The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent letters this week to six major companies containing warnings that using "warranty void if removed" or similarly worded stickers on their products is illegal.
The FTC said the six companies sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems, all industry verticals where such practices are rampant.
But besides the use of anti-tampering "warranty void if removed" stickers, the letters also warn companies against forcing customers into using replacement parts or repair services provided by certain companies for users to keep their warranties intact.
"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," said Thomas B. Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The FTC says that such practices are illegal under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that governs consumer product warranties, and which states that no company can put restrictions on the way users choose to repair their products.
The law says that companies can't force users to use only certain types of (astronomically-priced) replacement parts, take produces for repair jobs only at certain repair shops, or can't plaster anti-tampering stickers on products to prevent users from repairing their own products.
Over the past two decades, companies in the US have been ignoring this law and have been locking down products and repair practices, using "warranty voiding" as punishment for those users who make modifications to products or dare to find cheaper or faster ways of repairing products.
The FTC says this is illegal. The Commission plans to review the six companies it sent letters to after 30 days and see if they have dropped their current practices, threatening legal action if they did not.
The FTC also published an announcement on its website regarding the sending of these six letters as a warning shot for other companies engaging in similar practices, signaling a change in how it intends to approach and enforce product repairs practices from now on.
Image credits: Andrew Cosand