By now, it is well understood that the law often plays catch-up when it comes to changes in the commercial marketplace and elsewhere enabled by technological advances. Such appears to be the case with product warranties.
The Magnuson-Moss Act requires that, to the extent manufacturers offer warranties for consumer products, they must be provided to consumers in writing. Historically, the practice was to provide warranties in paper form, since that was until recently the only practical option for giving a written document to someone. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission, charged with enforcing Magnuson-Moss, issued staff guidance indicating that it is permissible to provide warranties on a CD or DVD. That is a reasonable interpretation of Magnuson-Moss, and would appear to have a number of economic and environmental benefits.
It might now be appropriate to extend that logic to the Internet and permit manufacturers to provide warranties in e-form. The economic and environmental cost savings would be even greater if an email with the warranty attached could be sent with the receipt and order information. This particularly would be the case for consumer products that are purchased online – as increasing numbers are – as consumers could have access to the warranty information as they would with a printed or CD copy, but they may be even more likely to retain a copy of the warranty if it is in their email account.