The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has become more active in recent months when it comes to cracking down on companies that deny consumers’ right to repair their products, has reached a settlement with Weber-Stephen Products, the maker of popular Weber barbecue grills.
The settlement was reached in near-record time. The agency filed its lawsuit on Wednesday, and the settlement was reached hours later.
In its suit, the FTC charged that Weber’s limited warranty illegally restricted customers’ right to repair their purchased products by including terms that voided the warranty if customers used or installed third-party parts on their grill products.
In settling the case, Weber said it would remove those disputed terms, recognize the right to repair, and inform customers about their ability to use third-party parts.
“This is the FTC’s third right-to-repair lawsuit in as many weeks,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies that use their warranties to illegally restrict consumers’ right to repair should fix them now.”
Last month the FTC sued Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse over the same issue. The FTC’s complaints charged that the companies’ warranties included terms that voided the agreements if customers used independent dealers for parts or repairs.
The FTC ordered Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse to revise their warranties by removing illegal terms and ensuring that dealers compete fairly with independent third parties.
FTC takes cue from White House
The White House directed the FTC to strictly enforce right to repair rules last year. Officials said consumers who have purchased a product have the right to repair it themselves or use a third-party vendor if they choose to.
“It’s great news for everyone concerned with repair monopolies,” U.S. PIRG Right to Repair Senior Campaign Director Nathan Proctor told ConsumerAffairs at the time.
In its latest action, the FTC stressed that product warranties should be designed to protect consumers, not the manufacturer. It faulted Weber’s warranty by saying it “improperly implied that as a condition of maintaining warranty coverage, consumers had to use the company’s parts.”
The FTC said that policy increases consumer costs by forcing them to use more expensive repair services. The agency said it also puts independent repair firms at a competitive disadvantage.