The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), is one of many vehicles that plaintiffs use to bring lawsuits over warranty claims.  It is a federal statute that governs warranties on consumer products.  The Federal Trade Commission has enacted regulations governing the disclosure of written consumer product warranty claims.

Just this month, the Federal Trade Commission completed a review of its Interpretations, Rules and Guides under the MMWA.  One of the revisions that the FTC made was to clarify that under the MMWA, warranty language that implies to a consumer that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of select parts or service is deceptive.  The FTC wrote that “[g]enerally, the MMWA prohibits warrantors from conditioning warranties on the consumer’s use of a replacement product or repair service identified by brand or name, unless the article or service is provided without charge to the consumer or the warrantor has received a waiver.” 

In revising its Interpretations, the FTC explained that some commentators were concerned that the Interpretations did not address the “market realities” of manufacturers’ statements.  Those commentators were concerned that some manufacturers “have employed language in consumer materials ‘to suggest that warranty coverage directly or impliedly ‘requires’ the use of a branded product or service’ leading reasonable consumers to believe that coverage under a written warranty will be void if non-original parts or non-dealer services are utilized.”  The FTC agreed that such language, and other concerns noted by commentators, could be actionable.

To be clear, the FTC amended part 700.10(c), relating to tying under the MMWA.  New language includes that “warranty language that implies to a consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances that warranty coverage requires the consumer’s purchase of an article or service identified by brand, trade or corporate name is . . . deceptive.  For example, a provision in the warranty such as, ‘use only an authorized ‘ABC’ dealer or ‘use only ‘ABC’ replacement parts,’ is prohibited where the service or parts are not provided free of charge pursuant to the warranty.”

Manufacturers who have made or attempted to make tying claims in their warranties should consider a review of their warranties in light of these changes.