If you’ve taken advantage of the sales offered over Black Friday weekend, participated in Cyber Monday or bought really just about any kind of electronic, appliance or other big-ticket item recently, chances are it came with a registration card.
These registration cards have become standard with a lot of products and feature spaces for you to fill out your name, address, the serial number of the item and usually some other things.
The truth about filling out those product registration cards
When you see these cards or prompts to register online, you may be thinking, “Didn’t the thing I just bought come with a warranty? Why do I need to fill this out?”
First of all, take heart, it’s OK to feel a little apprehensive about registering your purchases with these cards.
Although many companies may have at one time put in fine print that failure to register the product could void the warranty, there are protections against this. There are federal rules in place that specify that warranties can’t be contingent on filling out registration cards.
A receipt is all the documentation you really need when it comes to proof of purchase. Still, companies will phrase things in such a way as to make you think that registering your product online or via mail safeguards you. In truth, many of them use registration cards to sign you up for coupon books and other deals.
Why companies want you to register your electronics
Some manufacturers will even tuck carrots inside the fine print, vowing to upgrade warranties to lifetime status if consumers register within the first 30 days.
So are registration cards just another data grab by the manufacturer? Or are there benefits to handing over information about your lifestyle and hobbies to companies?
Beth Givens, the founder and executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer rights organization based in San Francisco, said that registration cards are a slick way for manufacturers to build up their marketing databases.
“Warranty cards are among the most deceptive practices of marketers today,” she told the New York Times.
Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, told the Times that customers who fill out warranty and registration cards are just giving away information.
“If you do send one in, fill out your name and address and that’s it. Don’t fill out the part on whether or not you have bladder-control problems,” Hoofnagle said.
That said, one positive use of registration cards is that they allow manufacturers to get in touch with you in the event of a product recall.
Since 2010, baby strollers, cribs and other children’s products require registration cards so that parents and guardians can more easily track recalls and other safety information.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says in an online fact sheet that personal information on such products cannot be used for marketing. Rather, it is the most direct way that manufacturers can contact consumers if there is an issue with a product, and it puts the onus on companies, where it belongs, instead of watchdog organizations.
Children’s products have been held to a different standard since the case of Danny Kesar, a 16-month-old who was strangled in 1998 when his portable crib collapsed on him, according to KidsInDanger.org.
The product registration movement was in its infancy then, being only widely applied to car seats, and Danny’s mother didn’t know of the recall on the product in her home.
So what about extended warranties? Is the peace of mind you get worth the extra coin you fork over to retailers?
This is how Clark feels about extended warranties
Money expert Clark Howard says that extended warranties are a big waste of money for consumers.
“My position on extended warranties remains the same as always. I don’t like them and I don’t buy them at any store,” he wrote.
“When should you buy an extended warranty? Never, ever on appliances or electronics. Salespeople will tell you that an extended warranty ‘protects your investment.’ But a TV, a washer or a DVD player is not an investment.”
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