Ford is under fire from consumers over a new sales policy that dramatically restricts consumer rights regarding vehicles they purchase. The policy, which applies to the company’s F-150 Lightning pickup truck, involves purchasers being forced to sign an agreement prohibiting them from selling or transferring their vehicles for at least one year after purchase.
The policy brings to mind similar restrictions on consumer rights put in place by event operators, using Ticketmaster’s SafeTix technology and other restrictive mobile-only systems.
While Ticketmaster and parent Live Nation have been interfering with consumer rights for years, the concept is novel for the automotive marketplace, and the reaction has been harsh.
“Absolutely the freak nope,” tweeted YouTuber and technology reviewer @ZacksJerryRig in response to the news. “If I buy a truck, it’s *mine.* @Ford is outta their mind.”
“Hate where the industry is going,” tweeted @RussanBoi_NZ in response to that same thread. “Cars are no longer going to belong to the people buying them. Subscription seat warmers, removal of fsd during resale and now no resale at all. Cars becoming “smart” is the worst possible thing. Consumers don’t own anything anymore, just renting.”
Hate where the industry is going, cars are no longer going to belong to the people buying them. Subscription seat warmers, removal of fsd during resale and now no resale at all. Cars becoming “smart” is the worst possible thing. Consumers don’t own anything anymore, just renting.
— Kin (@RussianBoi_NZ) January 8, 2022
These complaints are a familiar refrain for those who have been purchasing live event tickets in the last decade, with increasing encroachment of digital “mobile-only” and non-transferable tickets deployed against consumer will and designed to harvest user data and restrict rights.
While full-on resale restrictions are a new wrinkle by Ford, consumers have had to push back against restrictive efforts by manufacturers already, such as farmers fighting John Deere over “right-to-repair” issues on new equipment. Unless Ford wants to follow in John Deere’s footsteps with angering its own consumer base, it might want to reconsider.
There are also potential legal repercussions when companies begin to put up barriers against consumer rights. Ford need look no further than the ticketing industry and the flurry of lawsuits that seem to accompany every action by Live Nation and Ticketmaster that harms consumer rights.
After an investigation in 2016, New York’s then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the National Football League agreed to end its coordination of league-wide “price floors” for ticket resale, which limited consumer rights on what price they were allowed to list tickets for sale on the league’s prefered ticket resale marketplace (Ticketmaster).
“NYAG is concerned by the growing imposition of resale price floors, along with efforts to mandate that tickets be sold on a single ‘walled garden’ market, as opposed to consumers having the option of buying tickets from different resale platforms” reads the report, in part, that Schneiderman’s office issued following its investigation. “We are also interested in the degree to which excessive service charges may constitute evidence of abuse of monopoly power, especially as they relate to the resale of sports tickets.”
Live Nation and Ticketmaster have frequently found themselves targeted by lawsuits alleging anti-competitive practices and monopolistic behavior related to resale restrictions, including one filed earlier this month.
The Supreme Court of the United States also declared certain restrictive practices unlawful. A 2014 decision in a case involving the restriction of consumers from being able to refill printer ink due to restrictive technology put in place by the original manufacturer found in favor of consumers rather than the manufacturer hoping to monopolize all aspects of the use of its products beyond the initial purchase.
Perhaps the most damning parallel for Ford to consider in its application of consumer restrictions that mirror Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s efforts is that it brings their policies in line with those put in place by the totalitarian Soviet Union states of the second half of the 20th century.
Gabrielius Blažys sums up the period in an article posted on Jalopnik: “Getting a car was a real challenge in the USSR.,” he wrote. “It wasn’t a matter of visiting a local dealership and choosing the right color and right gadgetry.” Control over consumer purchases was under complete control by state authorities, meaning that consumers were at the mercy of the vehicle manufacturers on what and when they could buy.
In short, Ford is playing a dangerous game with its customers as it plays chicken with the first sale doctrine. Maybe the F-150 Lightning is a truck that a subset of consumers are so excited about that they’ll pay more than sticker price to get one. Is stripping away your customers right to meet that market worth alienating a much larger segment of buyer in the long run?