There are plenty of gadgets that have shipped over the past few decades with a sticker that warns you that you’ll void your warranty if you remove or break it. The idea is to keep you from opening your laptop, game console, or other device to repair or replace parts on your own… or absolve the device maker of responsibility for fixing your mistakes if you do so.

But there’s a problem: for the most part companies aren’t allowed to do that in the United States.

This week the US Federal Trade Commission sent a friendly reminder when it “sent warning letters to six major companies” expressing concerns over “statements that consumers must us specified parts or services providers to keep their warranties intact.”

Update: Motherboard got the list of companies through a FOIA request, and they’re Asus, HTC, Hyundai, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. 

While the FTC didn’t name the 6 companies that were recipients of its letters, the agency does note that they “market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems,” making it clear that that the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies to a wide range of product types.

The FTC is calling out a range of practices that it says are in violation of the law, including language that says:

  • Your warranty is invalidated if a warranty seal has been altered, removed or defaced.
  • The warranty is void if you fail to use a company’s official parts with the product.
  • A warranty does not apply if a product is used with another product that’s not sold or or licensed by the company.

In other words, if you have to break a seal to open a laptop and replace a stick of RAM, a PC maker can’t tell you that you invalidated the warranty. If you buy a replacement part from a third-party seller, that shouldn’t void your warranty either. And using third-party accessories (like a toner cartridge for a printer) shouldn’t break your warranty.

The only significant exception to these rules? Consumer products that cost $15 or less. Companies can void the heck out of your warranty all they want if you attempt to fix a cheap, crappy toy.

via Motherboard

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6 replies on “FTC: Companies can’t void your warranty if you break a seal (among other things)”

  1. Why is this not bigger news? Every major electronics company has been doing this to consumers for decades.

    1. Because it would put the current administration in a positive light.

    2. The only big news is the FTC actually said something. Those of us who get paid (or used to) to repair things have known about this since 1975. Manufacturers do everything they can to deter you from fixing your own things. Scary labels, non-standard screw heads, hiding screws under labels or rubber feet, etc. are all tactics used. The FTC should really start fining companies that use non-standard screws. I never understood why the manufacturers were so scared. Many people would botch the repair jobs and would either have to pay (more) to get their item fixed professionally or would have to buy new.

      1. The big companies are probably scared of people like you who can fix products cheaper and faster than they can, so consumers might repair rather than replace. I always try to repair something (or have it repaired) before I replace.

      2. I can see this from both sides, so I don’t think there is a simple solution. One one hand, people who are qualified should be able to fix and upgrade their stuff without voiding the warranty. On the other side, companies shouldn’t be on the hook for people who aren’t qualified damaging stuff or using bad parts/supplies. For example, HP shouldn’t be responsible if you clog your printer because you’re using crappy ink. You should be able to use whatever ink you want, but at your own risk. Plus, some botched repairs can be passed off as failures. You zap your motherboard with static discharge, and then just pass it off as a motherboard failure. Of course getting warranty repairs is such a pain, I don’t know if this will increase them.

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