When you purchase an expensive product like a camcorder, the manufacturer or seller guarantees they will stand behind the product. This guarantee is called a warranty. U.S. law requires that warranties be available for you to read before you buy. When online, look for links to the full warranty, a phone number or to an address where you can call or write to get a free copy.

In looking at a $4000 camcorder on a major video retailer’s website, I could find several extended warranties, but the only one line about the manufacturers warranty – “1 year warranty.” The full written warranty may be somewhere else on that site, but I couldn’t find it. If this happens to you, you must call or email them and ask then where you can read the entire manufacturer’s warranty.

That federal law that covers this is called The Magnuson”“Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq.). Enacted in 1975, it is the federal statute that governs warranties on consumer products. For more information read this article.

Grey Market Camcorders & Warranties
Part 1

Grey Market Facts 

Part 2


Part 3

Extended Warranties and Service Contracts

Warranty coverage varies a lot so compare coverage just as you compare the technical specs, price, etc. It is very important that you read the entire warranty. If you are offered an oral or spoken warranty, ask them to put it in writing. Oral warranties are worthless, unless they can be proven.

For grey market items, good retailers or sellers should give you an in house warranty similar to the original factory warranty. But all warranties are only as good as the company behind it. So do your due diligence about the company offering you the warranty.

After-Market Warranties

Many stores that sell grey market goods also offer independent warranties through a company like Mack Camera Repair or SquareTrade. But determining whether Mack, for instance, is a good company is not easy since the only true figures are from the company itself. This is like hiring a fox to guard the hen house. The other thing about these warranties is that they add to the cost, often wiping out the savings of grey market goods.

Different manufacturers handle the grey market warranty differently. Henry Posner, Dir of Corp Communications at B&H Photo-Video, said in an online discussion about grey market lenses “Canon USA has been very liberal about providing both in-warranty and after-warranty service for “grey market” lenses requiring only a dated store invoice to establish warranty. Nikon USA OTOH has taken a different approach.”

Some questions from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ask about any warranty:

How long does the warranty last? Check the warranty to see when it begins and when it expires, as well as any conditions that may void coverage.

Who do you contact to get warranty service? It may be the seller or the manufacturer who provides you with service.

What will the company do if the product fails? Read to see whether the company will repair the item, replace it, or refund your money.

Are parts and repair problems are covered? Check to see if any parts of the product or types of repair problems are excluded from coverage. For example, some warranties require you to pay for labor charges. Also, look for conditions that could prove expensive or inconvenient, such as a requirement that you ship a heavy object to a factory for service, or that you return the item in the original carton.

Does the warranty cover “consequential damages?” Many warranties do not cover damages caused by the product, or your time and expense in getting the damage repaired. For example, if your camcorder dies on a job, they will not re-imburse you for the job loss or any payments you might have to reimburse to your client.

Are there any conditions or limitations on the warranty? Some warranties provide coverage only if you maintain or use the product as directed. For example, a warranty may cover only personal uses—as opposed to business uses—of the product. Make sure the warranty will meet your needs.

Implied Warranties

Implied warranties are created by state laws. Almost every purchase you make is covered by an implied warranty. The most common type of implied warranty means that the seller promises that the product will do what it is supposed to do ”“”“ a refrigerator will chill and camcorder will shoot video.

If your purchase does not come with a written warranty, it is still covered by implied warranties unless the product is marked “as is,” or the seller otherwise indicates in writing that no warranty is given. Several states, including Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, do not permit “as is” sales.

If problems arise that are not covered by the written warranty, investigate the protection given by your implied warranty which can last as long as four years, although this coverage varies from state to state. A lawyer or a state consumer protection office can provide more information about implied warranty coverage in your state.

How To Protect Yourself

Read the warranty before you buy. When online, look for hyperlinks to the full warranty or to an address where you can write to get a free copy. Understand exactly what protection the warranty gives you. If a copy of the warranty is available when shopping online, print it out when you make your purchase and keep it with your records.

Consider the reputation of the company offering the warranty. Look for an address to write to or a phone number to call if you have questions or problems. If you’re not familiar with the company, ask your local or state consumer protection office or Better Business Bureau if they have any complaints against the company. A warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Check the rating sites to see what others think of this company.

Save your receipt and file it with the warranty. You may need it to document the date of your purchase or prove that you’re the original owner in the case of a nontransferable warranty.

Perform required maintenance and inspections.

Use the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Abuse or misuse may void your warranty coverage.

Resolving Disputes

If you have problems with a product or with getting warranty service:

Read your product instructions and warranty carefully. Don’t expect features or performance that your product wasn’t designed for, or assume warranty coverage that was never promised in writing. A warranty doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get a refund if the product is defective;the company may be entitled to try to fix it first. On the other hand, if you reported a defect to the company during the warranty period and the product wasn’t fixed properly, the company must correct the problem, even if your warranty expires before the product is fixed.

Try to resolve the problem with the retailer. If you can’t, write to the manufacturer. Your warranty should list the company’s mailing address. Send all letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep copies. See the sample complaint letter below.

Contact your state or local consumer protection office. They can help you if you can’t resolve the situation with the seller or manufacturer.

Research dispute resolution programs that try to informally settle any disagreements between you and the company. Your local consumer protection office can suggest organizations to contact. Also, check your warranty; it may require dispute resolution procedures before going to court.

Consider small claims court. The limits can range from $2,500 to $15,000 depending on your state. To see what your state limit is see Nolo Legal Encyclopedia or better yet, check with your state’s laws by Googling “small claims YOURSTATE HERE.” Use your own state and remove the quote marks.

The costs are relatively low, procedures are simple, and lawyers usually aren’t needed. The clerk of the small claims court can tell you how to file your lawsuit and your state’s dollar limits.

If all else fails, you may want to consider a lawsuit. You can sue for damages or any other type of relief the court awards, including legal fees. A lawyer can advise you how to proceed.

Here are some of the details you must include in a Complaint letter:


Sample Complaint Letter

(Your Address)

(Your City, State, Zip)


(Name of Contact Person)


(Company Name)

(Street Address)

(City, State, Zip Code)

Dear (Contact Person):

On (date), I purchased (or had repaired) a (name of the product with the serial or model number or service performed). I made this purchase at (location, date, and other important details of the transaction).

Unfortunately, your product (or service) has not performed well (or the service was inadequate) because (state the problem).

Therefore, to resolve the problem, I would appreciate your (state the specific action you want). Enclosed are copies (copies, not originals) of my records (receipts, guarantees, warranties, canceled checks, contracts, model and serial numbers, and any other documents).

I look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem and will wait (set a time limit) before seeking third-party assistance. Please contact me at the above address or by phone (home or office numbers with area codes).


Your Name

Account Number

See the next section on Extended Warranties