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Backing the Cause: U.S. trade commission sides with consumer choice in Harley-Davidson warranty issue

Washington, D.C., United States — In an important step forward for consumer independence, the U.S.’s federal trade commission (FTC) has announced that action will be taken against Harley-Davidson for terms in the company’s warranty that restrict the right of customers to seek repairs at independent dealers or repair facilities.

The FTC, in line with the values of the right to repair movement, is ordering the motorcycle manufacturer to remove the terms from its warranty and “come clean with customers” by recognizing their right to seek repairs at the facility of their choice.

“Consumers deserve choices when it comes to repairing their products, and independent dealers deserve a chance to compete,” said director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, Samuel Levine.

“These orders require Harley 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 uses the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act to address complaints surrounding repair restrictions. The act prohibits a company from conditioning a consumer product warranty on the consumer’s use of any article or service which is identified by brand name unless it is provided for free.

According to the complaints, the terms in Harley’s warranty made use of illegal terms that voided customers’ warranties if they used anyone other than the companies and their authorized dealers to get parts or repairs for their products.

The commission also alleges that Harley lacked transparency in their distribution of warranty information, claiming that the company requires customers to contact authorized dealers for full warranty details.

As a result of the commission’s findings, the FTC has the authority to enforce that Harley send notices to customers informing them that their warranty will not be voided if they seek third-party repairs, as well as mandate that the following be added to the company’s warranty information: “Taking your product to be serviced by a repair shop that is not affiliated with or an authorized dealer of [Company] will not void this warranty. Also, using third-party parts will not void this warranty.”

The right to repair movement has been slowly gaining traction in Canada, as Windsor-West’s member of parliament, Brian Masse, succeeded in presenting a piece of right to repair legislation, supported by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA), to the House of Commons earlier this week.

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