For many of our customers, warranty is a driving factor in their purchasing decisions, and it can have a big influence on what they purchase from us. They come to us with questions about the length and terms of the warranties of the products we sell and, often, about the effects of installing aftermarket parts on vehicles that are still under an OEM new-vehicle warranty. For nearly 45 years, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA) has been guiding the way we deal with warranties.
In 1975, the federal government enacted the MMWA as a way to help consumers make informed buying decisions and understand the terms of product warranties. The act also supports competition in the marketplace based on warranty coverages and encourages companies to fulfill their warranty obligations quickly and with minimal expense to the consumer.
Most of our products have a written manufacturer’s warranty, which is what we normally use as reference when asked about a product’s warranty. The MMWA does not require a company to offer a written warranty, but if it does, it must comply with the act. This ensures that when a consumer is presented with a written warranty, that warranty clearly states what the customer’s rights and responsibilities are, and what is or isn’t covered by the warranty. It also requires that warranty information be available to the consumer at the point of sale so they can read it prior to purchase.
Another important portion of the MMWA is a section dealing with replacement parts and service. Many customers have been led to believe that having vehicle repairs performed using aftermarket or recycled parts will “VOID THE WARRANTY.” These scare tactics, while widely believed by many folks, aren’t entirely true. The MMWA prohibits manufacturers from requiring the use of “their” parts to maintain warranty coverage, unless those parts are provided to the consumer free of charge. They are permitted to deny a warranty claim if they can prove that a non-OEM part caused damage to, or failure of, their product.
In a worst-case scenario, for example, if an aftermarket oil filter (or its improper installation by your “handy” cousin Eddie) caused a catastrophic engine failure, a dealership could deny warranty coverage of a replacement engine, but only if they can prove that the filter (or the installer) was the cause of the failure. Simply having used an aftermarket filter, or having an independent garage service your vehicle, isn’t grounds for denial of warranty coverage. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate the warranty coverage on unrelated components or systems.
The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the MMWA, has upheld the consumer’s right to choose where and with what parts they have their vehicles repaired. For those of us in the aftermarket, it means that our customers are free to choose our goods and services, without fear of warranty denial later on from the OEMs. Thanks to the MMWA, consumer warranties are now clearly and plainly worded, which benefits both the consumer and the reseller. The warranty acts as a sales tool for us, increasing consumer confidence in our products, but it also plainly states the limitations of liability we have for the products on our shelves. When a customer asks about the warranty policies for our products, we have a written reference point to help answer these questions, and to inform the purchaser just what to expect in the event of a warrantable failure.
While the MMWA was initially created to protect the consumer’s rights, over the past four decades it has turned into a valuable and beneficial piece of legislation for the aftermarket too. Thanks to Warren Magnuson, John Moss and Frank Moss (yes, there were two Mosses involved in passing the MMWA), neither buyers nor sellers have to “worry about warranty” today!