FTC warns console makers, others, about deceptive “Warranty Void If Removed” stickers

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Most of us have seen them before, the dreaded “Warranty Void If Removed” or “tamper-proof” stickers that are placed over screws, seams, and other strategic points on computers, consoles and other electronic devices. What many of us may not know is that it is actually illegal to do so, according to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act passed back in 1975. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act “does not require any product to have a warranty (it may be sold “as is”), but if it does have a warranty, the warranty must comply with this law. The law was created to fix problems as a result of manufacturers using disclaimers on warranties in an unfair or misleading manner” (via Wikipedia).

As a result, the FTC has taken note that various companies, including those that sell video game consoles (presumably Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo), are in violation of this Act and have sent letters to six companies in the U.S. who use the “Warranty Void If Removed” sticker practice. The stickers don’t always say “Warranty Void If Removed” but may leave a montage of “void” across the surface of the device when specific stickers are removed which indicates the same thing. There are many legitimate reasons to open up a computer or other device in order to upgrade memory, a hard drive, or any number of other reasons and there’s no doubt that these stickers can confuse consumers and even cause hesitation for opening up your devices for fear of not being able to send it in for warranty repairs should something unrelated fail.

You can read the full FTC release below:

The Federal Trade Commission staff has sent warning letters to six major companies that market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.

The letters warn that FTC staff has concerns about the companies’ statements that consumers must use specified parts or service providers to keep their warranties intact. Unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC, such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that governs consumer product warranties. Similarly, such statements may be deceptive under the FTC Act.

Each company used different language, but here are examples of questionable provisions:

  • 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.

“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,” said Thomas B. Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

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.

What do you think about the FTC’s warning about the “Warranty Void If Removed” stickers that adorn most electronics? Do you think it will make a difference? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

[button link=”https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/04/ftc-staff-warns-companies-it-illegal-condition-warranty-coverage” icon=”fa-external-link” side=”left” target=”blank” color=”285b5e” textcolor=”ffffff”]Source: FTC[/button]

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