The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the main federal law governing consumer product warranties.  It was passed in 1975 and requires manufacturers and distributors (sellers) of consumer products to inform consumers about their rights under warranties.  It also states the various duties and obligations of warrantors under product warranties. 

The purpose of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is to ensure that consumers receive complete disclosure about warranty conditions and terms.  Also, the Act ensures that consumers can compare warranty coverages before buying a product.  Finally, the Act makes it easier for consumers to pursue legal remedies in court, while at the same time allowing producers to set up informal procedures for resolving warranty disputes.

What does the Magnuson-Warranty Act require?

The Magnuson-Warranty Act creates a number of different requirements for manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of consumer products.  Some of the more frequently cited requirements of the Act include:

  • Warrantors must classify their warranties as either “full” or “limited” coverage.  This may be designated in the title of the warranty.
  • Warrantors must clearly state certain details of the warranty coverage in a single, easy-to-read document. 
  • Warrantors and sellers must ensure that warranties are easily available wherever the consumer product is sold, so that consumers can review the document before making a purchase.

In addition, the Act enforces a number of limitations with regards to deceptive sales practices.  For example, the Act prohibits:  1) The use of deceptive warranty terms; 2) Disclaimers or modifications of certain types of warranties; and 3) “Tie-in sales” requirements (i.e., “you may only use this product with another one of our products or services”).

Are there any Limitations on the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

Yes- the Act is subject to the following limitations:

  • Businesses are not required to provide written warranties; they may issue these at their own discretion.  However, once a business decides to issue a written warranty, they must comply fully with all terms of the Act
  • The Magnuson-Moss Warranty does not apply to oral warranties, only written warranties
  • The Act does not apply to warranties covering services only
  • The Act does not apply to products sold for commercial products, or products sold for resale.  It only applies to consumer products, i.e., those products normally used for household, family, or personal purposes

How does the Act affect Consumer Lawsuits?

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act affects consumer lawsuits against warrantors in two broad ways.  First, the Act makes a breach of warranty a violation under federal law.  This makes it easier for consumers to sue for breach of warranty in a court of law.  Also, consumers can recover attorney’s fees and court costs under the Act.

On the other hand, the Act also contains provisions that allow a warrantor to create alternative methods for resolving consumer disputes over warranties.  For example, companies can institute informal dispute resolution mechanisms for dealing with consumer warranty complaints. 

These mechanisms may be run internally by the company, or through a neutral third party (such as the Better Business Bureau).  Warrantors may use methods like mediation or arbitration to settle warranty disputes outside of the court system.

Thus, although the Act does make it easier for consumers to file a breach of warranty lawsuit, it also opens up a number of alternative dispute resolution options for both manufacturers and consumers.

Do I need a Lawyer for advice regarding the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

As a warrantor, manufacturer, retailer, or distributor, you may be affected by the provisions in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.  If you have any questions or a dispute about consumer warranties, you may wish to consult with a lawyer.  A lawyer can help defend your claim if a lawsuit is brought against your company.  A lawyer if often required even for alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration.