We’re afraid of warranty stickers, but really, manufacturers should be
written by Kay Kay Clapp Director of Communications at iFixit.
According to a survey published today by consumer group U.S. PIRG, 45 out of 50 appliance manufacturers automatically void the warranty of a device if it has undergone “unauthorized” repair. And worse, they aren’t even upfront about it: 31 of the companies surveyed discourage independent repair in the language of their warranty, but don’t explicitly disclose whether or not doing so actually voids the warranty. PIRG reached out to the customer service teams at each of these organizations and found that 28 of them would still automatically void a warranty. They even included a couple of screenshots from a customer support chat with leading appliance brand Bissel, where they asked point-blank:
“So independent repair would void the warranty?”
“That is correct.”
Warranty agreements exist largely to give manufacturers a monopoly on repairing your stuff. And their scare tactics are working: When I talk to people—at repair events, on our site, in the comments of our Youtube videos—their number one fear about trying a repair for the first time is that they’re afraid of voiding their warranty. That fear has translated into a fear of fixing our stuff—and it’s become so deeply ingrained in us that we’ve become increasingly disconnected from our stuff.
If I had a nickel for every time I came across a “warranty void if removed” sticker, I could easily buy the newest iPhone. . . .
Most consumers don’t know that these stickers are actually illegal—and that’s because manufacturers don’t want you to [know that]. Under the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the Feds mandated that you can open your electronics without voiding the warranty, regardless of what the language of your warranty says. That makes all of that inconsistent (albeit crafty) language used by the 50 manufacturers surveyed by the U.S. PIRG illegal.
Manufacturers have been waging a quiet war against tinkerers for years. . . .
Up until April of this year, manufacturers have enjoyed this repair-monopoly uncontested. But consumers found their first warranty win when the FTC sent letters to six major manufacturers warning them to knock that “warranty void” s[tuff] off. A small victory in the ongoing battle for the right to fix our stuff, but apparently not enough to scare manufacturers from scaring us out of our right to repair.
We’re lending the FTC a hand in giving those manufacturers a fright—by re-opening our #VoidIfRemoved contest. . . .
We want everyone to know that warranty stickers are just crafty trickery from manufacturers. Don’t fall for it. The Feds have granted you a license to tinker—now let’s make sure we use it.
Excerpts from a great article from the cool folks at IFixIt (IFixIt.org)
The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) offers consumers a great free tool to download and review before shopping for a motor vehicle. You can access the app on your desktop or laptop by going to www.USLemonLawLawyers.com. Or take it with you to the dealer's by downloading it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store (Android).
I was impressed by Ms. Gunderson's wish to help her readers and explain things to them correctly -- a difficult task when writing about the law in the few words allowed in a column. I wrote her a note thanking her for mentioning me, and added two suggestions: One, we didn't discuss the small claims court limit, so I didn't know she had found something with the old, lower limit of $7,500. The current limit for small claims court is $10,000. Second, I wish I had thought of NACA.net when we spoke and she asked me how consumers could find an attorney to help with a defective product or service. NACA -- National Association of Consumer Advocates -- attorneys are likely to be much more experienced in handling consumer problems, and NACA attorneys (like me) are all committed on the consumer side of things: to join NACA, you have to agree that you won't represent any business against a consumer.
John Gear is a Salem attorney in solo practice