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What is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

All Maryland businesses that offer product warranties must adhere to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Enacted in 1975 and codified in Title 15 of the United States Code, the law sets federal standards for warranties. Note, however, that the statute only applies to product warranties and not to service warranties.

Why did legislators pass the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

Before representatives passed the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, manufacturers used warranties as a sales tool, and they weren’t always honest or transparent about the actual parameters. Back then, businesses would imply a warranty and bury the fine print. As a result, people who had problems with a product weren’t able to seek redress.

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act parameters

Sponsored by Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, Sen. Frank Moss and Rep. John E. Moss, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act doesn’t require product warranties. However, it does set standards for items that carry them. It also gives the Federal Trade Commission authority to define certain consumer rights related to product warranties.

Much of the bill is dedicated to defining terms, such as “consumer,” “warrantor,” “supplier,” “consumer product” and “limited warranty.” Beyond definitional considerations, the act sets standards for warranty disclosures, requirements and limitations. Under the law, companies who issue written warranties must:

  • Honor implied warranties
  • Fully and conspicuously disclose the warranty’s terms and conditions
  • Use simple language that the average consumer understands

Magnuson-Moss also prohibits businesses from tying warranties to branded parts. For example, companies can’t say, “this warranty only applies if you use this third-party battery.” And though the law paves the way for court remediation if a business doesn’t fulfill warranty promises, it also encourages parties to reach resolutions without formal lawsuits.