The US Federal Trade Commission has sent out warnings to console manufacturers stating their warranty voiding stickers are illegal. The news comes from an official release from the FTC themselves. They have sent letters to six major manufacturing companies, including console manufacturers as well as phone and car manufacturing companies. While they do not name these companies, ArsTechnica concludes that Sony and Nintendo are amongst them. These stickers are the ones found inside consoles that void warranty if broken.
Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, states “Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,”.
Why are the stickers illegal?
While the stickers themselves are not outright illegal, it is the wording and conditions that are. The FTC provide examples from Nintendo and Sony, while redacting their names in the actual release.
- Nintendo’s warranty states that “this warranty shall not apply if this product is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.”
- Sony’s warranty states that “this warranty does not apply if this product… has had the warranty seal on the PS4™ system altered, defaced, and removed.”
It is the FTC’s belief that unless warrantors provide free repair services or replacement parts, statements like these are in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. As these warranty stickers deny the consumer’s right to third party or self repair services, the FTC consider them illegal.
What will happen because of this?
The FTC has helped open up companies strict control over console repairs. They will review the companies warranty statements within the next 30 days to see if changes were made. If companies do not correct any violations in this time, the FTC will take legal action. Hopefully this results in the removal of warranty stickers like these or at least an updated policy that excludes repairs.
While the exact legal wording will play a significant role in shaping the new warranties, at the very least this will open up console repairs to third parties and local businesses. Without the need to use Sony’s services or official Nintendo parts, anyone with the knowledge can repair consoles. This will allow for more competition and personalisation for services.
There is further potential to completely open up consoles. Modifications are an instant warranty voider. However, as consoles are no longer considered a set package that can only be manufactured and altered by the official companies, the potential for customisable consoles is opened up. Currently PS4 users can upgrade their console’s hard drive without voiding warranty, so why not more? While there is certainly a limit to this, there is definitely a market for custom faceplates and cosmetic modifications. Having these in line with warranty policies would open up these upgrades to both consumers and businesses.