Surveillance Warranty Terms Reviewed

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Feb 27, 2012

While often overlooked upfront, warranty terms have a big impact on long term costs and support. Plus, the length of warranties and the specific conditions, such as start date, can vary widely. In this note, we examine the warranty terms offered by integrators for surveillance installations. We asked integrators "What is the typical warranty length you provide to customers for new video surveillance systems? Why?" and let them respond with details.  Some important trends emerged:   

  • The most common warranty period was '1 year parts and 1 year labor', but variations are frequent.
  • Integrators seldom warranty parts beyond manufacturer's warranties.

These results also show that warranty terms are commonly determined in the following ways:

  • In some cases, minimum terms are mandated by law (Europe) 
  • terms are set by manufacturer and extended to end user by the integrator
  • terms are negotiated by customer during purchasing activity

Laws Determining Warranty Periods

In some regions, the minimum warranty period is determined by law. For example in Europe, EU Directive 1999/44/EC (see page 7) sets this period at two years from purchase.  In contrast with varied results elsewhere in the world, the warranty terms in Europe are standardized.

Notice that acceptance of this Directive sometimes applies to products otherwise given 1 year Manufacturer's warranties elsewhere in the world.

Typical Warranty Periods

Integrators common have a warranty polict that offers the manufacter's hardware warranty period, but warranties the labor for a shorter period of time. The rationale behind this is that installation errors will be discovered quickly, and subsequent failures are not the 'fault' of the installer. 

  • "1 year parts/workmanship, we pass through longer manufacturer warranties with labor cost only."
  • "3 years for most of the HW as per manufacturer warranty and 1 year for labour."
  • "Manufacturer's warranty on equipment. 90 days on our labor."
  • "1 year no cost for labor issues and original warranty on parts."
  • "We match the warranty provided on the equipment. Labor 1 year."
  • "Equal to manufacturer warranty. Installation defects caused by us = one year."

If hardware fails after an extended period of time, the manufacturer will replace or repair equipment. The integrator will administrate the warranty process, and act to have the manufacturer respond to the warranty. It is worth noting that Manufacturer's warranty policies do not often entitle the end-user to 'advance equipment replacement' - the immediate replacement of new working equipment - when failed equipment is taken down for warranty service.  

Beware of Atypical Terms

A few troubing responses indcate some integrators honor terms less than the published manufacturer warranties despite remaining terms. 

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  • "6 months, even if manufacturer is longer."
  • "One year - company policy. This is actually a sensitive situation as customers will go on the internet and find lithos on the equipment with warranty of 3 years or more - but our company only offers one year."
  • "One year, to be in the safe side of all the warranties from the components we integrate"
  • "1 Year Parts and Labor. This has been our standard for 20+ years on all systems we provide."

While a distinct minority of integrators do this, end users should ensure that they receive the full benefits of the warranties they purchase. For instance, if a camera offers a 3 year warranty, the end user should not pay for a new camera if it fails in the second year.

Negotiated Warranty Terms

Warranty terms are often a point of negotiation, especially for larger sales. Many customers will cite minimum warranty periods in RFP or bid documents as a condition to meet for purchase. 

  • "One year from acceptance of the system is our standard warranty, unless the spec requires longer."
  • "We will in some situations extend to a 3 year warranty for either competitive reasons or to meet a RFP spec."
  • "Bids vary but are typical three year warranties"
  • "6-12 months depending on the customer. If they demand 12 we will write that into the contract. "
  • "For the normal customer 1 year. In procurements for the state or county there are usually 3-5 years mandatory wearranty."

Warranty Start Date

Misunderstandings can arise when determining the 'start date' of a warranty period. This detail is especially important to clarify when your company's warranty period is written to match the manufacturer' warranty period. Often times, the warranty period for the manufacturer begins when the product is shipped to the integrator, not when it is turned over to the end user. This aspect of warranty coverage was addressed by the reponse below:

  • "12 Months from handover, this is generally accepted. This can be a mute point though. If you buy a camera with a 12 month warranty it runs from the day you have it shipped to you from the reseller, as were in the middle east we often order hardware well in advance of when we actually use it so by the time we install the camera we might only have 7 months warranty left on it but we have to give our client a 12 month warranty from handover, sometimes we can get burnt with this but on the whole if you use good quality hardware it is not an issue."

In our experience, most integrators start warranty periods from the date the finalized project is 'turned over' to the end user. This can result in a period of time that is 'covered' by the integrator but not by the manufacturer. Directly negotiating this point to the manufacturer or distributor might result in flexible terms. 

Maintenance Contracts Following Initial Warranty Period

Integrators commonly cited 'maintenance agreements' as a popular method of extending an initial warranty period. This type of agreement allows 'initial warranty' type of coverage extended years beyond expiration of the inital term. These agreements are often priced to represent a portion of the replacement value of the entire system, and portions of equipment are expected to be replaced and supporting labor committed. The end user is able to budget a specific cost that guarantees continued operational support of the system.

  • "First year is included in the system cost and then we bill 2nd year -5th year as a flat support fee that covers hardware/labor even if mfg warranty is not covering our backs -- forces us to use very reliable systems so we dont get burned and our clients appreciate that."
  • "1 year parts , some competition is offering the labor too however we have service agreements ."
  • "Three or five year maintenance contracts is what our company pushes... ...Our company is based on recurring revenue so they really push the maintenance contracts for cleaning and adjusting cameras twice per year, maintaining the system, etc."
  • "Every installation comes with a 1-year warranty included. However we offer maintenance agreements for the life of the system if a client chooses to invest in the future."
  • "Apart from the warranties from the hardware and software manufacturers, we provide a minimum of 3 months warranty on our install work and commisioning. After that period customers are required to acquire a maintenance contract or a prepaid package of support hours."
  • "1 year, parts and labor. We sell extended warranties"
  • "...We offer extended warranty and service contracts and many of our customers purchase them."
  • "We offer a one-year full service and parts warranty, followed by annual service agreeements with costs predicated on "life expectancy formulas" that range from 2 years on hard drives to 5 years on most cameras."
  • "...We also offered 3- and 5-year agreements. People selected 5-year agreements more often than expected."

Maintenance agreements help the integrator sell recuring services after the initial project has been completed. Some end users may even use these agreements to ensure that a fixed amount of equipment is continually being replaced. Continued interactions with the customer often yield other opportunties and keep the integrator involved onsite.

For more, see our review of maintenance/service contracts.

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