The idea that aftermarket parts can void a warranty has been around for a long time. But is it true? If you’re one of the many Americans who thinks the answer is yes, read on.
Consumer-product warranties are regulated under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal law enacted in 1975 to give consumers more transparency and support from manufacturers.
Created in response to widespread misuse of warranties and disclaimers, the Act’s intentions were to give consumers more information about purchases, the ability to comparison shop, and enforcement via the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It also was designed to hold manufacturers accountable and foster competition.
Among its rules? Using aftermarket parts is not in most cases justification for voiding a warranty.
What is a Warranty?
The dictionary definition of warranty is a legally binding promise from a manufacturer or seller that a product is fit for use as shown, free from defects, and in line with specifications and safety requirements. It also describes the conditions under which the manufacturer will repair, replace, or otherwise compensate for issues with the item at no cost to the buyer.
Simply put, it means that a seller promises that the product is fit for use and agrees to fix it for free if it fails at some point in the future. Warranty worries, especially around aftermarket parts, are a big topic for automobiles, but the same principles apply to your consumer welding equipment.
What the Act Does
One of the biggest provisions in the Magnuson-Morris Warranty Act is the prohibition of “tie-in sales,” or the required use of branded parts, which states that a manufacturer cannot require someone who buys their warrantied product to use only their items or services.
For example, it is illegal to say “In order to maintain your warranty for your product, you must use “genuine” parts from our company” In fact, not only is it perfectly legal to use non-OEM parts without voiding your warranty in most cases, it’s on the OEM to prove that the aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs.
What the Act Doesn’t Do
While the Act controls what warranties can and cannot offer, it doesn’t require companies to use them. In addition, the law applies only to covered goods, not services (unless your warranty specifically states that it covers both the parts and labor for repairs.)
Finally, it only applies to consumer products, which means tangible property used for personal, family or household purposes.
As they say, the devil is in the details, and it’s certainly no different here. For example, a “limited” warranty can restrict the time that a warranty is valid or the parts or conditions it covers. And while a manufacturer can’t void your warranty simply for using another company’s parts, they do have some recourse if they can prove that the product won’t work properly without a specified item or service. A company also can potentially void a warranty if it determines that aftermarket alterations are the reason for the damage.
What You Can Do
It goes without saying that the best way to find out where your equipment stands is to read all of the warranty information. Understanding what’s covered, how long it’s covered, and what you can reasonably expect the company to do will help you enter a warranty claim with more confidence.
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