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. The Federal Trade Commission says this is not allowed, and is in fact, 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.
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.