MINI Cooper illegally denied warranty repairs: FTC

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Dealers told customers their warranties would be voided if they went elsewhere for service

Is it true that if you don't take your car to the dealer for service your warranty will be voided? The answer is a resounding "No" as BMW has just been reminded. 

The automaker has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its MINI Division violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act by telling consumers that BMW would void their warranty unless they used MINI parts and MINI dealers to perform maintenance and repair work.

The FTC had alleged that BMW, through its MINI Division, violated a provision in the Warranty Act that prohibits companies from requiring that consumers – in order to maintain their warranties – use specific brands of parts or specified service centers (unless the part or service is provided to the consumer without charge).

“It’s against the law for a dealer to refuse to honor a warranty just because someone else did maintenance or repairs on the car,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “As a result of this order, BMW will change its practices and give MINI owners information about their rights.”

No laughing matter

Mini Cooper March 19, 2015, 4:07 p.m.
Consumers rate Mini Cooper

Warranty coverage is no laughing matter for MINI Cooper owners. The little cars are great fun and get excellent gas mileage but they do tend to have more than their share of problems.

"I have owned a 2008 MINI Copper S since 2009. I have had some fun driving it around but like others I regret buying it. The cost of ownership for this car is very high. If you take it in to the dealer expect to pay at least $1,000 every time," said John of Durham, N.C., in a ConsumerAffairs review.

"Bought my 2009 Cooper S new in Kelowna. This is by far the most fun vehicle to drive - love it. Has had a few issues mind you," said Rita of Kelowna, BC, as she launched into her list: 

New timing chain at 76000Km. New engine at 82000Km. New Turbo at 120000Km. New fuel pump - new high pressure pump - excessive carbon build up requiring walnut blasting on more than one occasion ( $1000 each time not covered under warranty). The list goes on. Its now parked since the timing chain has failed yet again and the dealership wants another $4500 to repair it. So far this vehicle including extended warranties and repairs - not including general maintenance such as oil changes etc - has cost me a staggering $55000! This does not include parts and labour covered under warranty.

Rocio of Los Angeles sums up his MINI relationship in a review captioned "So cute, yet so bad."

"I've had my 2009 MINI Cooper since, well, 2009. It was the car that I test drove on the lot, and I fell in love with it at first sight. All was great, until it wasn't. Started having problems at around the 2 year mark. Since it was still under warranty, some stuff was covered. But once the warranty was out, I had to pay out of pocket which was REALLY pricey," Rocio said. "Finally after 5 years, I was able to find a good, honest, MINI-expert mechanic who told me my MINI would need a refill of oil every three gas fill ups! He said my model MINI burns oil every couple hundred miles."

Rocio's mechanic is right. MINIs, at least the ones we know, do tend to burn oil, as do several other German cars we can think of. 

For what it's worth, the author has owned four MINI Coopers and has found Avus Autosport in Glendale, Calif., to be the type of mechanic Rocio wishes he'd found years ago. 

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