Watch Out for This Common — but ‘Illegal’ — Warranty Language

manufacturer label
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If you ever see a product label stating that you will void the product’s warranty if you break a seal or use unauthorized parts or service providers, know that you typically can ignore it.

It is generally illegal for companies to make the use of certain parts or services a condition of their product warranties, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said in an announcement this week.

In fact, the FTC just sent warning letters to six companies that the federal agency says have questionable warranty terms.

The FTC did not name the companies but described them as “major companies that market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.”

Examples of these companies’ warranty terms that the FTC is questioning include:

  • “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’s concerns about such language are based on the Magnum-Moss Warranty Act, a federal law that governs consumer product warranties. According to the FTC, it prohibits companies from making statements like the three above examples unless the companies provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the federal government.

It’s also possible that such statements would be considered deceptive under another federal law, the FTC Act.

So, the agency is giving the six companies 30 days to correct potential violations in their warranties or face possible legal action.

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