Maryland Secret Warranty Law
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
On May 8, 2007, Maryland became the fifth state to enact a Secret Warranty Law. The law takes effect October 1, 2007. Unfortunately, the Maryland law has a huge loophole in it — automobile dealers are exempted from telling consumers about secret warranties or adjustment programs. In place of direct consumer notice at the time of repair, Maryland dealers need only print on the back of the repair order that information on secret warranties can be obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This statement is incorrect and misleading because NHTSA discards information such as Technical Service Bulletins and Service Campaigns on non-safety related defects which is all the Maryland law covers.
Section 14-1402(A)(2) of the Maryland law requires auto manufacturers to establish a procedure to provide owners or lessees of vehicles in Maryland with copies or any service bulletin or other communication on defects in their vehicles. Every Maryland consumer should do a Service Bulletin check on their vehicle once a year when they renew their registration or insurance or whenever they experience a problem with their vehicle to determine if the problem is covered by a Service Bulletin or Adjustment Program.
The Maryland law originally had a provision similar to that in California’s Secret Warranty Law which would have required auto manufacturers to provide copies of all Adjustment Programs to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration for publication on its Website. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office agreed to drop this provision when the auto industry objected. Since many Secret Warranties or Adjustment Programs extend for years, the initial notice to current owners by first class mail will not reach subsequent owners two or more years later. The 8-year, unlimited mileage Adjustment Program that Saab, Toyota and VW adopted for engine failure caused by oil sludge is a good example of why Maryland erred in dropping its Website publication provision.
The Maryland law requires auto companies to provide information on Adjustment Programs to dealers in a format that facilitates disclosure of information on Adjustment Programs or Secret Warranties to consumers. So even if a Maryland dealer has no obligation under the law to tell you the consumer about Secret Warranties on your vehicle, ask them firmly to check for Secret Warranties because they can do it easily. If they won’t, take your vehicle elsewhere for service or you may end up paying for a repair covered by a Secret Warranty. The adage about Secret Warranties — “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” — is still true!