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OPINION: Lifetime guarantee? Those are weasel words

It seems the significant caveat here is that there are no laws or consumer protection guidelines in place to clarify a uniform definition of the term “lifetime” when it comes to a guarantee. This means companies have the right to make it mean whatever they decide — although, of course, most of us would agree that "lifetime" means “until death do us part."
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lifetime-guarantee
There are all kinds of official-looking lifetime guarantees in the world, writes Dorothy Grant, but they don't mean anything.

By DOROTHY GRANT

For a long time during my career as a consumer reporter at the CBC, I was intrigued with the idea of buying something that came with a so-called “lifetime guarantee.”

It has become more plausible for manufacturers to honour such pledges in my case, now that I am over 80 — at this point, it’s clear that I probably won’t have to worry about challenging this kind of impressive marketing hype!

Nevertheless, I just couldn’t resist doing some research on this kind of guarantee.

Just like me, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that, when you dig deeply into this kind of offer, you discover plenty of unexpected conditions and limitations.

It seems the significant caveat here is that there are no laws or consumer protection guidelines in place to clarify a uniform definition of the term “lifetime” when it comes to a guarantee.

This means companies have the right to make it mean whatever they decide — although, of course, most of us would agree that "lifetime" means “until death do us part."

Unfortunately, that’s not how lifetime guarantees operate.

You might also be inclined to believe a lifetime guarantee means there is no time limit to make a claim, assuming the company is still in business. Again, there is no standard to back up this assumption, so it’s the buyer who is responsible for reading the small print.

The good news is that there actually are contractors who do offer a genuine lifetime guarantee and they really strive to promote and maintain the highest standards in customer satisfaction. But sadly, there are others who exploit the terminology as a ploy to lure customers into a warm, inviting and false sense of security.

I can recall doing stories on some of these kinds of devious companies. Hopefully, these unscrupulous operations long ago have gone out of business.

Dorothy Grant is a freelance writer in Halifax.



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