Since 2003, the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) has filed eight complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about anti-consumer automaker behavior that violated the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act’s prohibition against tie-in sales of proprietary products and services. Those complaints named Volkswagen-Audi, Daimler-Chrysler (as it was then known), GM, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Kia Motors, and BMW with each case more egregious than the last. BMW’s 2012 MINI Cooper Owner’s Manual went so far as to state, “[o]nly MINI dealers are to perform oil changes.”

After years of inaction, the FTC has announced a possible settlement that would (1) bar BMW, in connection with the sale of any MINI division good or service, from representing that, to ensure a vehicle’s safe operation or maintain its value, owners must have routine maintenance performed only by MINI dealers or MINI centers, unless the representation is true and BMW can substantiate it with reliable scientific evidence; and (2) require BMW to provide affected MINI owners with information about their right to use third-party parts and service without voiding warranty coverage, unless BMW provides such parts or services for free.

It is not a done deal yet. The proposed consent order is open for public comment until April 20, 2015, after which the FTC will decide whether to issue the order on a final basis. AOCA members are urged to watch their e-mail for the link to participate in a crucial industry field data survey to ensure that FTC has the latest evidence available against BMW and the rest of the automakers with pending complaints. Non-member operators interested in participating in the process are encouraged to contact AOCA headquarters at info@aoca.org.