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FTC Gives Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo 30 Days To Get Rid of Illegal Warranty-Void-if-Removed Stickers (vice.com) 133

Matthew Gault, reporting for Motherboard: The Federal Trade Commission put six companies on notice in early April for illegally telling customers that getting third-party repairs voids the warranty on their electronics. You've seen the stickers before and read the messages buried in end user license agreements. Plastered on the back of my PlayStation 4 is a little sticker that says "warranty void if removed." That's illegal. Motherboard has obtained copies of the letters via a Freedom of Information Act request and has learned the names of the six companies that were warned. They are Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Hyundai, HTC, and computer hardware manufacturer ASUS. The letters were sent by Lois Greisman, the FTC's associate director of marketing practices, on April 9; the FTC has given each company 30 days to change its official warranty policies and says that it may take legal action against the companies.
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FTC Gives Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo 30 Days To Get Rid of Illegal Warranty-Void-if-Removed Stickers

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  • What a long name! They should shorten it to something like "ASUS".
  • by dhaen ( 892570 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @03:31PM (#56537546)
    Yes!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If I was Sony, I'd remove the sticker and the warranty along with it. If you can't guarantee the hardware hasn't been fucked with, you don't warranty it. Problem solved.
    • "If I was Sony, I'd remove the sticker and the warranty along with it. "

      If they remove the sticker, they lost the warranty anyway.

    • Re:Fine. (Score:5, Informative)

      by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @04:34PM (#56537958)

      Most Western countries have a minimum warranty period on electronics - the US is one of the few who don't.

    • If you think they are kicking up a stink about the sticker wait till they try that. That will be a straight to court thing, no warnings as most countries have laws about required consumer warranties.
    • Except that would be illegal.

      The onus is on Sony to prove someone else fucked with it.

    • Re:Fine. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2018 @03:01AM (#56540148)

      If I was Sony, I'd remove the sticker and the warranty along with it. If you can't guarantee the hardware hasn't been fucked with, you don't warranty it. Problem solved.

      This is an everyone wins scenario.

      Sony will feel like they did something. Corporationists will cheer at the triumph of corporations over evil governments. Americans will get someone to sue. And the rest of the world with mandatory warranties will be unaffected.

      Have at it.

  • Who done it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @03:40PM (#56537602) Homepage

    So if someone tampers with the product in an attempt to fix it, then shoves it off to the manufacture, are they still on the hook for warranty repair? It's my understanding that these stickers are validate that the manufacture is the first to make repairs and not having to fix someone else's "fuck ups".

    • Re: Who done it? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The manufacturer is off the hook if they prove that third party mods/f-ups caused the issue; otherwise, warranty is still valid. Magnuson Moss exists for this reason, and is the same reason a manufacturer cannot void a warranty due to mods that don't contribute to the problem (e.g. properly installed cone filter), although they'll still try to scare you.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      It's not illegal, the article is full of shit.
      br/>And, the FTC didn't say it was illegal, they included it among "questionable practices [ftc.gov]".

      What is illegal is basing warranty coverage on use of parts specified by trade name, unless replacement of those parts is free under the warranty. So, Ford can't say you have to use their oil and filters when changing oil (they can if they give free oil changes, though), and Hoover can't make you use their vacuum cleaner bags.

      That really doesn't apply to a PS4 - the
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      So if someone tampers with the product in an attempt to fix it, then shoves it off to the manufacture, are they still on the hook for warranty repair?

      Probably not, because you already framed the situation as the person had tampered with it. On the other hand, if instead of tampering with it, they maintained it or took it out and put it back in again, or did anything else that you can think of that you wouldn't describe as "tampering," then yes, the manufacturer would be liable for repairing their defect.

      Oo

      • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

        What happens if an unauthorized user sabotages a piece of junk by tampering with it, in order to circumvent a defect that was caused by negligent engineering, and they do it outside of the explicit terms of the illegally-phrased warranty that was written by a shyster who was hired to work as part of the manufacturer's legal team but only got the job due to their fraudulently deceptive resume?

        What if I told you the the piece of junk was sabotage because the user had an urgent need that the device was adverti

    • Manufacturers are not on the line to fix someone's fuckups. They are on the line to fix manufacturing defects that lead to early failure.

      Neither of those have anything to do with the right to modify equipment, and neither of those typically occur from the simple act of opening the case.

      The manufacturer may want to make the first repair, and more power to them. However someone else making a repair or merely looking under the hood is not grounds for a manufacturer to not offer warranty on their defects.

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      Tampers?

      It is my property right? When I repair my car am I tampering? When I repair my computer (I probably have far more experience then the tech who would do the warranty repair) am I tampering?

      Tamper,
      interfere with (something) in order to cause damage or make unauthorized alterations.

      Well nothing is unauthorized as I own the product so no, no tampering is done.
  • Louis Rossmann say that apple thinks that an 3rd party repaired apple system is now a pc and not an apple anymore.

  • Hyundai wants to pay $100 min for any dealer work and that's just for an estimate up front (was a few years ago may of went up)

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      What's the hourly rate set by your state/province? That's where it starts. Most businesses offer estimates free, most states and provinces have laws requiring estimates to be free as well.

