Friedman Supports Wheelchair Warranty Reform Passed by Massachusetts Senate

Bill extends wheelchair warranties, requires faster repairs and replacements, bringing Massachusetts in line with neighboring states  

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate voted to strengthen consumer protections for wheelchair users. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues to move the legislation forward with a unanimous vote. 

An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities—S.2541requires all wheelchairs to come with warranties, extends the minimum warranty period to two years, sets standards for wheelchair repairs and replacements, and eliminates the cumbersome prior authorization process for all wheelchair repairs under $1,000.  

“Ensuring that wheelchairs, an essential medical device, have strong warranty protections is so important as we continue to work towards making the Commonwealth a more inclusive place for all our residents” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I am proud that the Senate passed this legislation again this session to improve the accessibility of our state in an equitable fashion, and I hope it will become law this year.”  

The legislation, which has received strong support from disability advocates in Massachusetts, requires all wheelchairs sold or leased in the Commonwealth to come with express warranties—a change from the current law, which only requires customized wheelchairs to come with express warranties. The legislation also extends express warranties for wheelchairs from one year to two years, bringing Massachusetts in line with states like Rhode Island and Connecticut. To alleviate wait times for repairs, the bill mandates that wheelchair service providers diagnose repair issues remotely within three business days following notice from a consumer and provide an in-person assessment no more than four business days after that.   

If a wheelchair user cannot operate their in-warranty chair during the repair process, the bill mandates that manufacturers or dealers reimburse them for or provide a loaner wheelchair within four business days for most wheelchairs, or within eight business days for highly customized wheelchairs.  

The bill also requires manufacturers and dealers to cover any collateral costs incurred during the repair process for in-warranty wheelchairs. For out-of-warranty wheelchairs, the legislation prohibits insurers for requiring consumers to go through a cumbersome prior authorization process for any repairs totaling less than $1,000. Finally, the bill allows the Attorney General’s office to take legal action against service providers who violate these provisions with unfair or deceptive business practices.   

A similar version of the legislation was passed by the Senate in 2022, however that legislation did not further advance in the Legislature. 

Having been passed by the Senate, the legislation now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.