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FTC Warns Manufacturers That 'Warranty Void If Removed' Stickers Break the Law (vice.com) 143

schwit1 writes: The Federal Trade Commission put six companies on notice today, telling them in a warning letter that their warranty practices violate federal law. If you buy a car with a warranty, take it a repair shop to fix it, then have to return the car to the manufacturer, the car company isn't legally allowed to deny the return because you took your car to another shop. The same is true of any consumer device that costs more than $15, though many manufacturers want you to think otherwise.

Companies such as Sony and Microsoft pepper the edges of their game consoles with warning labels telling customers that breaking the seal voids the warranty. That's illegal. Thanks to the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, no manufacturer is allowed to put repair restrictions on a device it offers a warranty on. Dozens of companies do it anyway, and the FTC has put them on notice. Apple, meanwhile, routinely tells customers not to use third party repair companies, and aftermarket parts regularly break iPhones due to software updates.

FTC Warns Manufacturers That 'Warranty Void If Removed' Stickers Break the Law

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  • by bagofbeans ( 567926 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2018 @04:41PM (#56414451)

    "The use of" "parts is required to keep your" "manufacturerâ(TM)s warranties and any extended warranties intact"

    https://www.hyundaiusa.com/myhyundai/manuals-and-how-tos/Getfaq?faqId=2&category=Consumer_Awareness [hyundaiusa.com]

    "This warranty shall not apply if this product" "is used with products not sold or licensed by"

    https://www.nintendo.com/consumer/manuals/warrantytext_us.jsp [nintendo.com]

    "This warranty does not apply if this product" "has had the warranty seal on the" "altered, defaced, or removed."

    https://www.playstation.com/en-us/support/warranties/ps4/ [playstation.com]

    • Currently says (my enboldening):

      FAQs

      Why is it important to insist on Hyundai Genuine Parts?

      Choosing Hyundai Genuine Parts offers you better fit, finish, design, quality, safety, structural integrity, and resale value than alternative collision parts. The use of Hyundai Genuine Parts is required to keep your Hyundai manufacturer's warranties and any extended warranties intact. Finally, all new cars leased through Hyundai require that Genuine Parts be used for collision repairs.

      • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2018 @05:04PM (#56414573) Homepage Journal

        I believe in this case, they're inferring that "intact" means "complete" - so technically, if you swap your air cleaner assembly with an aftermarket version, that part would not be considered under warranty any more (even though the rest of the vehicle still is), and thus the warranty is no longer "intact."

        Basically, they're using weasel wording to imply a complete loss of warranty even when that's not the case. Shitty way to treat your customers.

      • It's like they never heard of the Magnuson-Moss Act.

        Or they just hope their customers have never heard of it.

        • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert@slashdot.fi ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday April 10, 2018 @10:51PM (#56416007) Homepage

          Similar things happen everywhere there are consumer protection law...
          For instance in europe someone who sells you a product is required to provide a 2 year guarantee, but most manufacturers will loudly advertise a 1 year guarantee and then in small print "your statutory rights are not affected", meaning that the 1 year guarantee is a service provided by the manufacturer and unrelated to the one you get by law. They will then intentionally not train their support staff on the legislation, knowing that most customers are unaware of the law and won't assert their rights. Those who do know their rights usually have to push to be escalated to someone higher up who does understand the law.

          • Wasn't Apple slapped down recently for not honouring the statutory 2-year warranty on electronics?

      • and oil changes become Genuine Parts at the dealer only each 3000 miles.

      • "... Finally, all new cars leased through Hyundai require that Genuine Parts be used for collision repairs"

        Never leased a car, but I assume Hyundai actually owns the vehicle. Seems reasonable that they can dictate how it is repaired. No?

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Never leased a car, but I assume Hyundai actually owns the vehicle. Seems reasonable that they can dictate how it is repaired. No?

          Correct. That's the only difference, in the law because they still own the vehicle and expect to get a return after the lease with a post-lease sale. Most auto companies have something of a 2yr "used car warranty" program for those post-lease sales too. There's also a cost advantage, since if the part fails in-warranty or there's a recall it can be written off directly by the company in-house instead of having to get the paperwork from a 3rd party supplier.

        • Well, then it's case closed. I mean, when have you ever felt that you actually own a console (or hell, a game) you bought? DRM is at the point where you should be lucky that it at least plays... at least for the time the maker allows it to, that is.

    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2018 @08:36PM (#56415527)
      The comment about Apple also needs rewording:

      aftermarket parts regularly break iPhones due to software updates

      It should say:

      Apple regularly breaks iPhones via software updates if aftermarket parts are detected

      This isn't accidental breakage, this is by design from Apple.

      • This isn't accidental breakage, this is by design from Apple.

        Have some kind of information to back that up? Yesterday's Slashdot story on the topic had no information about what exactly caused third party displays to stop working with the latest software update. For all we know, it was a security patch with an unintended side effect.

        • Yeah, right.

