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ADV NewsHarley-Davidson Hit With Federal Lawsuits Over Warranty Practices

Harley-Davidson Hit With Federal Lawsuits Over Warranty Practices

Lawsuits come after the company settled an FTC order over "right to repair" issues.

Published on 09.16.2022
Last June we reported that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  had filed a complaint against Harley-Davidson regarding “right to repair” issues. As Harley owners know all too well, the iconic manufacturer has long made a practice to void warranties if customers install aftermarket parts, or even have services performed on their bikes if those parts and services were not licensed by H-D. 

Harley settled this order in June by agreeing to abide by consumer rights laws already in place and also to communicate this change to existing owners as well as new buyers. (Of course damage directly caused by aftermarket service and parts can still nullify related portions of the warranty.) 

However, making amends might not be that easy judging by two federal class action lawsuits filed against H-D last week, one in California and another in Wisconsin, that allege the company forced customers to pay inflated prices by limiting how and where they were allowed to service their bikes. 

Harley-Davidson hit with federal lawsuits over 'right to repair' issues

Reuters global news agency reported that the class action suit in California was filed in relation to violations of specific state competition laws and statutes, while the case brought in Wisconsin alleged Harley’s earlier practice of voiding warranties (or simply threatening to) conflicted with federal antitrust provisions. 


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The lawyer in the Wisconsin case, Thomas Burt of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Hertz was quoted as saying “Harley-Davidson has kept a larger share of the parts market for itself, and commanded higher prices for its repair parts, because it has used its warranty to unlawfully force Harley owners to use its own branded parts.”

This was seen as dirty dealings for Harley to force customers into buying only H-D branded parts and using licensed dealers for service, and worse, the provision regarding voiding warranties wasn’t even disclosed in a single document, requiring consumers to contact an authorized dealership for full details. 

So when you think about it, the way Harley simply acquiesced to the FTC complaint felt more like a slap on the wrist than real punishment for decades of misconduct.  

Harley-Davidson hit with federal lawsuits over 'right to repair' issues

But now we have lawyers seeing dollar signs, and no doubt many more of these class actions will follow, a cascade of potentially costly retribution that will play out over many years in many courts around the country. 

While no dollar amounts were specified it’s a good thing Harley’s total revenue went from 4.1 billion in 2020 to $5.3 billion in 2021, growth that can be attributed in part to the success of its Pan America 1250 and 1250 Special, the latter of which is claimed by Harley to be 2021’s number one selling adventure touring motorcycle in North America.

The change in Harley’s warranty program arrives just in time to ensure that those thousands of new Pan America owners will enjoy not only the freedom to have their machines serviced wherever they damn well please, but they will also be able to enjoy a rising swell of new, innovative aftermarket parts and performance enhancements on the way.

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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