Trade Associations Challenge Consumer Reports Story
By Camille Sheehan
BETHESDA, Md. – June 2, 2014 – The Auto Care Association, Automotive Oil Change Association, Service Station Dealers of America and Tire Industry Association have sent a joint letter to the editors of Consumer Reports (CR), rebutting their May 20 article – “How a Cheap Oil Change Can Cost You in the Long Run” by Jon Linkov -- that promotes a 2012 technical bulletin from Kia warning consumers not to use non-OEM filters.
The article was based on a Kia bulletin that recommended car owners either go back to the authorized dealer, or use a Kia oil filter to avoid problems with oil- and filter-related warranty claims. This recommendation is a clear violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), which prohibits the conditioning of new car warranties on the use of a car company part or service.
The associations’ letter to Consumer Reports in response to the article said:
“Consumer Reports has essentially validated an unlawful and anti-competitive premise and urged readers to follow it. This errant premise will unnecessarily cost readers of Consumer Reports more money in the purchase of parts and services when alternatives are available that are as good as or better than the original equipment option. Under the MMWA, tie-in sales—branded products a manufacturer tries to tie to warranty coverage—are illegal. A manufacturer can only void warranty coverage for using an aftermarket version of a product, like an oil filter for a car, if they first prove the aftermarket product caused damage, not that it “can be tied to” damage, as stated by Mr. Linkov.”
The letter to CR also states:
“Kia is attempting to circumvent the MMWA entirely by asserting that the mere presence of an aftermarket oil filter automatically voids warranty coverage for the oil change parts and services as well as any damage Kia says ‘relates’ to oil filter function. In fact, if Kia could prove its proprietary filter was the only one capable of operating properly in its vehicles, then it would have already obtained a MMWA waiver from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But, of course, they haven’t, and neither have any of the other automakers using similar egregious scare tactics to manipulate consumers into buying their expensive proprietary products and services.”
In 2012, the four associations submitted an initial complaint to the FTC regarding this Kia technical bulletin. In light of this new article, on May 27, 2014, the associations sent another complaint to the FTC, demanding again that they address the technical bulletin from Kia that is a clear violation of the MMWA and misleading to motorists.
About the Auto Care Association
The Auto Care Association is a Bethesda, Md.-based association whose more than 2,000 member companies represent approximately 150,000 independent businesses that manufacture, distribute and sell motor vehicle parts, accessories, tools, equipment, materials, supplies and perform vehicle service and repair. Visit www.autocare.org.About the Automotive Oil Change Association
AOCA is dedicated to providing its members with the business tools, resources, and education to professionally and successfully deliver convenient automotive oil changes and other preventive maintenance services. Emphasizing education, the AOCA provides expert technical training for lube center employees. For the business owners and managers, the organization provides programs to enhance management skills, automotive engineering and industry issues. The Association also serves as a resource for consumers regarding the benefits of regular, preventive maintenance in protecting their automotive investment. In addition, AOCA provides counsel on regulatory issues, represents the industry on Capitol Hill, and develops research data on the convenient auto service market. The association also makes available a wide variety of business products and services to help members improve business operations. Visit the AOCA website at www.aoca.org.
The Service Station Dealers of America and Allied Trades is a 69 year old national association representing state and regional associations across the United States. Membership is composed of service station dealers, automotive repair facilities, car washes and convenience stores.
About the Tire Industry Association
The Tire Industry Association, with a 90 year history representing all segments of the national and international tire industry, is the leading advocate, as well as, instructor in technical training of tire service technicians. For more information, visit www.tireindustry.org or call 800-876-8372.