  • I'm waiting for a judge somewhere in Hawaii to declare this "unconstitutional". Because #RESIST!

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @04:05PM (#56537776) Journal

    The relevant law appears to be 15 USC 2302 (c)

    Prohibition on conditions for written or implied warranty; waiver by Commission

    No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumerâ(TM)s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name;

    The FTC left out the parenthesized portion in their letter, and it seems to me it's relevant. If repair service is provided without charge under the terms of the warranty, it's exempt from this provision. But I don't know the case law on this.

    • I know you're not a lawyer but perhaps you should look up existing case law to find clarification for your interpretation of a law.

      If you break your phone screen by dropping something on it and the manufacturer provides free broken screen replacements, sure, perhaps they can predicate the warranty on using you having them replace your screen for free.

      They can't deny you warranty cover for any issues not relating to the screen if they don't give away free screens and you previously had your screen replaced b

    • Which parenthesized part? The one at the end of 15 USC 2302 (c) ?

    • Which only means that the free services are exempted. There are a lot of paid services and product upgrades that are not provided for free by the manufacturer. For example, replacing the hard drive in the PS4 would not void your GPU warranty. Opening up another device to blow out dust on the fan would not void the warranty.

  • A few years ago (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pem ( 1013437 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @04:36PM (#56537968)
    A few years ago I bought a really nice ASUS desktop from Fry's. I scraped off Windows and loaded Linux.

    But after a day and a half, the fan got really loud and stayed that way. (Not the CPU fan; it sounded like the chassis fan was rubbing on something.)

    So I unplugged everything, hefted the desktop up onto the work table, and.... encountered the sticker.

    Rather than opening it up, I took it back to Fry's and told them there was a problem with it. When I entered the store with it, they logged it and gave me a receipt I could use to take it back out of the store when I was finished at the service desk.

    At the service desk, I explained that since the sticker disallowed me from opening the computer up, I was contemplating bring it back for a refund, but that even if I kept it, it needed to be quited down. The dude booted it up, and told me that Linux was unsupported, so of course I couldn't bring it back -- I'd already voided the warranty by scraping Windows off.

    After a couple of minutes of fruitless conversation with him and his boss, I just left (having proof in my pocket that I had taken the machine in). I got Fry's registered agent's information from the secretary of state, and emailed them, explaining that, if I needed to, I would explain to the credit card company that I returned the machine at the store since it was malfunctioning, and then they could sue me in small claims court for whatever damage they claim I did to it. They caved and issued a full refund after a couple of weeks.

    • Re:A few years ago (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xenolith0 ( 808358 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @05:03PM (#56538120)

      I love the amount of effort some people put into returning defective items. Anytime I purchase something that breaks within it's warranty or return period, I'll make a half-hearted attempt to get it fixed through "proper channels". I'll take it back to the store, I'll contact customer service.

      But as soon they tell me, "You have to pay shipping and send it back to us, and if we can confirm it's defective we'll issue a refund.... yada yada yada". Then, then answer is "Nope." And I login into American Express's website, click dispute charge. Done problem solved.

      As a company, you have two options:
      1) Replace the defective item, and get the dead one back to deal with the manufacturer.
      2) Bullshit me, and then you can eat the cost of the dead item and not get it back.

      • It's so bizarre.

        My personal rule is pretty simple: treat me with respect and honesty, and honour your committment, and I will remain a fiercely loyal customer. I will spend lots of money with you to the exclusion of your competition, and try my best to convince others to do the same.

        Attempt to screw me, and I'll do exactly the same as above, except the opposite.

        I literally can't fathom why a vendor would choose to gamble that they can screw a customer without consequences.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I literally can't fathom why a vendor would choose to gamble that they can screw a customer without consequences.

          Because on balance screwing the customer is more profitable, at least in the short term.

          Retailer notices they are seeing a lot of returns that cost them money to process. Someone is charged with reducing returns. They do so by making the return process too difficult for most people to bother with. The few that end up costing them more don't outweigh the majority who just give up and get robbed.

          The manager who instigates this gets their bonus and then moves on. Five years down the line sales are lagging and

      • by pem ( 1013437 )
        I'm right there with you. Many credit card companies (and certainly Amex in particular) are awesome.

        But finding a registered agent and emailing them is not a lot of effort; usually about 5 minutes. (If it's a publicly-held company, I just go straight for the general counsel. His name is easy to find, and his email address is usually easy to find, as well, e.g. on a state bar association website.) And then if the thing ever winds up in a lawsuit or arbitration, you have really good evidence, from your

      • Why not go to the store. If it isfrom a website, it is not unreasonable for them to ask you pay shopment.
        And if it is so easy to block payment, why do it only with broken items?

  • When are they going to get around to my mattress tags? I can't stand those things!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't this sticker protect both the consumer and manufacture? I mean you could prove you never tampered with the product, and the manufacture had proof you did not too. Given a easy approval of warranty claim and this appears to be going away? I guess other means can be done to detect tampering which are being used today.

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