FTC Tells Companies Their ‘Warranty Void if Removed’ Stickers Are Bogus

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The Federal Trade Commission has issued an bold ruling, and advised companies to stop sticking “Warranty Void if Removed” on their products. The policy of intimidating customers with the abstract threat of voiding warranties isn’t actually enforceable and the FTC wants companies to stop pretending like the policy is legitimate.

“The government agency announced Tuesday that it sent letters to six major companies to warn that their warranty policies,” Gizmodo writes, “which prohibit owners from removing a label or using third-party parts and tools, are prohibited by law and could be considered deceptive under the FTC Act.”

This is welcome news to those of us who like to know how things work.

There are other threats the FTC wants to do away with, too, and they provided some hypothetical example of the wording.

“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.”

Six companies received the letters, but the FTC hasn’t said which six. The policy, though, will influence many companies.

The FTC did indicate that letters went to at least one maker of video game systems. “It’s a reasonable bet that Microsoft and Sony found a letter from the FTC in their mailboxes,” Gizmodo speculates. “Both companies have plastered stickers on their consoles—the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively—that warn the factory warranty will be void if the device casing is opened.”

The ruling from the FTC is new, but the enforcement of the policy is not. Back in 1975, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act forced companies to enforce warranties on products that, before, had strict repair restrictions. The only way that companies could get around this was to provide repair work and parts for free.

“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,” Thomas Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote in a statement.

The affected companies have 30 days to comply, or the FTC may pursue legal action.