If you've ever seen a sticker on a gadget claiming that removing it could void your warranty, the Federal Trade Commission would like you to know that practice is illegal.
Many devices have these stickers from manufacturers in an attempt to keep people from trying to fix their own devices or from having third parties fix them. The FTC says that it sent letters to "six major companies that market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States" to warn them about the stickers.
In its letter, the FTC told companies that their sticker practices go against the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act of 1975, which stipulates, among other things, that branded parts can't be required for a warranty to be valid. Additionally, these statements could be in violation of the FTC Act, designed to protect consumers from deceptive practices.
The FTC provided the following examples of "questionable" statements:
- The use of [company name] parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
- This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by [company name].
- This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the [product] altered, defaced, or removed.
"Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” Thomas B. Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement.
The contacted companies, which the FTC did not name, will have 30 days to update the warranty policies on their websites. This should hopefully lead to a trend that allows people to attempt to fix their own machines or use third-party repairs, while still being covered by the manufacturers' warranty.