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Carpet warranty limitations

Retailers need to be clear about warranty exclusions.

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Liz and Mark* got $15,000 worth of SmartStrand carpet laid in their home. SmartStrand advertisements, which feature a hulking 1200kg rhino, promote the carpet as "easy-care", "exceptionally durable" and "crush" resistant. What the couple didn't realise was that their new cut-pile carpet would also show footprints. "As soon as we walked on it, we could see every footprint. Even the paw prints of our puppy were visible,” Liz says.

US-based Mohawk Industries, the manufacturer of SmartStrand, acknowledges its cut-pile carpets will show footprints as well as vacuum cleaner marks. Its warranty brochure states: "This is a characteristic of carpet and is not considered a manufacturing defect." But Liz and Mark say they didn't receive this brochure until several weeks after the carpet was laid.

Unhappy with the product's appearance, the couple got in touch with the retailer. SmartStrand importer Flooring Brands offered to replace the carpet under its "30-day satisfaction guarantee". However, the guarantee only covers the cost of the carpet, not labour. Liz and Mark would have to pay the costs of lifting the carpet and laying the new one.

The couple didn't think this was fair, given they hadn't been told about the footprint issue. Our consumer adviser Maggie Edwards agreed and believed Liz and Mark may have grounds for a claim under the Fair Trading Act.

Liz and Mark went back to the retailer and the store agreed to meet the labour costs to lift the SmartStrand carpet and replace it with a new carpet the couple had selected.

SmartStrand carpet is heavily promoted along with the manufacturer's "25-year quality warranty". But the warranty is not without exclusions – the brochure given to Liz and Mark had four pages worth. "Footprints" are among the exclusions. And while promotional claims state the carpet is "tough enough to take even the highest level of foot traffic", the warranty excludes "appearance changes ... in high-traffic areas".

Flooring Brands told us SmartStrand warranty obligations were exceeded by replacing Liz and Mark's carpet at no cost. It says visible footprints are "a popular consumer style characteristic, not a permanent change in the pile" and are a feature of certain styles of carpet.

We think promotional claims for SmartStrand should be making this and the warranty limitations clear. Otherwise, they risk misleading consumers.

*Names have been changed.

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