The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act protects consumers when manufacturers fail to stand behind their product warranties.
The Act, signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975, has been thrust back into the national spotlight following several high profile lemon law cases and recalls involving auto manufacturers including Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and others.
According to a U.S. House of Representatives report, the Magnuson-Moss Act arose in response to widespread misuse of express warranties and disclaimers by merchants in the 1970s. The Act’s purpose is to make warranties on consumer products, including cars, use plain language more readily understood by customers. The Act also makes warranties enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission, giving the FTC the means to better protect consumers.
The Act requires consumer products manufacturers and sellers to give customers detailed warranty coverage information. It also lays out in plain language consumers’ rights and the duties of anyone offering product warranties.
The Act’s intent was to ensure consumers could get clear and complete warranty information up front before purchase, allowing them the freedom to shop for warranty coverage and make informed financial decisions. Congress also sought to promote competition based on warranty coverage.
The Act encourages companies to stand by their warranty obligations in a timely manner by making it easier for consumers to pursue breach of warranty cases against companies, whether through the courts or private arbitration. Through the Act, a breach of warranty becomes a violation of federal law.
Another way the Act makes seeking remedies easier is that defendants, if found legally liable, may also pay the consumer’s attorney fees in addition to any damages. The Act permits attorneys to seek their fees directly from the manufacturer, allowing clients to obtain legal counsel without paying fees directly out of the consumers’ pockets.
Companies must, under the strictures of the Act, designate any warranties they offer as either “full” or “limited” and specify exactly what the warranty covers in a single, clear, and easy-to-read document. Businesses must also ensure the warranties are available where the covered products are sold so customers can read them before buying.
The Act specifically prohibits businesses who provide written warranties on products from disclaiming or modifying implied warranties, meaning no matter how broad or narrow the written warranty is, customers are always entitled to the basic protection of the “implied warranty of merchantability;” that a good sold will do what it is supposed to do. For example, if you buy a car, that car is supposed to move around safely, like a car should.
The Act keeps companies from requiring “tie-in sales,” such as an auto manufacturer requiring a customer to use only their branded parts to keep the warranty in effect. The act also prohibits deceptive warranty terms.
The lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart, PC can help you navigate the labyrinthine legal system and use the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act to help you get the relief you need. They are experienced in taking on big corporations, including auto manufacturers, and helping their clients get the compensation they deserve.
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