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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, April 15, 2018 1:00 am

Warranty warning stickers illegal, FTC says

Hayley Tsukayama | The Washington Post

If worries about voiding your warranty have ever kept you from trying to repair your own electronics, or from visiting the cheap repair shop on the corner, the government has some good news for you.

The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that warning stickers that say people will void their warranties are not only meaningless, but also illegal. These types of stickers are common on many electronics – for example, if you try to open an Xbox One X, you'll find a black sticker over one of the screws; Microsoft has cited the sticker's absence as a reason to reject people's warranty claims in the past. Sony's PlayStation has a sticker that says, “Warranty void if seal damaged.”

The agency said it sent letters about the labels to six “major” companies that make game consoles, automobiles and cellular devices. The FTC did not name the companies that received the letters.

The agency said that these types of messages are in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits companies from putting repair limits on warranties, and they may also violate rules against false representation.

Consumer groups have criticized several companies, including Apple, Sony and Microsoft for using these types of warnings – or for telling consumers that third-party repairs will violate a warranty. Sony and Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Many states have considered “right-to-repair” bills that, among other measures, would make it clear that companies can't punish consumers for making their own repairs.

Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, said the FTC's announcement reaffirms consumer rights. “Of course correctly repairing products yourself doesn't void the warranty. If you break your phone's screen, you should have options outside of Apple for repairing it,” he said. “I'm glad that the FTC is cracking down on these abusive practices. We should be able to maintain our own hardware without fear of retaliation.”

The FTC offered a few examples of terms of service claims that violate the law, including:

• 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.

The FTC declined to say what could happen to companies that continue to use these warnings.