In late June, 2022, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission officially ordered Harley-Davidson to honor right-to-repair rules. At the time, the FTC said it was taking action against both the Bar and Shield and MWE Investments (the company that manufactures Westinghouse generators), due to both companies’ restrictions on a customer’s right to repair products they had purchased. The FTC deems such practices illegal.
Consumer advocacy groups, enthusiasts, and just about anyone concerned with the ongoing, broader right-to-repair battle that is ongoing in multiple industries considered this a step in the right direction. Now, in early August, 2022, two federal class-action lawsuits have been filed against the Motor Company; one in California, and one in Wisconsin.
Both lawsuits offer slightly different allegations that complement each other. The California lawsuit alleges violations of competition laws at the state level, among other complaints. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin one focuses on allegations of federal antitrust law violations. Both lawsuits specifically mention what they refer to as “tying conduct,” referring to Harley’s tying of its warranty (which owners could not read in full prior to their purchase of their motorcycles) to specific and exclusive use of Harley dealers and Harley parts.
Additionally, both lawsuits state that they wish to recoup unspecified damages from Harley on behalf of both their plaintiffs and all additional class members. “In June 2022, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Harley to stop this practice going forward, but did not and indeed lacks the authority to recoup the past overpayments for parts from all affected Harley owners,” reads the Wisconsin lawsuit, in part.
“As a result of Harley-Davidson’s anticompetitive conduct, its faithful following of Harley owners has been harmed in two ways. First, Harley-Davidson has been able to and has charged more for its parts than it would have been able to, had it limited its warranty terms to what the law allows, it continues.”
“Second, Harley-Davidson’s riders have been deprived of access to the full range of aftermarket parts that the market could support. While there is already a robust market for parts, Harley owners whose bikes were under warranty were not free to choose from that array of parts because the choice to use competitor parts came with the threat of loss of warranty coverage.”
Both law firms that filed these class-action lawsuits on behalf of their clients did not comment when contacted by Reuters. Similarly, Harley-Davidson also provided no comment when asked by Reuters. Given the fact of this ongoing litigation, lack of comment is to be expected from all parties concerned.