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How Sony, Microsoft, and Other Gadget Makers Violate Federal Warranty Law (vice.com) 189

Reader citadrianne shares a Motherboard article: There are big "no trespassing" signs affixed to most of our electronics. If you own a gaming console, laptop, or computer, it's likely you've seen one of these warnings in the form of a sticker placed over a screw or a seam: "Warranty void if removed." In addition, big manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, and Apple explicitly note or imply in their official agreements that their year-long manufacturer warranties -- which entitle you to a replacement or repair if your device is defective -- are void if consumers attempt to repair their gadgets or take them to a third party repair professional. What almost no one knows is that these stickers and clauses are illegal under a federal law passed in 1975 called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act . To be clear, federal law says you can open your electronics without voiding the warranty, regardless of what the language of that warranty says.
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How Sony, Microsoft, and Other Gadget Makers Violate Federal Warranty Law

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  • warranty length (Score:3, Insightful)

    by greenfruitsalad ( 2008354 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:06AM (#52406493)

    the more annoying thing is, that for a device this expensive, the warranty is only 1 year long. apple even tried to bring that crap to EU. fortunately, apart from UK, the whole EU has 2 year warranty on everything.

    • My Apple //e had a 90-day warranty. Ninety days. It has worked flawlessly for 30 years. I bet you won't be able to say the same thing about your modern electronics.
      • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:31AM (#52406713)

        My Apple //e had a 90-day warranty. Ninety days. It has worked flawlessly for 30 years. I bet you won't be able to say the same thing about your modern electronics.

        I was born w/o any warranty and am still here 53 years later. Everything still works pretty well too. Lucky enough that the case hasn't ever had to be opened.

      • considering everything is "connected" now so that they can harvest your varies habits and use them to their advantage, most stuff will just stop working when they decided there's no more money to be made from it and shuts down the server (Nest comes to mind...) The servers would've gone offline long before any of the component fails.

      • Probably came with a circuit diagram so you could repair it yourself
      • by puto ( 533470 )
        Let me know when that Apple 2 could render a video, play a song, and allow web browsing, all while transfering files at a high rate of speed over the internet. Devices today are exponentially more complex in design and function than an Apple 2 e. I also doubt you have used it on a daily basis for the last 30 years. I have an apple 2e and c that both boot, but I have not use them on the reg since 1989. I also have an 8088 that will boot as well. But again, simpler the device usually means less working
      • My Apple //e had a 90-day warranty. Ninety days. It has worked flawlessly for 30 years. I bet you won't be able to say the same thing about your modern electronics.

        You could say it, it just wouldn't be true, lol.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      You must get bothered easily.
      Being that most devices if they are to fail it would be within the first month of operation. That is why it is normal for companies when they get new servers they do a 48 hour burn in session to make sure the server survives the first 48 hours and after that chances are the server will last for the long time.

      1 Year or 2 Year isn't really that big of a deal for electronics with little to no moving parts.

      The fact that America says one year and the EU says 2, is just legal semanti

      • by gmack ( 197796 )

        You must get bothered easily.
        Being that most devices if they are to fail it would be within the first month of operation. That is why it is normal for companies when they get new servers they do a 48 hour burn in session to make sure the server survives the first 48 hours and after that chances are the server will last for the long time.

        1 Year or 2 Year isn't really that big of a deal for electronics with little to no moving parts.

        The fact that America says one year and the EU says 2, is just legal semantics

        That's great for things that run in a controlled environment and for things you tend not to plug and unplug on a regular basis. Meanwhile a couple of weeks back a woman hands me a tablet repair and the micro USB port had worked loose and torn itself off the plastic ribbon cable. It took it 1.5 years to do that.

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          That's great for things that run in a controlled environment and for things you tend not to plug and unplug on a regular basis.

          No, it isn't even true in those situations. There are certain classes of late-onset failure that are alarmingly common in computers, most of which involve thermal stress on solder balls (with the GPUs being the worst offenders). These problems don't usually start to show up in large quantities until after the first year, but reduce the machines to doorstops within the first three

    • Re:warranty length (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:44AM (#52406795)

      the more annoying thing is, that for a device this expensive, the warranty is only 1 year long. apple even tried to bring that crap to EU. fortunately, apart from UK, the whole EU has 2 year warranty on everything.

