FAIR OAKS (CBS13) — When you buy anything of value, you often get offered an extended warranty for an added cost.
Warranties are often tightly written and dense, which can make them hard to understand. Many people only realize what warranties actually protect once they need to use it.
But there are some tricks to scanning a warranty — and buzz words to watch out for before you make a decision to buy.
Sean Larsson bought a five-year protection plan for his leather couch, but three years later spotted the vinyl cracking and peeling.
“This one’s progressively gotten bigger and bigger,” he said, showing a Call Kurtis producer.
Larsson thought his warranty would cover “cracking, bubbling or peeling of finish caused by a specific incident.”
But he didn’t catch the words “at our discretion.” The company rejected his claim.
“It’s pretty much, ‘Pound sand, It’s not our problem,'” he said.
Attorney Robert Buccola said phrases like “at our discretion” and “as determined by us” are common in warranties, but they give the company the ability to deny a warranty for almost any reason.
“If you’ve ever seen ‘at our discretion,’ don’t sign it,” he said.
He has a trick for reading warranty terms.
“Look to see if what is covered is confined to a very unique set of circumstances that you don’t think is ever going to occur,” he said.
The California Department of Insurance’s Nancy Kinkade said consumers should look at what’s not covered to get an idea of how the company treats common problems.
“Go to the exclusions,” she said. “That’s usually covered pretty clearly.”
We noticed Larsson’s warranty specifically excludes “wear-related repairs.”
His warranty company claimed those cracks in his couch were wear related.
Larsson thought it’s only fair that the company own up to it, he said.
“Refund my warranty that I paid for,” he said, “It’s obviously a worthless product that has no value.”
After Call Kurtis got involved, the company behind the protection plan Larsson bought agreed its plan was a bit confusing and replaced the couch for free.
Larrson now knows what to look for in a warranty.
“I’m sure there’s many, many people out there who are just as frustrated as I am,” he said.
What can you do if you notice wording like this? If it’s a local company, it might be willing to change the terms by writing in something new to make the sale.
If it’s a company that won’t budge, remember you have other options. Many third-party companies sell warranties online for a lower cost than at the retailer — but make sure to research the company’s reputation first.
Just be sure to research them before forking over your money.