BMW Settles Mini Warranty Dispute

To avoid extending a dispute with regulators, BMW of North America has agreed to settle a complaint that its Mini division broke the federal law governing vehicle warranties.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleged that language in the owner manuals of some Mini vehicles required customers to exclusively use Mini parts and dealerships for vehicle maintenance as a condition of warranty coverage.

In a statement, the FTC said that Mini violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act by telling consumers that their warranties would be voided unless they used genuine Mini parts and Mini dealers for maintenance or repair work, which is prohibited under the act.

In a statement, BMW said the Mini division received no complaints about the issue and disagreed with the FTC’s claims, but agreed to settle the administrative complaint because “it is in the best interest of our customers to send the notices and avoid a potentially lengthy dispute with the FTC.”

The FTC can bring administrative complaints against companies when it has reason to believe that laws have been or are being broken. It’s unclear whether the FTC received consumer complaints about the issue, or whether Mini voided any customer warranties over the use of non-Mini parts or service centers.

An FTC spokesman said a Freedom of Information Act request would be required for access to complaints. The spokesman, when asked if the agency was aware of any violations, wrote in an email that this was “nonpublic information.”

Under the settlement, BMW is barred from violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in the future, and must send notices to consumers that using aftermarket parts or independent repair shops will not void their warranties.

A one-year gap between the three-year Mini Maintenance Program and the brand’s four-year warranty was a focal point of the dispute. The FTC claimed the language in two sections of the owner manual of some Minis describing the programs violated the law because it “could lead vehicle owners to believe they were required to have MINI vehicles serviced at a MINI dealer or were required to use genuine MINI parts in order to receive warranty service.”

BMW said it will send letters to customers that “further clarify that service at an authorized MINI dealer or use of genuine MINI parts is not required for warranty purposes.”

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