Warranty Void If Removed: FTC Warns Stickers Are Illegal
by: The Knowledge Group
Chances are you’ve seen a “warranty void if removed” sticker if you’ve ever bought an electronic good to warn you against having your item fixed by a third party. Yet the Federal Trade Commission is challenging the use of these ubiquitous stickers.
The FTC recently reported that it has written to six different companies that manufacture mobile devices, cars, and video game consoles to caution them against using misleading and deceptive language on their stickers that is likely to be considered illegal in the United States.
The FTC cited the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act that regulates consumer product warranties, and states that companies can’t restrict their owners from having their devices repaired with third parties unless they themselves provide free parts or services. Tying warranty coverage to the use of a product can negatively impact on consumers and businesses as well as competitors in the market. Thus demanding that customers use specific parts or service providers in order to keep their warranties intact is prohibited.
The FTC gave numerous examples of contentious provisions in warranty documents. Stickers stating “warranty void if removed can be found on a variety of different products in an effort to deter owners and third party service providers. In some cases, the stickers cover screws that allow someone to open up the device and inspect or repair its internal components. The stickers can also signify when a consumer has attempted an unauthorized repair.
The warranty stickers are commonly used on consumer electronics, though there isn’t clarity that the laws cover items that are cheaper than cars. Though the FTC letters are explicit about the coverage of electronic devices as long as they don’t cost more than $15.
The FTC has given the companies that it issued letters to 30 days to respond. While they did not name the companies specifically, they have asked them not to specifically state or imply that warranty coverage is conditional on any specific parts or services. The companies will be reviewed after 30 days and if after that time they have not corrected the violations then they could be subject to law enforcement action.