Regulators state that “warranty void if removed” stickers are absolute nonsense
Those little “warranty void if removed” stickers you see on the back of your PS4, TV, laptop and basically any electronic device you’ve bought could actually be against the law. US regulators have argued that these stickers break consumer rights laws, threatening you with voiding your device warranty terms if you decide you want to open up your purchase and have a poke around inside to fix the issue.
As reported by Motherboard, according to the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, no manufacturer can place restrictions on repairs on a device it offers a warranty on. Companies have been doing it for years anyway, with both Sony and Microsoft chief culprits for this, and now the FTC has had enough.
In a warning letter sent to six manufacturers, the FTC outlined its concerns around each of their company statements outlining how they state they have to use specified parts or service providers to retain their warranties. The FTC wrote in their letter that “Unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC, such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that governs consumer product warranties. Similarly, such statements may be deceptive under the FTC Act.”
Companies who continue to break these rules will be reprimanded via a fine and cease and desist letters. If it continues on past that point, courts become involved and the costs of breaking the law spiral ever upwards.
The FTC hasn’t actually revealed which six companies it sent letters to, but it did state that they “market and sell automobiles, cellular devices and video game systems in the United States.” The FTC also confirmed that any consumer device that costs more than $15 is covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, meaning that vast swathes of devices and manufacturers are affected by the FTC’s active enforcement.
“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,” said Thomas Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release.
What are my consumer warranty rights in the UK?
While this certainly sounds like great news for consumers, all of this only applies to the US. In the UK, things are slightly more complicated but, thanks to the EU, we’re reasonably well covered against faulty goods in or out of warranty. According to EU law, a manufacturer has to repair or replace a faulty good free of charge for a minimum of the first two years. If they can’t offer that, they need to give you a full or partial refund.
Difficulties arise around certain warranty issues. In the UK, as well as in Europe, a manufacturer does reserve the right to refuse a repair if it believes the warranty has been voided. Many manufacturers will still repair an item if there is a known fault with the product, or if the third-party repair – which voided the warranty – had no bearing on the fault in question. For instance, if your iPhone screen cracks and you get it repaired, only to find that a month or two later the headphone port stops working, Apple will fix it. If you get the screen replaced by a third party and then discover that the backlight no longer works, Apple won’t touch it.
If a manufacturer won’t touch your device because it’s out of warranty, but you know the fault is through no fault of your own, you can still invoke your statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act.
This means you can go to directly to the seller you bought your device from and request a refund or replacement from them.
Unfortunately, even this isn’t particularly straightforward. A retailer reserves the right to ask you to prove that there’s an inherent fault in the device and its breakage isn’t the result of damage through ownership.
While things are clearly more complex in the UK than in the US, here’s hoping the international nature of most of these manufacturers means they’ll become a little laxer in non-US territories.