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READ THE FINE PRINT What does the warranty really cover?



Published: Sun, April 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Who pays for shipping? Make sure the warranty covers shipping costs, both to and from the repair center. For smaller products purchased in metropolitan areas, shipping may not be an option, and you'll have to bring the product in.

What level of customer service is available? Make sure you're offered a toll-free number with round-the-clock availability.

Which company is insuring the warranty? Make sure the insurer is an A-rated company, so you can be confident the company won't disappear in the night while you're left holding a worthless warranty. The insurance company's rating may be detailed in the fine print, but it can be a good idea to call retailers ahead of time to get the name of the insurer. Then the company's rating can be checked at online insurance-company raters such as A.M. Best Company http://www.ambest.com/.

Will qualified technicians be fixing the product? Confirm that factory-authorized technicians will conduct repairs.

Does the warranty include in-home repair? For large, unwieldy and complex products such as plasma TVs, make sure repairmen will come to your house. This is not usually offered with smaller products.

Is there a "no lemon" policy? If the product requires, say, three repairs, you should be able to turn it in for another one.

How comprehensive is the policy? Damage caused by blackouts should be covered, as should all parts and repair. Most plans exclude coverage for intentional damage, Tafel said.

Source: Dan Tafel, general manager of business development at Service Net, which provides extended warranties to retailers




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