Console Makers Warned About Warranty Restrictions

The FTC sent out warnings to game console makers about their deceptive warranty conditions.

News by Nadia Oxford, .

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 won't name names, but we can take a few guesses at the accused.

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.

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Comments 4

  • Avatar for mattcom26 #1 mattcom26 5 months ago
    Microsoft still owes me my Rainbow Six disk, accidentally left in my (first) red ring of death console.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #2 SatelliteOfLove 5 months ago
    Take THAT John Deere!
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  • Avatar for qwilman #3 qwilman 5 months ago
    @SatelliteOfLove yeah this was my first reaction too, this has been a big-deal thing for farmers for a while now
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #4 donkeyintheforest 5 months ago
    This is an interesting announcement. While I am wholly against companies like Apple and John Deere lobbying for laws that make repair or modification of your own hardware illegal, I don't know if "This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by [company name]" should be considered completely out of the question.

    I guess I just don't know enough about how different companies are held responsible for warranty issues. Does this mean that if someone buys a cheap/faulty 3rd party USB-C AC adapter and it fries a Switch, then Nintendo is responsible? Would they then be responsible for pursuing reimbursement from the company that made the faulty adapter to cover the costs of repairing that customer's fried switch? What if it wasn't intended to be used for switch, but was used anyways?

    It would seem to me that if the statements:

    "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]."

    were no longer acceptable, than someone could do a hardware mod to their console to sideload games and then if it bricked after a firmware update, it would still be under warranty. Would Nintendo then be responsible for making firmware updates that are compatible with all potential hardware mods? I could see them getting around that claiming that user violated the EULA and thus warranty by violating copyright laws, but if the side loaded content was just homebrew/shareware, etc it could open a whole can of worms. One that I'm not entirely sure I want to stay closed, but I selfishly like not having to worry about the hardware in my consoles (that's what PCs are for).
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