U.S. Aftermarket organizations claim Mini owner’s manual violates Magnuson Moss Warranty Act

The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and three other aftermarket trade groups  filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding statements made by BMW as part of the Mini Cooper’s owner’s manual.

Signed by AAIA, the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA), the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Service Station Dealers of America and Allied Trades (SSDA), the March 14 letter points to a declaration in the 2012 manual that “only MINI dealers are to perform oil changes.”

The aftermarket’s letter states that BMW provides no qualification or exception to this statement and therefore it violates Magnuson Moss Warranty Act’s (MMWA) prohibition against conditioning warranties on the use of an original equipment part or service. “The clear purpose of BMW’s wording is to make consumers believe that using MINI Cooper dealers is their only option and that failure to use only them will merit penalty,” according to the letter.

This is the fourth letter that AAIA and the other three aftermarket groups have sent the FTC specifically detailing language in OE vehicle manufacturers owner’s manuals and public statements that appears to be in direct violation of MMWA. In the first letter sent in fall 2011, the group stated that simultaneous releases from Honda and Acura attempted to mislead consumers as to the quality of non-original equipment replacement parts and the possibility that use of these parts could void their new car warranties. This letter was quickly followed by a complaint letter in response to a Mazda release that stated, among other disparaging comments, “…These aftermarket parts are generally made to a lower standard in order to cut costs and lack the testing required to determine their effectiveness in vehicle performance and safety.” Then in a May 2012 letter, the group took issue with a Kia Technical Service Bulletin that conditioned warranty coverage on the use of Kia-branded oil filters.

AAIA, AOCA, TIA and SSDA plans to meet with the FTC in the very near future in order to discuss the latest BMW compliant, as well as the status of investigation regarding the other complaints that the aftermarket has filed regarding MMWA.