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FTC: You Can’t Void a Warranty by Breaking a Seal

We've all purchased products that have a little sticker on the back that says something along the lines of "warranty void if removed." Or you actually read the manual or visit a product website where it states any warranty is void if you don't carry out repairs using official parts and service providers. Well, it turns out such demands and claims are illegal, and the FTC is taking action against such practices.

In a post on the FTC website, the Federal Trade Commission details how it has sent warning letters to six major companies who market and sell "automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States." In each case, the company states its products must not use unauthorized parts or service, be used with products not sold or licensed by the company, or have had a warranty seal altered, defaced, or removed.

Limiting a warranty based on any of those restrictions is actually illegal in the US, classes as deceptive under the FTC Act, and is prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The six companies in question have been asked by the FTC in the letter to review their promotional and warranty material, "to ensure that such materials do not state or imply that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specific parts of services." 30 days from now, the FTC will carry out a review and "law enforcement action" if the relevant changes have not been made.

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There are only two scenarios where such warranty rules can apply. The first is if the authorized parts and services will be offered for free, and the second is if the FTC grants a waiver for a product. As we are talking about cellular devices, video games hardware, and vehicles, neither of those scenarios is realistic.

The names of the companies receiving the FTC letter have not been revealed, but it's not hard to guess. There's one company in particular that makes it very hard to open up its devices and is quite strict about not honoring a warranty if it sees any evidence of so-called (perfectly legal) tampering.

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