      And you didn't realize that EU citizens are paying for an extended warranty?

      Apple's probably one of the best examples as their "EU Tax" is low - take the US model, add AppleCare (to satisfy EU warranty), add in the requisite VAT (20-25%) and convert to Euros, and you come out pretty close to the cost in Europe.

      So if you hate 1 year warranties, when the Best Buy cashier asks "DO you want the extended warranty", say "Yes". In Europe, Australia, etc., guess what? You can't say no, you don't want the 2 year warranty, let me save the 10-20%.

      Turns out everyone's really been factoring in the extended warranty into the price for Europe.

      TINSTAAFL. In North America, they ask if you want the extended warranty. In Europe, Australia and other countries, they answered for you.

      Oh, and yes, if you open stuff, it's fine. it's when you try to fix stuff you have problems. Warranty fraud is a huge thing, and you will see people try to claim "No, it wasn't submerged in water" even though it's clearly dripping water all over the counter.

      It's a really big problem and as much as everyone would like to see more repairable stuff, the real problem is too many people just are not skilled enough. The good ones will just open it, see they can't fix it and put everything back. Most people bumble through things and make things worse

      Even the law says that - if the damage can be traced to the failure, the warranty can be voided. For most devices, opening them and trying to screw around with stuff can be traced as the cause.

      The problem is not the 1% of people who go to iFixit and get their replacement parts and tools, it's the 99% who don't and try to "fix" it but make things worse. Because the vast majority of those lack the skill, care, precision, tools, education, etc to not mess anything up. It's why iFixit can get all high and mighty about it, because they don't see the other end of it. Perhaps a stint at a retail customer service desk should help realize that people who use iFixit generally know what they're doing.

      • Re:warranty length (Score:5, Interesting)

        by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:52AM (#52406873) Journal

        Apple's probably one of the best examples as their "EU Tax" is low - take the US model, add AppleCare (to satisfy EU warranty), add in the requisite VAT (20-25%) and convert to Euros, and you come out pretty close to the cost in Europe.

        Just on a whim, I visited the various pages. In the US, the base model costs $649. In Germany, the base model, converted to dollars and with VAT removed, it costs $685. Applecare for 2 years adds $129.

        It would seem that the european cost with a 2 year warranty is substantially less than the US one.

        IOW, you are mistaken.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, you're mistaken.

          http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/extended-warranties/buying-guide.htm

          "The median price paid for a plan was $123 for a major appliance and $37 for a small one"

          $685 - $649 = $36

          2.7% is substantially less?

          • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

            U.S.A. base model is $649 + $129 for two-years Applecare (to make it equal to the Germany warranty) vs Germany base model converted to dollars with VAT removed is $685.

            I'm pretty sure 685 is substantially less than 778.

          • It's very disingenuous to use the median price for a class of product's warranty in a discussion about a specific product. At least, when you attempt to overrule the published warranty price for that specific product.

            /. Requisite Car Analogy: The average price for a BWM 3 Series is like $20k. If I keep bringing that figure up in a conversation about new BWM 3 serieses, you'll look at me like I'm insane. That's because the subset of BWM 3 series members who are new have an average price double the mean

        • Re:warranty length (Score:5, Informative)

          by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @12:38PM (#52407245) Journal

          I just checked too, and I thought actually putting some numbers down would be informative, rather than just making statements without any backing data. What computer are you talking about that costs $649 baseline (I didn't see anything like that on a quick look on the Apple store).

          Germany, Baseline Silver MacBook (Apple.com/de/): €1449
          United States, Baseline Silver MacBook (Apple.com): $1299
          UK, Baseline Silver Macbook (Apple.com/uk/): £1049 (a lot more flux than normal in this price, due to Brexit and unusually low USD.GBP exchange rates)

          Cost of AppleCare = $129 for 3 years. Cost per year then is $43, so two years of warranty would be an added $86.

