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FTC slams companies that require repairs using certain parts or vendors to maintain a warranty

Image: VectorStock
Image: VectorStock
In a statement made yesterday, the Federal Trade Commision stated that it had sent warnings to six major manufacturers of cars, mobile phones, or video game consoles. The warning stated that policies requiring users to repair their products via a preset list of vendors or replacement parts in order to maintain a product's warranty is, in fact, illegal.

Right to Repair advocates, rejoice! The FTC stated yesterday that they have sent warnings to six companies that have “conditioned warranties.” In other words, specific companies have been called out for voiding warranties on products that are repaired through unapproved vendors or with unapproved parts.

As reasoning for its action, the FTC cited the Mag-Moss Warranty Act. This Act says that the warrantors of consumer products cannot condition their warranties to force repairs via an approved list of vendors or parts. Put another way, this Act allows consumers to keep their warranties valid after they repair their product, no matter the parts or people they choose to use for the repair.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are in favor of the consumers. A company can void a warranty if repairs are made outside of their list if they provide parts or services for free to consumers or if the company gets a waiver directly from the FTC. It should be noted that the FTC only grants waivers if the company can prove beyond any doubt that the product in question will only function if a specific part is used and if the waiver is a benefit to the public.

There was language in the six unnamed companies’ warranties that spurred the FTC into action. Some of the warranties in question had phrases that blatantly stated a warranty would be voided if consumers didn’t use parts sold or licensed by the company.

Interestingly, the FTC notified a company or companies that had language stating that a warranty would be voided if the warranty seal on a product was “altered, defaced, or removed.” That would include “warranty void if broken” seals that appear on some laptop brands and other electronic devices. This means that users would be able to break a seal in order to make a repair without fear of voiding a warranty. Keep in mind, however, that the seal would have to be broken for a legitimate repair; this ruling may or may not cover upgrades that break a seal. MSI (a company known for using such labels on their laptops) has told us that they will soon stop using void stickers over screws holding on maintenance hatches, opting instead for black circular seals. 

While the FTC didn’t list the companies by name, they did state that these were businesses that sold “automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems.” The FTC suggested that these companies revise the language in their warranties to fall in line with the Mag-Moss Warranty Act. Any company that fails to follow this order within 30 days may face “law enforcement action.”

So score one for the DIYers out there. If you need to make a repair, it looks like you can find third-party parts or employ a repair person of your choice without any fear of voiding a warranty.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 04 > FTC slams companies that require repairs using certain parts or vendors to maintain a warranty
Sam Medley, 2018-04-12 (Update: 2018-04-12)