On the heels of the nation’s largest grilling holiday, the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that it is sanctioning Weber for illegally voiding the warranties of grill owners who installed third-party products on their gas grills.
This is the third punitive action against a major, beloved American company in the last several weeks from the FTC and indicates that the Biden government is serious about the right to repair, the concept of ownership, and consumer protection. Last month, the FTC took similar action against Harley Davidson and appliance manufacturer Westinghouse.
The news is likely to make my father, a mechanic and decades-long Weber customer and charcoal grill evangelist, feel both rage—because he believes strongly in fixing things—and total vindication, because he would not be caught dead near a gas grill. The action is likely to similarly rip various families apart and restart the generations-long debate over gas vs charcoal.
In this case, Weber would only honor its warranty on Summit and Genesis-II gas grills if customers used “genuine WEBER parts,” which is a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that prohibits manufacturers from “tying” warranties to the use of specific parts. The FTC labeled this practice as “deceptive” and said the company must stop the practice immediately.
“Weber is being ordered to fix its warranty by removing illegal terms and recognizing the right to repair and come clean with customers about their ability to use third-party parts,” the FTC wrote in a press release. Weber will have to pay up to $46,517 for further violations of the law, will have to add language that says “using third-party parts will not void this warranty,” and must directly contact customers to tell them that their warranties are not void if they use third party parts.
Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said other companies should now be on notice: “Companies that use their warranties to illegally restrict consumers’ right to repair should fix them now.”
My father could not be reached for comment on the ruling: "I'll check it out later driving," he said in a text message.