Potential legal problems often arise when consumers purchase aftermarket parts. Aftermarket parts, and particularly performance enhancing parts such as programmers, can cause damage to a vehicle, can void manufacturer and aftermarket warranties and can even be dangerous in certain circumstances. Selling or servicing vehicles which have had aftermarket parts presents a host of potential legal issues for dealerships. This is especially true when the dealer sells the parts.
Many consumers, even when made aware of the risks, may decide to use these parts anyway. Some consumers will even attempt to conceal their use of such parts in order to keep their warranties intact or to get a dealership to perform repairs on their vehicle. Your customers may even approach you asking that you install aftermarket parts for them.
These situations can place dealerships in a difficult position. Most dealers don’t want to upset a consumer by suggesting the customer stop using a product he has purchased or by refusing installation work. Also, most dealers want their customer’s warranty to stay intact so the dealer can make warranty repairs and get paid by the warrantor for their work. Therefore it is important for a dealership to have an established policy in place to deal with aftermarket parts.
As with any other situation, when dealing with a consumer who is using aftermarket parts, candidness is always the best policy. Advise the consumer on the potential risks of continued use of aftermarket parts, particularly performance enhancing products. Make sure you document any conversations you have with the consumer. If you are approached to make repairs to, or install, aftermarket parts or work on vehicles which have aftermarket parts installed you should strongly consider having the consumer sign a waiver which explains the dangers of using aftermarket parts and that you are not liable for problems caused as a result of their use. Additionally, a dealer should always exercise sound judgment and decline to make illegal or dangerous modifications to vehicles.
Finally, you should always report and document any suspected use of aftermarket parts to a warrantor, especially if the parts may have caused damage that a consumer seeks to have repaired under warranty. If a warrantor were to find out that you knew or suspected use of aftermarket parts and failed to report it to the warrantor, you expose your dealership to liability. Also, if you do not report use of aftermarket parts you could open the door to an argument that your dealership and/or the warrantor endorsed or approved of the use of such parts.
If you have specific questions about the legal consequences of your actions as it pertains to the use of aftermarket parts, consult with your attorney. While some of these suggestions may agitate your customer, an agitated customer under these circumstances may be better than an angry warrantor or a lawsuit.