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First, the bad news: That nifty purchase needs a repair. Now the good news for consumers: It’s still under warranty. But where can they go to get it fixed? Can the manufacturer restrict a consumer’s ability to go to the independent repair shop of their choice? Can the manufacturer use glue, non-standard screws, and proprietary diagnostic software that make it difficult for independent repair shops to fix things? Do limitations like these affect consumers’ rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act? That’s the topic of Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions, an FTC event scheduled for July 16, 2019.

Enforced by the FTC, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act helps consumers make informed buying decisions and gives them access to remedies if the widget starts to fidget during the warranty period. One key consumer protection under Mag-Moss is that the law prohibits manufacturers from conditioning warranty coverage on the use of particular products or services.

Here are some of the questions FTC staff intends to ask at Nixing the Fix:

  • What’s the interplay between repair restrictions and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s anti-tying provision, which establishes that manufacturers can’t condition coverage on the use of parts or services identified by brand, trade, or corporate name?
  • Do repair restrictions affect the market for extended warranties and service agreements?
  • What types of restrictions are consumers running into when they try to get their stuff repaired?
  • Are manufacturers’ restrictions having an impact on small fix-it businesses?
  • Are manufacturers using software that may render products obsolete or unfixable if consumers engage in DIY or go to a local repair shop?
  • Are repair restrictions necessary to reduce the risk of physical injury or to protect manufacturers from liability for products improperly repaired by others?
  • Do consumers understand the effects of repair restrictions?

We’re also looking for empirical research and data about the prevalence and impact of manufacturers’ repair restrictions. For example, what can you tell us about code that disables products that have been repaired by someone other than the manufacturer, product designs that make third-party repairs difficult (like attaching batteries with glue only the manufacturer can remove), contractual post-sale or licensing restrictions, or proprietary diagnostic software and replacement parts? Please send us your research and data by April 30, 2019. Do you have suggestions about possible panelists? Email us at nixingthefix@ftc.gov.

Nixing the Fix will take place on July 16th at the FTC’s Constitution Center conference facility, 400 7th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC. It’s free and open to the public. You can file public comments online and we’ll keep the record open until September 16, 2019.

Follow the Business Blog for more information about the agenda and for watch-the-webcast instructions.

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13 Comments


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Stuart Hoff
March 18, 2019
A fatal flaw in current law is the manufacturer's ability to stop producing/providing factory replacement parts requiring the purchase of non-factory parts that then void the warranty. Example: shortly after production and sale of a computer with up to a 5 year extended warranty, the company stops producing batteries for the system within 24 months of original purchase. The consumer is forced to purchase a third-party produced product that is not sanctioned by the computer manufacturer. Any issues associated with electrical surges or rapid battery drain are then not covered by the manufacturer's extended warranty even though the consumer has paid for a 5 year extended warranty at significant expense.
FTC Staff
March 18, 2019

In reply to by Stuart Hoff

Companies can’t void a consumer’s warranty or deny warranty coverage solely because the consumer uses a part made by someone else or gets someone not authorized by the company to perform service on the product.

There are only two exceptions: 1) if the company provides the article or service to consumers for free; or 2) if the company gets a waiver from the FTC. Under 15 U.S.C. § 2302(c), the FTC may grant a waiver only if the company proves that “the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and the waiver is in the public interest.”

A company may, however, disclaim warranty coverage for defects or damage caused by the use of unauthorized parts or service.

Bill Lamar
August 16, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

Does Apple have a waiver from the FTC. Under 15 U.S.C. § 2302(c) authorizing them to only provide warranty support for iPhones that have had Third Party screen replacements? I am wondering if that is the reason as to why Apple, US had deemed not to provide warranty support of an Apple after a 3rd party screen was used to replace an Apple screen that had cracked.
Taxifornian
April 05, 2020

In reply to by Stuart Hoff

California has a law that requires companies who sell extended warranties, service plans, etc.to keep parts in stock or available for something like 7 years after the end of manufacture.
Paul Gary
March 18, 2019
Will there be a video replay available, please?
sherman watstein
March 18, 2019
big box stores sell watches by seiko but avoide telling the buyer that seiko that if tgevwatch fails seiko america will not repair it under warranty because it was tapered by the importer who stamped their day inside the case, but is willing to service a new watch as out of warranty, why when seiko made it?
mary b. moss
March 18, 2019
what is registration process_would like to attend july 16, 2019 workshop! thanks
FTC Staff
March 18, 2019

In reply to by mary b. moss

There is a link to the Workshop information page in this blog. Follow the link to read about how to register for the Workshop.

Paisita Noche …
March 20, 2019
Hello, you used to write wonderful, but the last several posts have been kinda boring… I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!
Tony DeVico
June 14, 2019
Does the Magnuson Moss Act apply to large diesel tractor and engine manufacturers in the United States? Is it legal for these manufacturers to claim installation of after market products violates their warranties?
Guest
June 25, 2019

In reply to by Tony DeVico

The Magnuson-Moss act covers warranties on consumer goods, specifically "written warranties on tangible personal property which is normally used for personal, family, or household purposes." This wouldn't apply to large diesel tractors/engines. There's a good explanation here, but it's a long read: https://mlmlaw.com/library/guides/ftc/warranties/undermag.htm
Taxifornian
April 05, 2020

In reply to by Tony DeVico

Could Congress change Magnusson-Moss by simply removing the consumer wording to make it apply to all goods & services, or is it more complicated than that?

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