX Review, an independent lighting information resource, to launch a campaign in 2016 to address the amazing lack of consumer protection. The pillars of the campaign were:
- The rights of a warranty should extend automatically to the end user
- Warranties should match the performance claims of the data sheet, not undermine them
- There should be no requirement to register with the manufacturer
- There should be no annual restriction on burn hours
- Warranty and traceability information be placed on the product
The most important point to highlight here, and the most important provision you should look out for in warranty documents if you are purchasing LEDs from someone else, is “there should be no annual restriction on burn hours”. That makes a lot of sense but unfortunately the tactic below is prevalent in the industry.
This is the final line of a 10 year warranty from a leading US-based LED manufacturer. You’d be forgiven for assuming you must be looking at a great product if they can warranty it for 10 years. You might not even read the rest of the warranty until the day you have to. You’ll then find out that the warranty may actually have expired long before you reach the decade mark. If you’re operating the lighting for more than 14 hours a day, it won’t be warrantied for 10 years. And if you’re operating 24/7, the product will be out of warranty in less than 6 years.
The next example is perhaps more surprising as it comes from a global company. If you manage to read the tiny print, you’ll see they decided it is acceptable to warranty the product for 5 years from the date of manufacture, rather than the date of purchase. This small print shaves a few months off the warranty for the benefit of the seller.
The next tip we’ll mention relates to examining the warranty to determine what components it actually covers. The below example reads “Ballasts, lamps, emergency batteries and poles are excluded from the General Warranty”.
This seems to make a lot of sense at first.
The company in question didn’t manufacture these components, they just build them into their product. So it could be argued that perhaps they shouldn’t be responsible for their failure. However, when you consider the practicalities of making a claim, it becomes far less reasonable. You’ll have to disassemble the unit, remove the failed component and ship it away to the warranter for inspection. Would you do that if a component in a new car broke?
Finally, most (but not all) warranties don’t cover the cost of labour for the removal of the failed product and it’s replacement with a working one. When you consider the fact that the fitting itself is probably worth a few hundred Euro and the cost of hiring a crane and an electrician would be in the same ballpark, it is quite a significant cost. The below example also does not cover the cost of shipping the faulty product back to the manufacturer so that they can assess it for fault before determining whether they will offer a replacement.
An honorable mention also must go to the LED manufacturer whose warranty does not provided any cover if there is evidence of exposure to moisture. This would be completely acceptable if not for the fact that the fitting was IP66 rated, which means it is able to protect against powerful water jets. Something doesn’t quite add up there.
So why are we obsessed with warranties in UrbanVolt?
We don't deal in warranties. If one of our fittings fail, we replace it. No questions asked, no small print, no dispute. Our 1 page agreement states that UrbanVolt will remedy, free of charge, any defect in the lighting during the term of our service agreement, provided it wasn’t the result of misuse or unauthorised alteration.
Think that sounds like a get out clause? It's not. It just means we are not liable only if someone has deliberately damaged the fitting. This provision is included so we are not liable for someone's maliciousness. We think that's fair.
So if you are in favour of purchasing LED fittings for your site, check the small print - it could save you a lot of heartache in the future.