The FTC won’t let them be, and it’s about time.
If you’ve experienced the anguish of having a beloved electrical device conk out on you, you’ll be more than a little familiar with the ominous portents advising against tampering with, or opening up your hardware to fix it, on punishment of voiding the warranty. It turns out that making such threats with certain phrasing is illegal, and the FTC has contacted a number of perpetrators to ask them to stop.
“FTC staff has concerns about the companies’ statements that consumers must use specified parts or service providers to keep their warranties intact,” reads the FTC’s statement, sent to six anonymous companies. “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.”
The FTC has sent out letters to “six major companies” guilty of keeping such policies, including car, mobile phone, and video game console manufacturers.
The three examples of warranty-voiding language given by the FTC doesn’t name the offenders, but Ars Technica has noted the language used in the examples greatly resembles the warranty language used by Hyundai, Nintendo, and Sony.
“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.
The companies involved have been asked to revise any documentation alluding to a void of warranty “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.”
They have 30 days to sort themselves out. Failure to do so may result in legal action.
IGN has reached out Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, about whether they were sent this letter and if the companies are planning to alter their void warranty policies at all. Microsoft has declined to comment. Sony and Nintendo have yet to repond at this time.