Implied Warranties

May 18, 2010

An implied warranty is the promise that a product meets certain minimum expectations, regardless of whether a written or even verbal commitment has been made.

Consider a refrigerator. The warranty probably does not state that the product will keep things cold. Nevertheless, consumers are allowed to assume that the product will do so. That is the “implied warranty” that comes with the refrigerator.

A vehicle is expected to be safely drivable.  If the vehicle cannot be driven because of defects, there might be a violation of the implied warranty. Furthermore, if a check engine light is illuminated or the vehicle is making unusual noises, it might not conform to a consumer’s reasonable expectations about its performance. This, too, might be considered a breach of the implied warranty.

If a manufacturer or dealer makes a more specific promise about the use of a product, they might have created a different type of implied warranty. For example, a consumer might purchase a truck because it can tow a certain amount of weight. If the vehicle’s nonconformities ultimately prevent a consumer from doing that towing, there might be a violation of the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.

Some manufacturers try to disclaim implied warranties, meaning they do not want to be responsible for this type of promise. In Missouri, it is well-established that if a warranty fails of its “essential purpose,” any disclaimers are void. To the extent a consumer has put up with an unreasonable number of repair attempts, the warranty may have failed its purpose to get a problem fixed.

The federal lemon law (Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) and the Missouri state Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) provides causes of action for implied warranties.

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