State of Repair is Motherboard’s exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.
The Federal Trade Commission said Harley-Davidson has been illegally voiding the warranties of consumers who repair their motorcycles and has ordered them to stop the practice. According to the FTC’s complaint, Harley Davidson and, separately, the Westinghouse Electric Company, violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act act by voiding warranties of customers who used independent repair shops or did the work themselves. The FTC also claimed that Harley-Davidson did not fully disclose its warranty restrictions to customers.
“Consumers deserve choices when it comes to repairing their products, and independent dealers deserve a chance to compete,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement. “These orders require Harley and Westinghouse to fix their warranties, come clean with consumers, and ensure fair competition with independent providers. Other companies that squelch consumers’ right to repair should take notice.
The FTC said the actions taken by both companies restricted customers’ choices at market, cost consumers money by forcing them to use dealerships instead of shopping around for repairs, undercut independent dealers, and reduced the resiliency of their product. It ordered both companies to stop violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, recognize a consumer’s right to repair, “come clean with consumers,” and alert dealers to compete fairly.
“The rubber is hitting the road on the FTC’s new focus on protecting your Right to Repair. Harley Davidson and Westinghouse are not the only companies that use the threat of a voided warranty to restrict repair,” Nathan Proctor, the director of U.S. PIRG’s right to repair campaign, told Motherboard in an email. “My own research has shown that 45 of 50 appliance companies void warranties for the same reason. The FTC’s actions against Westinghouse and Harley send a clear signal that it’s time to stop violating consumer rights, and honor Right to Repair protections. If they don’t, I hope the FTC opens the throttle a bit more.”
President Joseph Biden has made the right-to-repair a core issue. He issued an executive order on the subject and directed the FTC to take action against companies that violate it. Legislation is moving through various state houses across the country and several bills are being considered by the federal government.