Ever notice how you usually have to sign (or e-sign) an agreement before you buy practically anything from a major online retailer? It’s something most of us never take the time to read very carefully every time we buy something, but even a quick skim gives you an idea that it was written to give that seller a serious upper hand. Likewise, if your online business is selling products or services online, it may be worth it to incorporate an agreement into your website as well. Warranties can be an important part of such an agreement, both to encourage trust in your customers and to protect your business.
On top of some of the less well-known benefits of including your own warranty, there is something to be said for the good will that warranties can generate. People are often more likely to be comfortable with a purchase when they know what will happen if they are not satisfied. It also shows that you are confident in what you’re offering and that you’re prepared to address problems if they come up.
Protecting Your Business
Believe it or not, even if you do not include a warranty, courts could say that one existed anyway. Implied warranties of merchantability and implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose can be deemed to exist even if you never even wrote anything down with the words “warranty” on it. If that happens, you could end up being sued for warranties that you never even knew that you made! One way that you could handle this is to disclaim any implied warranties in writing and then just make out the express (written) warranty that you want on your website. This way, you can tell customers exactly what the terms of your warranty are and even limit how they can recover under that warranty. Would you rather repair or replace your product than return the buyer’s money? You may be able to make that a term of your warranty. Would you rather ensure that you replace or reimburse for a malfunctioning product but not for the damage that the malfunction causes to a buyer’s other property? You may be able to make that a term of your warranty as well. Ultimately, including your own warranty could be a great way to ensure that you decide what does (and does not) happen if one of your customers ever has a problem with your products.
Including the Warranty
So you’ve decided to put a warranty on your website, now what? First off, talk to a lawyer, a real lawyer. Warranties, like many legal documents, have to be written a certain way or they could end up doing very little for you. A lawyer can tell you what terms will work for your particular business, write up the terms properly, and figure out what other terms you may need to add to an agreement (like an assurance that the laws of your state will be used) to make sure that you saying what you want to say and that a court will honor your wishes if things ever go that far (let’s hope they don’t). Second, make sure that you put the warranty in a place where all of your customers will see it before they make a purchase. If you hide it in a place that can only be reached by searching the links of your site map, a court may decide not to honor it. A good way to handle this is to do like those big retailers and make it so that your customer e-signs the agreement as part of the purchasing process.
Bottom line: making a warranty part of your website content is not going to be free, but in the long run it can help you in terms of building customer goodwill and protecting your business from unexpected, and possibly catastrophic, expenses. If you intend to be in online business for the long term, it is a good move to make.
This blog post was written by Kenneth, one of our technical writers. He has extensive legal and tech experience. if you would like to hire Ken to write for your company email us via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will hook you up!
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