Warranty-void-if-removed stickers are one of the biggest barriers to fixing things yourself. You might want to go digging around inside your external hard drive to see why it just decided to die, but in doing so, you’ll probably have to pierce a small piece of foil and give up any hope of ever getting a working gadget back.
Companies argue that warranty stickers are necessary to ensure that no one has tampered with the inside of a device, causing unseen damage that isn’t the result of a product defect. But the result is an economy where items are far less likely to be repaired than just disposed, and a complete monopoly over the repair industry for the original manufacturer.
However, the actual legal enforcement of those warranty stickers has always been debated, and in a new letter, the FTC is taking the time to remind some companies that it doesn’t view the stickers as enforceable. Motherboard spotted an FTC press release in which the Commission announces it has sent letters to six companies, warning that their stickers are in violation of a longstanding law.
“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,” the release says. “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.”
If companies don’t update their policies on their websites within 30 days, the FTC said it will consider enforcement action against them. The move seems calculated to get a broader response than just six companies, however; With a public press release like this, the FTC is sending a long-overdue message to manufacturers and customers alike that warranty stickers just don’t work.