FTC orders manufacturers to cut it out with the unenforceable "Warranty Void if Removed" stickers

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/10/magnuson-moss-warranty-act.html


Pee-wee: What did you do?
Mickey: Well, I lost my temper and I took a knife and I uh—. Do you know those “Do Not Remove Under the Penalty of Law” labels they put on mattresses?
Pee-wee: Yeah.
Mickey: Well I CUT one of them off!
Pee-wee: Gee.
Mickey: Yeah, I have a real bad temper.
Pee-wee: Boy, I always thought that was the dumbest law.



You beat me to it. Justice for Mickey!


what’s it like in the Big House, Mickey?


Why should a manufacturer’s warranty still be in effect after an item was modified by a third party?

Uh, so what about those stickers that change color when they make contact with water?

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Presumably, in practice, because 15 USC 2302 (c) says so.

In principle; because ‘tying’ has an unsavory reputation as a restraint of trade; and threatening to void a warranty unless the user exclusively consumes your repair services and parts is pretty tying-y.

My understanding is that the warranty needn’t cover damage caused by a 3rd party attempt; any more than it need cover damage caused by other mistreatment; but merely being unauthorized doesn’t cut it.



Right, but once a third party has accessed the product, the concept of manufacturer defect becomes a game of he-said/she-said.

If the manufacturer uses authorized repair centers, they could simply issue replacement stickers to them. Otherwise, the third party repairer should offer a replacement warranty.

I’ve been stung by some really stupid claims of manufacturer defects, so I’m sensitive to this.

It might not be. But simply opening the case to see if theres an obvious problem also should not void the warranty. Most products have a legally mandated warranty period, which is meaningless if manufacturers can put arbitrary restrictions on that warranty.


Neither of your proposed remedies would have any effect on the tying problem:

“Authorized repair centers” differ from 1st party repair centers more as a matter of implementation than economic effect(indeed, it’s not uncommon for ‘vendor’ repair to be handled by vendor-chosen contractors rather than vendor employees), since the ‘authorization’ procedure would give the vendor considerable flexibility in ensuring that 3rd party repair is unviable, or pays them a cut, or is permitted to exist only in areas where maintaining 1st party service is seen as not worth the trouble.

“Replacement warranty” is a thing that 3rd parties can offer(either on their workmanship; or in an insurance-like arrangement on anything they are feeling optimistic about); but that’s orthogonal to the owner of the device in question losing the 1st party warranty for patronizing a 3rd party service provider. The law in no way prevents 3rd parties from offering warranties; it just forbids termination of warranties by the vendor.

As for the practical problems of he-said/she-said; I’m rather surprised that the relevant law still uses $15 as a cut-off value; I’d have expected it to have been bumped a bit since the act was passed; but it’s not exactly novel for a law to tolerate the risk of creating tricky situations that might need to be settled in court in order to achieve a broader objective. (Indeed, there are few laws that would survive if ‘must lead to unambigious outcomes’ were a requirement).

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At least some of those have the frankly dishonest tendency to slowly turn red under ambient humidity(of the sort quite typical even in temperate regions, not my monsoon mud slog stuff); but legally I’d expect them to be unaffected. 3rd party repair is an out-of-spec event that is specifically protected because of antitrust related concerns; but the vendor has no general obligation to treat out-of-spec treatment as covered by warranty (or to refrain from incorporating sensors to detect it); except to the degree that some minimum-required warranty or implied fitness for purpose or the like would probably look unkindly on a vendor who defined the routine circumstances of the purpose for which the device was sold as outside the bounds of warranty.

Sell a cellphone that isn’t supposed to be immersed? Sure. Sell a cellphone that needs to be kept in a dry nitrogen or argon atmosphere at STP at all times? Probably not going to fly(though some sort of exotic lab equipment probably could include that requirement, it’s a context thing not an “all the things must be rugged” mandate).


Let’s just think about that for a moment shall we? Imagine you buy a car with a 5 year warranty. The problem is that the radio is crud and so are the speakers. You upgrade them to something nice and go on with your life. Three years later your transmission fails and you take it to the dealership. Do you think “I’m sorry but your warranty was voided when you installed a radio” is a reasonable response?
Or perhaps you had a tune up done by your local mechanic who replaces the spark plugs with more efficient ones and now that failed water pump is no longer under warranty.


ISTR a sticker in my car that, if read literally, implied that using your cellphone in the car would void the warranty.

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N[quote=“fuzzyfungus, post:11, topic:118810”]
Indeed, there are few laws that would survive if ‘must lead to unambigious outcomes’ were a requirement
Nailed it. Even though it might be more convenient if the manufacturer didn’t have to actually make a case that the 3rd party was the one to cause the defect, voiding for opening the case is more of a burden on the consumer.

When the iPhone came out I thought that design was the end of repairibility. But the market responded and figured out ways to deal with the crazy seals.

In the end the manufacturer still has the upper hand because they can just deny the repair and the burden falls to the consumer to take them to court which hardly anyone does for a hundred dollar repair.

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