FTC Grills Weber on Warranty Mischief: Repair Roundup Week of July 4

FTC Grills Weber on Warranty Mischief: Repair Roundup Week of July 4

The Federal Trade Commission issued its third order targeting illegal repair restrictions in as many weeks, this one against backyard grill maker Weber-Stephen Products, which was caught threatening to terminate customers’ warranties if they used non-Weber parts on their grills.

Each week, we will bring you the top repair news from around the world, curated for iFixit by the folks over at the Fight to Repair blog.

The Big News

The Federal Trade Commission this week continued to show signs that it is shaking off a decades-long stupor in the face of rampant anti-competitive practices, ordering grill maker Weber-Stephen Products, LLC, to cease illegal restrictions on customers’ right to repair their purchased products and inform customers of its errant behavior, according to an FTC statement released Thursday.

The FTC charged Weber with a variety of violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Among other things, the Illinois-based firm included terms that conveyed that the warranty is void if customers use or install third-party parts on their grill products. Weber is being ordered to fix its warranty by removing illegal terms and recognizing the right to repair. It also must 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.”

This is the FTC’s third right-to-repair lawsuit in as many weeks.

Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection

As part of a consent decree with the FTC, Weber is prohibited from further violations of the Warranty Act, which includes telling consumers that their warranties will be void if they use third-party parts, or that they should only use Weber-brand parts. Further violations of the order will see the FTC seeking civil penalties of up to $46,517 per violation in federal court.

Replacing the burners on a Weber Genesis II.

The announcement came just two weeks after similar orders targeting motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson and outdoor generator manufacturer Westinghouse. Both those companies were also charged with creating illegal “tying” arrangements that threatened to terminate warranties if customers did not use authorized service providers and parts.

This is the third repair-focused enforcement action from the FTC in the last month. They follow the Commission’s 2019 Nixing the Fix summit, which scrutinized impediments to repair. A subsequent policy statement by the FTC acknowledged that it had paid scant attention to such violations of federal law previously, but that it would be prioritizing investigations into unlawful repair restrictions under relevant statutes such as the
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and provisions of the Sherman Anti Trust Act.

This is almost certainly not the end of the FTC’s enforcement actions against wayward manufacturers. Violations of federal laws like Magnuson Moss are rampant and the Commission has called on consumers to report cases of manufacturers imposing illegal repair constraints.

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Barbecue Grill

Repair information for BBQ grills, the outdoor variety of grills typically utilizing gas or charcoal to heat hotdogs, hamburgers, or veggie skewers in the summer!

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Other News

Macs Are Getting Fewer Updates Than They Used to. Here’s Why It’s a Problem

Using data from Apple’s website and EveryMac.com, Ars Technica pulled together information on more than two decades of Mac releases—almost everything Apple has released between the original iMac in late 1998 and the last Intel Macs in 2020.

Measuring support from the time each Mac was discontinued shows us a trend line with the same basic shape as before: a sustained drop during the transition to Intel and a sustained increase once Intel Macs were well-established—but with a more pronounced decrease in support for Intel Macs released in and after 2014. Sometimes, Apple will keep older hardware around as entry-level models after introducing a significant hardware redesign, like it did with 2012’s non-Retina MacBook Pros, 2015’s Intel MacBook Air, or (most recently) 2020’s M1 MacBook Air. Buying those Macs can save you some money in the short term, but you need to weigh the savings against the likelihood that you could stop getting macOS updates a year or two earlier than if you bought brand-new, just-launched hardware. (Ars Technica)

Podcast: Understanding Australia’s big win on Right to Repair

This July 1st, Australia ushered in a new era of Right to Repair with what it calls the Motor Vehicle Information Scheme (MVIS). This is a big win for Australia and for Right to Repair.

A year earlier, The Great Canadian Aftermarket Podcast host Andrew Ross interviewed Stuart Charity, CEO of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, to talk about the strategies they employed in what was looking like a big win even as the legislation made its way through their parliament. With Canada’s own Right to Repair legislation in a similar place to Australia’s some year back, there are some important lessons to be learned about what really made the difference and laid the foundation for success. (Indiegarage.ca)

Even Experienced Technicians Find Apple’s Repair Program is Hard to Navigate

Self-repair is one of the cornerstones of the right-to-repair movement. The idea is simple. If I own a product, I should be able to repair it. Apple has been one of the movement’s staunchest opponents, but the tech giant faced increasing pressure in the last year. Last July, President Biden signed an executive order directing the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on companies that restrict repair. More than 25 states have introduced right-to-repair bills. Nathan Proctor leads the right-to-repair campaign for U.S. PIRG, a nonprofit advocacy group. Proctor says Apple’s current repair system pushes consumers to buy new phones over small, fixable issues. (npr.org)

What eBay’s Certification Partnership Means for Resellers

One of the world’s biggest e-commerce channels, eBay, has launched a program allowing refurbishers to sell Phonecheck-certified devices through the platform. One expert explained what the development means for remarketers.

Last month, eBay announced a partnership with Los Angeles-based mobile device certification provider Phonecheck, which uses advanced software to evaluate and pull device history data for a device—essentially a Carfax for refurbished electronics. (resource-recycling.com)

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Car and Truck

Repair manuals and support for 4-wheeled passenger and cargo vehicles.

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Australian ‘Right to Repair’ Law Guarantees Data Access to Repairers, not Part Makers

Independent repairers in Australia now have access to all OEM information needed to diagnose, service, and repair vehicles under legislation meant to “establish a fair playing field” in the industry.

Under the Motor Vehicle Information Scheme (MVIS), which took effect July 1, OEMs are required to make service and repair information available to independent shops at a price that does not exceed fair market value. (repairerdrivennews.com)

Former Harley Davidson Partner Vance and Hines Weighs in on FTC Order

The FTC’s decision was a strong message to Harley-Davidson, and it’s hard to imagine that several aftermarket companies were not pleased at this, particularly Vance & Hines, whose HD-oriented products are also popular with non-race customers.  According to multiple powersports news sources, including Powersports Business, Mike Kennedy, V&H’s CEO, issued a statement after the FTC’s finding saying:

“This action taken by the FTC is a huge win for motorcycle riders. While we still need to see how this plays out, we anticipate that riders will have more choices in how they repair and update their motorcycles during the warranty period, which is clearly a big deal for companies in the motorcycle aftermarket, too. I hope that the ‘it will void your warranty’ threat for someone who just wants a better sounding or smoother running Harley is a thing of the past.”