Understanding the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

Part Two: Full v. Limited Warranties and the Titling Requirement.

The remedies available under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act are applicable only to “full” warranties, not to “limited” warranties. This blog installment will explain the Act’s requirements for “full” warranties and the proper titling of a warranty as either “full” or “limited. Notably, these titling requirements apply only to consumer products costing more than $10. It is critical to determine whether the warranty is intended to be “full,” or “limited,” and to apply the correct title.

If the intent is to provide a “full” warranty, the warranty must meet all of the following five conditions:

1. There may be no attempt to limit the duration of any implied warranties;

2. The warranty service offered is afforded to anyone owning the product during the warranty period — it cannot be limited to first purchasers;

3. The warranty service must be free of charge, including the cost of return of the product, or removal and reinstallation when applicable;

4. The warranty must allow the consumer the right to choose either replacement or full refund if, after a reasonable number of tries, the manufacturer is unable to repair the product;

5. The warranty may not require consumers to perform any duty as a precondition for receiving warranty service other than notifying the business that service is required; unless the business can demonstrate that the duty being required is reasonable. An example of an unreasonable requirement is the familiar practice of conditioning of warranty service upon a customer having returned a registration card.

If any of these five elements is missing from the warranty offered it may not be titled a “full” warranty, and must be referred to as “limited.”

If only a limited warranty is provided, it is permissible to limit the duration of any implied warranties to the same duration of the written limited warranty if it is reasonable, conscionable and set forth in prominent, clear language on the face of the warranty.

Makers of consumer goods are wise to familiarize themselves with these technical rules to avoid running afoul of Magnuson-Moss; because violations of the Act leave a business vulnerable to suit by the Justice Department for injunctive relief, as well as individual consumer claims and costly class action litigation.

In the next installment of this blog, we will discuss Magnuson-Moss’ technical requirements for disclosure, form and content of written warranties.