          DE €1449 -> $1600. Minus 19% VAT = $1,344. Plus two years of AppleCare ($86) = $1430
          UK £1049 -> $1395. Minus 20% VAT = $1162. Plus two years of AppleCare ($86) = $1248

          US $1299. Plus full 3 years of AppleCare ($129) = $1428. Two dollars difference from what what I estimated as the DE price breakdown.

          So the German price in Euros seems pretty darn close to me! Did I miss anything?

      • by bsolar ( 1176767 )

        Apple's probably one of the best examples as their "EU Tax" is low - take the US model, add AppleCare (to satisfy EU warranty), add in the requisite VAT (20-25%) and convert to Euros, and you come out pretty close to the cost in Europe.

        You usually come out cheaper with EU model and no Apple Care. This is actually correct since Apple Care covers *more* than the mandatory 2 years EU warranty, so it makes sense for it to be more expensive.

      • Re:warranty length (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @12:34PM (#52407203) Homepage

        the more annoying thing is, that for a device this expensive, the warranty is only 1 year long. apple even tried to bring that crap to EU. fortunately, apart from UK, the whole EU has 2 year warranty on everything.

        And you didn't realize that EU citizens are paying for an extended warranty?

        Apple's probably one of the best examples as their "EU Tax" is low - take the US model, add AppleCare (to satisfy EU warranty), add in the requisite VAT (20-25%) and convert to Euros, and you come out pretty close to the cost in Europe.

        No, in this case you are mistaken. For a few years Apple denied this second year of warranty in Europe and the prices were exactly the same as after they were forced to advertise and honor it. Nothing changed. This is because Apple prices have nothing to do with actual cost.

        Now, for other manufacturers it might apply of course.

    • by _xeno_ ( 155264 )

      I can see why.

      My work MacBook Pro has crapped out entirely, and that was bought in August of last year. Its wifi support is flakey at best and as of today, it stopped booting. Well, sort of: it makes it past the part where you log in to FileVault and then goes to a black screen it never recovers from.

      Given their most expensive laptop couldn't even make it a year before crapping out, I'm not surprised they don't want longer warranties.

      Now to go through the incredibly annoy process of getting a laptop replace

  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:06AM (#52406495)
    The manufacturers are not implying your warranty evaporates if you break the seal. It's more that you will never succeed in convincing them that you did not cause the problem at that point.

    In a more extreme example, would you want to be a manufacturer and honor a warranty on a (spinning) hard drive with a broken seal?
    • by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:10AM (#52406521)

      This is a lot like those signs on the back of dump trucks that say "Not responsible for broken windshields".

      The sign changes nothing about the law, but it probably works very well to discourage people from trying to recover damages from them.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        but it probably works very well to discourage people from trying to recover damages from them.

        Maybe, but I expect it's really just telling people to back off in a manner that gets their attention.

      • "According to this proposed contract, by breaking this seal, you have agreed to the contract." It's all about persuasion.
    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Well I know first hand that if you open a xbox one microsoft will refuse to repair it at any price.

      • Which is an example of the illegal acts mentioned in the summary.

    • The manufacturers are not implying your warranty evaporates if you break the seal. It's more that you will never succeed in convincing them that you did not cause the problem at that point.

      In a more extreme example, would you want to be a manufacturer and honor a warranty on a (spinning) hard drive with a broken seal?

      Under Magnuson-Moss, the burden of proof (that the failure was caused by the consumer) is on the manufacturer, not the consumer.

      Stores will lie to your face about this. Ask for a Manager. If no love, write them a letter, USPS Certified w/return-receipt. You will get movement. And in the rare case not even then, well, sue them in small claims. It is not difficult.

    • by adosch ( 1397357 )

      The manufacturers are not implying your warranty evaporates if you break the seal. It's more that you will never succeed in convincing them that you did not cause the problem at that point. In a more extreme example, would you want to be a manufacturer and honor a warranty on a (spinning) hard drive with a broken seal?

