The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law passed by Congress and signed by President Gerald Ford on 4 January 1975. Its full name is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act. The law was originally meant to cover written warranties for automobiles, but it also governs written warranties for household and other personal consumer products. In the years since 1975, most states have passed so-called lemon laws to supplement the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which did not address the issue of refunds to consumers who bought defective products.
Sen. Warren G. Magnuson and Rep. John E. Moss sponsored the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in Congress. Both men were members of the Democratic Party. Magnuson represented Washington state in the Senate from 1944 until 1981. Moss represented his California congressional district from 1953 to 1978.
According to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, warranties written for consumer products must disclose their terms and conditions in common language. Written warranties may guarantee certain things, including the performance of a product or that defective products will be repaired or replaced by the manufacturer. Consumer product manufacturers and sellers are not required to offer written warranties. It does not apply to oral warranties, nor does it apply to warranties on services or on products sold for resale or for commercial purposes.
The goal of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act was to guarantee consumers would get complete information about the terms and conditions of warranties written for the products they purchased. Other goals for the law included helping consumers make comparisons in order to buy products with the best combination of price, features, and warranty coverage to meet their individual needs. It was thought the law would promote competition on the basis of warranty coverage and help increase customer satisfaction because consumers would know what to do if something went wrong with the products they purchased. Congress also intended for the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act to encourage companies to fulfill warranty agreements in a thorough and timely way that would minimize delays and expenses incurred by consumers.
In the Internet age, some consumers have criticized the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act on websites for not doing enough. Their complaints are typically centered on taking an automobile to a dealership for major repairs, only to be told warranties were voided by unauthorized work done to the vehicles. Typically, this involves owners who have changed the emissions systems on their automobiles.