— The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has slapped BMW's MINI division with a 20-year consent order for violating the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
MINI violated the law by telling consumers BMW would void their warranty unless they used MINI parts and MINI dealers for maintenance and repair work. The FTC opened an investigation into MINI after the agency said it had "reason to believe" MINI was breaking the law.
MINI initially agreed to settle the charges with the FTC in March 2015, but the agreement hadn't been finalized. That has now changed after a public comment period closed and representatives of the FTC and MINI worked out the final details.
The 20-year consent order was filed over the Warranty Act which has a provision that prohibits any company from requiring consumers to use specific brands of parts to keep from violating a product warranty. The Act also prohibits consumers from being forced to have repairs made at specific service centers unless the repair parts or service is provided without charge.
The consent order prohibits MINI from representing to customers that to maintain safe operation of the cars, owners must have routine maintenance performed only by MINI dealers. The only circumstance that would change that stance is if BMW can show reliable and scientific evidence that repairs or parts from third parties wouldn't be safe.
The consent order also requires MINI to inform consumers that they can use third-party parts and service centers without voiding their warranty.
The final FTC vote was unanimous in favor of approving the final consent order.