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Trade groups challenge Consumer Reports oil filters story (Update)

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(Consumer Reports photo) In its article on oil filters, Consumer Reports said: “If problems can be tied to you not using a Kia-approved oil filter or the Kia-spec'd oil weight, your warranty-repair claim will be denied and you'll have to pay for the repairs. That can get expensive fast.”

WASHINGTON (June 4, 2014) — Consumer Reports erred egregiously in its uncritical acceptance of a Kia Motors Corp. recommendation that motorists avoid aftermarket oil filters, four major aftermarket associations said in a letter to the magazine.

The Kia service bulletin, which the associations protested two years ago to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is a clear violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), the associations said in a June 2 letter to Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports has essentially validated an unlawful and anti-competitive premise and urged readers to follow it,” said the Auto Care Association, the Tire Industry Association, the Automotive Oil Change Association and the Service Station Dealers of America said in their joint letter.

“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,” they said.

The Consumer Reports article quotes Kia’s February 2012 bulletin saying that Kia owners who use the wrong oil or non-OE filters could end up damaging their engines and voiding their warranties.

“When is a preventive oil change at an independent mechanic or quick-lube shop the wrong thing to do?” the article begins. “If you own a Kia vehicle, it might end up costing you a lot of cash down the road.

“If problems can be tied to you not using a Kia-approved oil filter or the Kia-spec’d oil weight, your warranty-repair claim will be denied and you’ll have to pay for the repairs,” the article said. “That can get expensive fast.”

This claim is illegal under federal statutes, the associations said.

“Kia is attempting to circumvent the MMWA entirely by asserting that the mere presence of an aftermarket oil filter automatically voids warranty coverage,” they said.

The associations originally complained to the FTC about the Kia bulletin in May 2012, and renewed their complaint in May 2014 after the Consumer Reports article appeared.

In 2011, the associations also complained to the FTC about identical oil filter claims made by American Honda Motor Co. The FTC took no formal action against Honda, but did issue an official consumer alert reminding consumers of their rights under the MMWA.

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