Windows, doors and skylights sometimes fall under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s definition of consumer goods, and other times they do not. Magnuson-Moss is a federal statutory scheme that mandates certain requirements for written warranties.
It provides, in part, that the “warrantor” (party giving a warranty for a product) may not make conditions in a written or implied warranty that consumers must use only parts or service identified by brand, trade, or corporate name—i.e., “authorized parts.” If the consumer or her agent is buying the windows, the statute likely applies.
There are two exceptions to Magnuson-Moss. The first is if the warrantor provides the part or service to the consumer for free; the second is where the warrantor obtains a waiver from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC will grant such a waiver if the product will function properly only when the specifically identified part or service is used and if the waiver is in the public interest. (Good luck with that!)
It is important to note that the rule does not prevent a warrantor from disclaiming warranty coverage for defects or damage caused by the use of unauthorized parts or service. It is the attempt to “void” the warranty for the use of unauthorized parts that can land you in trouble.
The FTC recently sent warranty letters to six companies, asking them to review their statements that consumers must use authorized parts or service to maintain coverage under the warranty. While the names of the six companies were not released, they are from the automobile, cellular device and video gaming industries.
Some examples of the statements in the warranties that the FTC questioned fall along the following lines: “The use of [company’s name] parts is required to keep your … manufacturer’s warranty and any extended warranties intact,” or “This warranty shall not apply if this product … is used with products not sold or licensed by [company’s name],” or “This warranty does not apply if this product … has had the warranty seal on the [product] altered, defaced, or removed.”
For window manufacturers issuing a product warranty, dealers/distributors selling the product or installers providing a service warranty, it would pay to know whether the product you sell or install is a consumer good subject to “unauthorized parts or service” provision of Magnuson-Moss. Or, you can play it safe and comply anyway.