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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.