By Alanna Autler | CBS 11 News

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Warranties are meant to cover issues with your appliances, but the Ones for Justice found those pricey policies may be worthless when you need them most.

Consumers often confuse warranties with insurance, but the two policies are very different… and what starts with many promises could end with very little pay-off.

With their appliances on the older side, Dave and Jo Wayts thought a home warranty would come in handy. They paid $975 upfront to Total Home Protection for a three-year plan. But when their air conditioning stopped working, THP refused to repair or replace it.

“Because of inadequate maintenance,” Dave recalled. “I said, ‘What?’ ”

The Wayts were told their case manager would explain the denial but that never happened.

“He called every day,” Jo said. “He called him every day for two weeks.”

“Ten o’clock in the morning, one in the afternoon,” Dave said.

Bill Scalzo can relate.

“It didn’t seem fair to me, it didn’t seem right,” Scalzo said.

When his dishwasher wouldn’t close, his bathtub faucet started leaking, and the transmission on his washing machine stopped functioning, THP refused to make repairs, according to Scalzo.

Instead, THP offered Scalzo a settlement of $150.

“Wait a minute, what happened to ‘repair or replace?’ ” Scalzo asked.

That’s where the small print becomes a big deal. At the bottom of the company’s website, the print reads, in tiny letters, that repairs and replacements aren’t the only options.

Instead, THP may offer you cash instead.

“What am I paying this monthly fee for? Exactly what am I getting for this?” Scalzo asked.

“Not all service contracts and not all companies that provide them are created equal,” said Phylissia Clark with the Dallas-area Better Business Bureau, which has received 200 warranty-related complaints in the last two years.

Many complaints trace back to the contract.

“Some will bury in the terms and conditions loopholes that you weren’t aware of,” Clark said.

The Wayts said their claim was denied because they couldn’t prove the air conditioning had been maintained.

“If they haven’t been strategic and regular with checkups, updates, changing filters, they might void a warranty that already exists,” Clark said.

Even if you clear that hurdle, the company may not cover your issue.

For example, the THP contract covers a refrigerator. But the contract does not cover the appliances’ shelves, lighting, handles, doors, hinges, ice makers, beverage dispensers, water lines, and leaks, among 20 other exemptions.

“Little things like that in the contract itself can really get you stuck,” Clark said.

When researching warranties, make sure to ask:

–Are there deductibles or fees I can expect to pay?
–Is there anything that could void my warranty?
–What service professionals do you use for repairs?

After signing up, Scalzo found himself facing an even bigger question: “I just wonder, what am I paying for?” he said.

Total Home Protection said it encourages customers to read the contract. The company stated anyone can cancel in the first 30 days for a full refund.

After the Ones for Justice contacted the company, THP refunded the Wayts their $975.

While warranties work for some people, it’s not the only option.

Instead of paying a company, consumers can put money in a savings account each month in the event an appliance breaks and requires repairs.

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