7 On Your Side: Warranty Cards - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/14/05-Tyler

7 On Your Side: Warranty Cards

They come with almost every household or electronic item you buy. They're warranty registration cards and you fill it out to make sure you're covered if a product breaks or if there's a recall. There's no shortage of information asked. Most of the cards go well beyond wanting your name, address, and serial number for the product.

"They'll ask how old you are; they'll ask whether or not you're shopping for certain products, where you have certain political interests," says Chris Hoofnagle with Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Why the third degree? Hoofnagle says beware: companies are compiling and selling that information.

"It's used for direct marketing. Filling out the cards will actually result directly in you receiving more junk mail and more telemarketing."

The Direct Marketing Association says it's no big secret that the information is sold...and contends it's all done with the consumer in mind.

 "Additional information that marketers and manufacturers gleam from those cards are helpful in promoting products and services that are related to the original product you bought," says Louis Mastria with Direct Marketing Association.

But critics say it's deceptive to include marketing information on a card people think they're filling out for safety sake.

 "Consumers often believe that you have to fill out the registration card in order to enjoy the benefits of the warranty," says Hoofnagle which is just not true. "If the product does come with a full warranty, the consumer does not need to fill out the card in order to activate the warranty. And, that's stated in federal law," adds Rachel Weintraub with Consumer Federation of America.

Weintraub says you simply need to save your receipt, with date of purchase, along with your card in case you need it down the road. Surprised?

"It's definitely a shock. I honestly believed that I needed to fill it out in order for the warranty to be valid," says shopper Andy Hooper.

But, you may want to fill out cards for certain products where a recall could involve a safety hazard. You want to be sure a company can contact you directly. If you do decide to send it in.

"Just fill out basic information and leave out other information about your income and education," says Weintraub.

Because of the safety benefits, consumer advocates believe the cards are valuable, but want the marketing abolished.

Weintraub says, "That information should be guaranteed to be used solely by the manufacturer for safety reasons."

Safety or not, the shoppers we spoke to say they're no longer willing to play cards.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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