If you own electronics, you've probably noticed the market for cellular devices, video game systems, and other hardware is gradually becoming less friendly towards people who want to repair or upgrade their machines by themselves. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has noticed. It sent out warning letters to six companies (including unnamed video game companies) that have been telling consumers their warranties become void if they repair devices using third-party parts or services.
The FTC's press release, which it distributed earlier this week, states the warning letters are meant to remind manufacturers they're not allowed to void warranties if consumers don't use specified parts or services. "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," the press release reads.
The FTC's press release highlights three examples of unidentified companies "questionable provisions:"
- "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."
The FTC press release concludes the offenders have 30 days to correct potential violations. If the problems remain unaddressed, "law enforcement action" may ensue.
Some states have been struggling to pass "Right to Repair" bills that make it mandatory for tech hardware manufacturers to ensure consumers can perform their own repair jobs (one glance at an iPhone makes it clear Apple never wants you to open the dang thing yourself; instead, repairs generally need to be done through Apple itself).
Manufacturers and companies involved with tech have been pushing back against these bills, including the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Last year, a representative for the ESA told Kotaku the tools and information freed up by Right to Repair legislation would "sidestep consoles' digital protection assets" and "invite unethical individuals to break the law and encourage widespread theft of video games and proprietary information."
As anyone who lived through the Xbox 360 Red Ring Epidemic knows, shipping your console to a manufacturer for repair is a huge hassle. Moreover, it's quite rare for a manufacturer to be as magnanimous as Microsoft was during that event. Microsoft replaced the burnt-out Xbox 360s for free, but in most instances you're expected to pay inflated prices on parts that need replacing.