FTC Warns Companies ‘Warranty Void if Removed’ Stickers Are Flatly Illegal

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If you’ve ever purchased a game console or other piece of electronics gear, chances are you’ve seen a “Warranty Void if Removed” sticker stuck somewhere on the device. There’s typically a peel-away tape used to confirm whether a device has been opened. If it has, companies will often attempt to deny warranty claims.

What many people don’t realize is that this is illegal. The 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act made it illegal for companies to force users to only repair hardware using specific components or via “authorized” resellers. While companies are not required to offer warranties, if they do offer a warranty, they aren’t allowed to void it simply because the customer has the device repaired elsewhere. Companies are allowed to require you to ship the device to them for warranty service or to return it to the store you purchased it from, but they can’t void your warranty just because you repaired an unrelated problem yourself. The Mag-Moss Act states:

No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name.

We’ve covered this issue before, but the topic is back on the radar thanks to recent FTC action. The government agency announced it has sent warnings to six specific companies, notifying them that their continued use of “Warranty Void if Removed” stickers is in direct violation of federal law. They even wrote a song about it. I quote:

When the screen goes blue
And the car breaks down
And the smartphone keeps rebooting eternally
Consumers won’t be afraid
No, they won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand by your warranty.

(The song appears in an accompanying blog post as opposed to being part of the letter. Thank God the author isn’t relying on his scansion skills for job security).

PS4Feature

This practice isn’t unique to Microsoft. Image by iFixit

The FTC didn’t name which companies it contacted, but notes that the firms in question sell “automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.” The FTC does give three examples of offending warranty language, however, which let us hone in on some of the targets by searching for the text strings directly:

“The use of [company name] parts is required to keep your… manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.” = Hyundai.

“This warranty shall not apply if this product… is used with products not sold or licensed by” = Nintendo.

“This warranty does not apply if this product… has had the warranty seal on the [product] altered, defaced, or removed” = Sony.

The FTC continues:

FTC staff has requested that each company review its promotional and warranty materials to ensure that such materials do not state or imply that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specific parts of services. In addition, FTC staff requests that each company revise its practices to comply with the law. The letters state that FTC staff will review the companies’ websites after 30 days and that failure to correct any potential violations may result in law enforcement action.

Don’t put up with any BS from Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft (Microsoft has used the same types of warnings on the Xbox One). Your warranty is not void simply because you opened a box. They’re not allowed to tell you differently, and neither are firms like Apple (another likely recipient of one of these letters). This consumer-hostile bullshit is illegal, period, full stop. For more information on this topic and a breakdown of what actions can or cannot void a warranty, see this article.

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