Aftermarket groups renew FTC complaint vs. Kia oil filter bulletin

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(Consumer Reports photo) In a May 20 article in Consumer Reports, the magazine asked: “When is a preventive oil change at an independent mechanic or quick-lube shop the wrong thing to do? If you own a Kia vehicle, it might end up costing you a lot of cash down the road.”

WASHINGTON (May 30, 2014) — Kia Motors Corp.’s technical bulletin warning Kia owners not to use non-original equipment oil filters is a clear violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), four major auto aftermarket associations have told the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The complaint is two years old, but the associations—the Auto Care Association, the Tire Industry Association, the Automotive Oil Change Association and the Service Station Dealers of America and Allied Trades—renewed their protest publicly after Consumer Reports (CR) magazine referenced the Kia bulletin in a recent article.

In that bulletin, the auto maker recommends that Kia owners either have their oil changed at Kia dealerships or insist on Kia oil filters to avoid problems with oil- and filter-related warranty claims.

Because of the Kia bulletin, Consumer Reports is recommending that Kia owners avoid independent repair shops and non-Kia filters, which directly contradicts the consumer options codified in MMWA, the four associations said in a May 27, 2014, letter renewing their complaint against Kia.

Under MMWA, the associations said, “the manufacturer must first ‘show that the aftermarket or recycled part caused the need for repairs before denying warranty coverage.’

“Kia’s directives circumvent this process entirely,” the associations said. “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.”

With this policy, the main loser is the consumer, who must pay extra for routine oil changes, according to the associations.

“While CR clearly should have done more to research this issue before publishing the article, the fact remains that the FTC failed to undertake its responsibilities under the law,” they said. “The absence of action by the commission is now cascading…into additional misinformation to consumers.”

The associations filed their FTC complaint against Kia on May 7, 2012. A year earlier, they made an identical complaint against American Honda Motor Co. for recommending only OEM filters when changing the oil in a Honda or Acura.

The FTC took no formal action against Honda, but it did issue an official consumer alert reminding consumers of their rights under the MMWA.

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