FTC warns big tech firms to stop voiding warranties for ‘unauthorised’ repairs

THE US FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC) has warned manufacturers to stop voiding warranties just because the customer has opened the back of the device.

Six companies have been warned, and we’re apparently not talking about small fries. In fact, chances are you have at least one product in your home right now, after all, they all “market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.”

“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 FTC points at two common techniques – firstly the idea that a warranty is void if you remove the little stickers protecting the back cover from being opened, that’s not cool.

Second, the idea that getting your device repaired by a third party should void your warranty has also been nixed as downright non-competitive. Ditto buying a device second hand while its still under warranty.

Although we don’t know for certain if Apple is one of the companies involved, we do know that it is notorious for trying this kind of shenanigan. Just yesterday we reported on how the use of third-party screen repairs was causing bricking on some iPhone 8 and 8 Plus devices.

The FTC has given those affected 30 days to get their house in order, to stop using the offending stickers and come up with a new policy which supports these marginalised users.

The ruling comes with a warning that “potential violations may result in law enforcement action.”

Although this ruling comes from the US, it is likely to affect the rest of the world too as it won’t be efficient to separate the production of devices just to make sure they don’t have a sticker on them.

Far more likely is that we’ve seen the last of those ‘void if removed’ stickers. We can hope, anyway. µ

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