Quality Assurance Guarantees

August 26, 2011

Q: I’ve seen an increase in quality assurance and extended guarantees on product defects that cover everything imaginable. Is there a way to provide a standard warranty statement that would be considered acceptable?

A: I’ve had several calls about this lately. As our work shifts to involve the IT department, their standard contracts and operating practices have become more common. Apparently that has now spilled over to AV and life safety systems. What troubles me on these extended warranty requests is that they ask the integrator to agree that if the manufacturer’s equipment has defects, requires upgrades, has compatibility issues or excessive failures, that software licensing will be available for up to 10 years. One read where this warranty shall be in effect regardless of any network or system upgrades done by the owner. Imagine a new firewall or LAN configuration. These contracts might state that this work shall be performed at times that won’t disrupt their business.

I read one contract for a member the other day that stated if the hardware or software provider goes out of business within the next five years they would be responsible for replacing the equipment regardless of its operating condition. I also suspect some of you will see more instances where an escrow account will be established to hold the software licenses and additional warranty funds. We all get it, the owner is trying to protect their investment and avoid product obsolescence. It’s just some of the language is pretty over the top for what we are actually providing.

To me this is just like any other contract; if you feel uncomfortable with the language, then don’t sign it. I think if you go back to the owner and show them how their boilerplate IT contractual language doesn’t apply to your system they may be willing to sign off on your standard warranty statement. Or, they may be willing to strike out certain words or sentences within their document that either don’t apply, or seem too risky for the type of system you are providing. The big thing is to make sure someone is really paying attention to this. Often we’ve found these onerous statements of warranty in bid specifications under division 1. Sometimes they are found in blanket statements within division 27 or 28. But, most often they emerge directly from the owners IT department. Call me if you see something like doesn’t look right… before you sign it. — CW

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