          And I tripped and fell getting out of the shower while washing my friend's bondage gear and somehow landed directly on one of those horse-cock shaped mega-dildos that randomly pop up all over the place. And that is why I am sporting these wet red leather chaps, my arms and torso are wrapped in this PVC straight jacket with nipple cutouts, there's a bondage hood covering my head, topped by an adulterated gas mask, the intake hose of which is duct taped to a mason jar full of amyl nitrate, and I

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You cannot take a Tesla to any repair shop you want. You have to take it to Tesla’s shop or else they will void your warranty.

    • by Lab Rat Jason ( 2495638 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2018 @04:48PM (#56414495)

      I'm a big fan of Tesla and what they are doing... but I totally agree with you. They can't be exempted from this just because they make cool stuff.

  • John Deere tractors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2018 @04:48PM (#56414491)

    They appear to be an exception to this rule at the moment. [wired.com]

    Here's hoping the FTC takes notice of them, finally.

  • Who is Ajit Pai's peer at the FTC? We need to start piling up the hate on him too for choosing KKKorporate interests over those of the People!!!

    Oh, wait...

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      More like: once this catches Trump's attention (i.e., after a few CEOs raise hell) this guy will be forced out and will be replaced with a more conservative dope (probably someone who's on record as wanting to abolish the FTC)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        More like: once this catches Trump's attention (i.e., after a few CEOs raise hell) this guy will be forced out and will be replaced with a more conservative dope (probably someone who's on record as wanting to abolish the FTC)

        Just curious, is EVERYTHING Trump's fault in your world?

        • Not everything. He ain't been in office long enough for that.

          But it's curious, a lot of things that he did backfired badly.

  • I can understand the use of these stickers on something like a mechanical hard drive, where opening the cover allows dust in which could damage it. I can't think of many other cases where it's warranted though.

    • I think the original idea of the stickers was to keep users from mucking around in their own devices trying to fix something and just breaking it worse. So the warranty would be voided in those cases. But I am sure plenty of companies use that excuse to also block third-party repairs since they too would have to break the seal.
    • by trg83 ( 555416 )
      Maybe a sticker that holds the pin on your grenade in place? :D
    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      I think the HDD company could legitimately point at that as being the cause of a failure. This is true on cars also, massive changes to the engine could void the warranty - or at least put the customer in the position where they'd need a court case where the manufacturer demonstrated that it could be reasonably determined as the cause.
  • That's great that the stickers are unlawful (as they should be) but what about things like fingerprint scanners on cell phones?

    IIRC, there was an issue with Apple where the iPhone fingerprint lock wouldn't work if it was removed/replaced by a third party. This seems like a reasonable restriction from the customer's perspective.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by saider ( 177166 )

      That is likely a security "feature" to prevent an attacker from using a fingerprint "spoofer" to gain access to the device. So they probably signed the hardware so only that specific sensor can work with that particular phone. Allowing the user to pair an unknown sensor would make the signing stuff pointless. If you force people to bring it into an apple store, maybe you can reduce demand for stolen and hacked phones since they wont work.

      That might be their thought process anyway.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        If the screen breaks and you no longer need the fingerprint lock, is there a way to reacquire access to the phone without paying Apple to replace the screen?

      • Nice logic but it disables the button too. There is absolutely no logic in saying disabling a simple button is necessary for security. The phones already have a security feature to disable them if stolen or too many password attempts are used and it dosent require the fingerprint sensor or the home button.
      • Oh please, their own hardware is so easily fooled that anything you could replace it with can only be an improvement in security.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apple doesn't need stickers. They just use glue and impossible manufacturing methods

    • Apple doesn't need stickers. They just use glue and impossible manufacturing methods

      Come suspended in Carbonite like Han Solo they soon shall be, yes.

      Strat

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Can already be done with epoxy heat bonding, Ford was famous for doing it with the transaxle computer.

  • Surely just using the device voids the warranty?
  • I remember hearing a looooong time ago that this feature,

    no manufacturer is allowed to put repair restrictions on a device it offers a warranty on

    has been interpreted by the courts to mean that when a manufacturer offers either repair or replacement under warranty, they can't then state "at our option" because it limits the consumer's choices (even though many manufacturers do just that). And thus, that a consumer can, with sufficient motivation and resources, force a manufacturer to exercise the option the consumer wants rather than what the manufacturer selects.

    Can anyone verify that my reco

    • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
      I cannot confirm that as a requirement. However, I know I read a warranty recently that said they would repair/replace at their discretion unless you explicitly state you want it repaired. I can't imagine them adding that last part, unless they had to by law or large enough consumer demand.
      • . . . I read a warranty recently that said they would repair/replace at their discretion unless you explicitly state you want it repaired. I can't imagine them adding that last part, unless they had to by law or large enough consumer demand.

        Perhaps it gives the manufacturer an out by having either 'Their Discretion' or 'Repair', which together make an "A or A -type of choice". Just guessing.

        • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
          A company saying they'll repair or replace at their discretion means they'll pick the cheapest option to get you a working product back. A company that says that, but then offers to let you request a repair, means they'll pick the cheaper option unless you stipulate repair. A company usually won't blatantly offer the more expensive option like that, without a reason. That reason might be due to regulations as had been suggested above. It could also be that they get enough feedback from consumers that it's i
          • by jbengt ( 874751 )
            Or it could be because the expensive part they're replacing is "no longer in stock" and the warranty lets them use cheaper replacement parts.
            • Or it could be because the expensive part they're replacing is "no longer in stock" and the warranty lets them use cheaper replacement parts.

              Or unsold overstock running up to a new 'improved' product launch. Or for some time after, since 3-yr warranties are out there.

  • It seems like exactly the kind of legislation that would never get passed in almost any era and would have been heavily lobbied against by nearly every US manufacturer. In 1975, the lack of easy access to data on pending bills, etc, also seems like it would have been easier to quietly kill a bill like this.

    It also seems like the kind of bill that companies almost could have rallied their employee unions' to oppose, too. "This bill will cost us millions and we will be forced to cut jobs."

    I suppose to corol

  • ... aftermarket parts regularly break iPhones due to software updates

    Software updates regularly break iPhones that contain aftermarket parts.

    If the aftermarket part worked with a previous version of the OS, there's no excuse for it NOT working with a newer version. I'm pretty sure Apple breaks far more phones than aftemarket parts do.

    • by flink ( 18449 )

      Software updates regularly break iPhones that contain aftermarket parts.

      If the aftermarket part worked with a previous version of the OS, there's no excuse for it NOT working with a newer version. I'm pretty sure Apple breaks far more phones than aftemarket parts do.

      There are plenty of non-nefarious reasons why a software update might cause an aftermarket component to fail. For example - Apple specs an I/O chip for the screen digitizer that can respond to an interrupt in 10ms. However, currently there is some slow microcode in the I/O pipeline and the observed timing is more like 30ms.

      Aftermarket manufacturers use the observed timings (because they don't have access to the design documents), and produce a replacement screen with an interrupt response tolerance of 20ms

  • Mfg Response: Fine, we just won't offer warranties at all then.
    • Lots of things have implied/mandatory warranties, which may exceed those offered by the manufacturer.

      In the US it's a mess of state-based law, in Australia it's federal and Apple was shocked to discover that a 1 year warranty on a "premium priced" item wasn't sufficient.

      One option is winding up the business if you have a lot of unaffordable warranty claims in your foreseeable future... works well for a used car yard, not so well for Apple.

    • No problem. Unless you want to sell anything over here in Europe because simply saying "selling this as-is, no warranty, if you break it, you get to keep both parts and that's that" works for software, but nothing else.

  • Had a damaged disc drive from a drop and wouldn't read games so I took it to a local repair shop.
    Local repair shop couldn't get the parts required to fix it.
    Subsequently discovered fall damage was covered by warranty sent the Xbox one to Microsoft and was informed that they would not repair it at any price because the sticker had been removed by the local repair shop to inspect the damage.

    Iirc ended having to mail it off to a professional place in Texas who was able to fix it for about $179

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And that is illegal. You should, at the very least, file a complaint with the FTC. They don't have a specific category on their complaint form (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/) for Magnuson-Moss violations, but you can still file one.

      If you're in a state that has a small claims court and you're not past the statute of limitations, consider suing MS. They're unlikely to fight it, you'll probably get your $179 and court costs back. Yes, it's too small to hire a lawyer unless you want to bring a cla

  • Please rephrase "and aftermarket parts regularly break iPhones due to software updates" to "IPhone software upgrades regularly break aftermarket parts".

  • People keep buying these products from these obviously shady companies. Yes I'm talking about you Apple. You are a shady company.

    You may have fooled the sheeple with your flashy ads and catchy marketing, but you're peddling garbage that breaks easily, can't be serviced by design and generally is inferior products at a premium price.

    There was a time when I had some shreds of sympathy for people who purchased Apple gear and thought they were buying premium hardware but were really getting substandard crap a

  • There are items which when opened in improperly equipped repair shops should not be covered by warranties. Disk drives and CPUs come to mind. If I open a rotating platters disk drive looking for what is wrong the dust and debris that invades the drive renders it's operation extremely iffy. Such warranty seal breakage should be exempt. If somebody asks a third party to repair it then the third party should warrant the repair.

    On the other hand opening the back of a TV set exposes nothing to dust or dirt damag

  • Back in the 90s I worked as a field tech for PC hardware - everything from printers to laptops to monitors. Name brands like Dell, HP, Apple, and so on. I had manufacturer training courses and was supplied with the special tools, and special phone numbers for support.

    I was never told to look for those stickers, which often appeared across seams you'd open if you needed to access the devices. They were never mentioned once. I also did not have any way to even get hold of them if I wanted to replace one a

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