Aggressive Advocates For Your Rights

Is your product's warranty void if you try to fix it yourself?

We've all seen the tags and stickers manufacturers put on products that say, "void if removed." Or, the warning may indicate that the warranty is no good if you try to repair the product yourself, or if you use parts from another manufacturer. Warranties can be limited in many ways, but those limitations are illegal -- and now the Federal Trade Commission is stepping in.

As we've discussed before on this blog, warranties are regulated by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC. That law prohibits manufacturers from making their warranties conditional on consumers using only that manufacturer's parts or services for repairs or routine maintenance.

"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," says the acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The law has been around since 1975, so manufacturers should be well aware of its provisions. However, many of them still include the limitation on their products or in their product literature. Therefore, the FTC recently sent out warning letters to six major manufacturers asking them to review their promotional and warranty materials and revise any that don't comply with the law. Failure to do so within 30 days may result in further enforcement actions, the agency said.

The FTC's press release about the action doesn't name names, although it does give examples of the problematic language:

  • 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.

However, the website Ars Technica found precisely that language on several company websites, including those of Nintendo and Sony PS4.

The upshot is that if you see a sticker that says you shouldn't remove it or your warranty is void, don't believe it.

If you have had warranty service denied for violating this kind of limitation, contact a consumer law attorney.

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