      Right. It's not that you can't open it or incapable of fixing whatever-it-is yourself, but I see as more of a support guarantee that if Johnny Amateur who thinks he knows what he is doing tried to take a shot at fixing whatever-it-is, that it's a good litmus test to toss in the 'dont-waste-your-time-with-this' pile vs. we, as a company, can almost 100% guarantee what is under that hood is still how it was when we put it in that box, thus carry on with the fixing on their end.

      But I'd never exercise the conc

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:06AM (#52406497) Journal
    Raise your hands (er, leave a comment) if you routinely void warranties! :-)
    • Depends on the device I suppose.

      Very complex devices, high dollar devices or those which require some crazy special tools or alignment / calibration I typically leave alone.
      ( Eg: I'm not going to dismantle a $10k telephoto lens to try and clean it. I'll let the pros do their thing. )

      Everything else is fair game.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Removing and replacing warranty stickers without damaging them is also a popular geek pass-time.

  • I'm shocked (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:11AM (#52406523) Homepage

    Shocked, I tell you, shocked. (Maybe I shouldn't have touched the mains.)

    Shocked, I tell you, that corporations would try and bypass federal law to avoid losing money. SHOCKED.

    I mean, we all know corporations are all sweetness and light, concerned first and foremost with providing quality products to consumers, and not with squeezing every nickel and dime out of them, sending them to mandatory "third party" arbitration that favors them, and generally treating customers as disposable whenever possible.

    Boy, I'm glad I don't live in a world like that, where corporations routinely bribe public officials and get away with it, because it's called "lobbying".

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      Perhaps it is the fact it is nearly impossible for any organization with a team of lawyers to know of all the laws that are out there.
      This is a Law from 1975 and we are just looking into it now?
      How many laws have you broken that you didn't know that was in place, because they are not actively enforced, and you never bothered looking up every action that you chose to do.
       

      • Re: I'm shocked (Score:5, Informative)

        by adolf ( 21054 ) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:51AM (#52406847) Journal

        I've been telling everyone (here, too) about the Warranty Act of 1975, every time the foolish notion of "voiding" a warranty comes up, for over a decade.

        If you're just hearing about it now, you should look around more.

        • Yep, same here. I just notified someone about this law, complete with a Wikipedia link, on a car forum I read. The question comes up frequently: "will I void my car's warranty if I tint my windows" or something like that. A huge number of people think their warranty will be void if they modify their car even the slightest bit.

        • Re: I'm shocked (Score:5, Interesting)

          by orgelspieler ( 865795 ) <w0lfie@mBALDWINac.com minus author> on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @12:43PM (#52407307) Journal
          I saved my company thousands of dollars by giving the air compressor manufacturer the finger. Ingersoll-Rand tried to tell us that the warranty was void if we didn't use their super-expensive lube and filters for the oil change service. We did it ourselves with no-name brand same weight oil for about $6k less than what they were going to charge. As soon as I mentioned the MMWA, they STFU. Basically as soon as you let somebody know they are full of shit, they will generally back down. Unless they really don't know the law, but most of these fuckers know that what they're doing is illegal.
  • What about bans for using 3rd party parts / shops?

    There was an time where MS banned you for using your own HDD in the Xbox 360 and not there own ones that cost a lot more then just buying your own sata HDD.

    What about systems that use the DMCA to lock out 3rd party parts? Like some printers and some cars?

    Cars that have an reset change oil light code that they can if they want the DMCA to shut down jiffy lube and other 3rd party shops from doing oil changes?

    • by Jason Koebler ( 3528235 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:15AM (#52406565)
      This is addressed in the article. All that shit is illegal, too
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      How does a light being on prevent one from doing an oil change?
    • no stupid, just look it up on youtube how to do it. on my honda it's fairly simple. i needed to turn it off because it's time based instead of going by miles and my wife is scared of these things and tells me to go get the oil changed.
  • by DewDude ( 537374 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:21AM (#52406627)
    Of course..they make ham radio equipment...and some hams are real DIY. So their warranty is quite liberal in you can attempt to fix it yourself. They'll even send you parts if its something simple. Of course...we say MFJ stands for "Mighty Fine Junk"...and most stuff arrived pre-broken. But you can crack it open and they will still honor a warranty.
  • Look on the back of the ticket. It will say something to the effect that "this disclaimer limits our liability" blah blah blah "we are not responsible for damage to or theft of/from your vehicle" blah blah blah. As far as I know, that isn't quite accurate from a legal standpoint.

