The fallout of failing to register tech purchases

Failing to read the fine print before discounting the need to register your products could come back to haunt you

Once upon a time, you could buy an item, bring it home, and use it. These days, manufacturers of everything from the toaster to the power strip ask you to register their product before use. But for those quick to shrug off this trend as simply a means for manufacturers to bulk up their mailing lists, take note: Sometimes it's a good idea to dig a little deeper before neglecting the registration process, as Gripe Line reader Steven recently learned the hard way.

"I bought five each of the Ultra ATX power supplies in 2007," Steven writes. "Each comes with a 'Lifetime' warranty. The warranty claim is printed right on the retail box."

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Each unit set Steven back $90. Two failed this year.

"When I called for replacement, I was told that I needed the receipt," Steven says. Finding a receipt after all that time is not easy, but he was in fact able to turn it up.

"I purchased these online so I had an email receipt," Steven says. But clearing that hurdle wasn't enough -- because he hadn't registered the units.

"I was told the company would not replace the power supply because the 'three-year' warranty expired several months ago. What happened to 'Lifetime'?" Steven wanted to know. After all, that is what was printed on the box.

Steven was informed that the default warranty is three years. But if he had gone online and registered the product within 30 days of purchase, that warranty would have become a "Lifetime" warranty.

"There is no fine print on the retail box saying anything like this," says Steven. "In huge letters, it says 'Lifetime Warranty.'" But apparently there is a warranty slip inside the box -- with the mail-in registration card that he threw out -- that spells out this important detail.

The company's website also states this clearly:

To ensure your complete satisfaction, all Ultra Power Supplies and Cases ... carry a three-year warranty ... that can be upgraded to a LIFETIME warranty by simply registering online for the Ultra Advantage.

But, of course, being in the too-overwhelmed-to-register-every-product camp, Steven didn't see that either.

"This is very deceptive practice," says Steven. "I am sure 99 percent of the people who buy these power supplies do not read that slip of paper. They see only 'Lifetime Warranty' in huge letters on the retail box -- as I did."

A company representative confirmed that nothing could be done about Steven's failed power supply since he was no longer within the limited three-year warranty period.

"I can appreciate his frustration," she told me. "But all of our products (except memory) come with an initial warranty that is extended simply by registering online. Our warranty logo is a starred circle that says 'Lifetime Warranty' around the perimeter. Across the center it says 'Lifetime' and in smaller letters it says 'with registration.'"

Lesson learned. Sometimes it is a good idea to get out the reading glasses before deciding what to do with the written materials that come with a product.

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "The fallout of failing to register tech purchases," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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