    • With the disclaimer, the parking lot operator is responsible for providing a space suitable for parking. If you show that cars parked there were burglarized 46 times in the past six months, the place isn't suitable for parking and the operator may be liable.

      Without the disclaimer, a customer may say "when I pulled in, there was an attendant who pointed to an open spot. I reasonably expected the attendant to keep on eye on the cars, so the operator is liable for any burglarly". The attendant may have been

  • Now, when a manufacturer doesn't honor my opened monitors warranty, I can sue them for lots of money!!! Class action lawsuit, everyone!!
  • Saying "no refunds" isn't illegal. Not giving a refund is illegal. I've built many ticketing systems, for consumer trade shows and such; every ticket says non-refundable right on it -- we even need to prioritize it in terms of layout space on a small ticket. But it's illegal to not provide refunds on such tickets, and every show is happy to provide a refund to anyone who asks. It's just not advertized that way -- it's counter-promoted. That's not illegal.

    Similarly, the void-if-removed sticker is not il

  • Anyone can put up a sign, or write a "no returns" clause on consumer merchandise receipts. Lying is not illegal.

    Now, refusing to take a warrantied return---that is illegal.

    • In some cases, lying about rights is most definitely actionable. A hotel that had a giant "NO [MINORITY] ALLOWED" sign would find themselves the subject of a lawsuit, even if they did rent to that minority when they presented themselves.

  • Been using Apple products since 1976. NEVER seen a "Warranty Void" sticker on ANY Apple Product.

    And just looking at the MacBook Pro Warranty for the U.S.A. [apple.com], I see NOTHING about "No third-party repairs" or "Void if opened" bullshit.

    Of course, NO ONE will honor a Warranty Claim from a non-Authorized Repair facility. That's like "Warranty Repair 101" logic. Otherwise, why have Authorized Repair Centers (which, BTW, ARE generally "Third Party").
    • by puto ( 533470 )
      If you get an apple device repaired at a third party that is not an AASP and you then take it into apple and they see it has third party parts in it, they will refuse to even look at it. In most cases. Mostly for idevices, but can extend to computers.

      1.10.6 Disclosure of Unauthorized Modifications. During the service ordering process, you must notify Apple of any unauthorized modifications, or any repairs or replacements not performed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (“AASP

      • If you get an apple device repaired at a third party that is not an AASP and you then take it into apple and they see it has third party parts in it, they will refuse to even look at it. In most cases. Mostly for idevices, but can extend to computers.

        1.10.6 Disclosure of Unauthorized Modifications. During the service ordering process, you must notify Apple of any unauthorized modifications, or any repairs or replacements not performed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (“AASP”), that have been made to your product. Apple will not be responsible for any damage to the product that occurs during the repair process that is a result of any unauthorized modifications or repairs or replacements not performed by Apple or an AASP. If damage results, Apple will seek your authorization for any additional costs for completing service even if the product is covered by warranty or an AppleCare service plan. If you decline authorization, Apple may return your product unrepaired in the damaged condition without any responsibility.

        That's a Warranty condition. Doesn't mean that Apple won't repair as NON-Warranty.

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        f you get an apple device repaired at a third party that is not an AASP and you then take it into apple and they see it has third party parts in it, they will refuse to even look at it. In most cases. Mostly for idevices, but can extend to computers.

        Oh, my lord. Does anyone read the shit they post anymore?

        During the service ordering process, you must notify Apple of any unauthorized modifications, or any repairs or replacements not performed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider ("AASP"), that h

  • Rooting Android voids "warranty", so it is stated.

    Now, what breaks with that may be up to discussion, but bringing it in for repair could that give you a refusal of service.
    What use does this federal warranty law have?

  • False (Score:4, Informative)

    by TylerJWhit ( 4050171 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @02:20PM (#52408059)

    This is an extremely limited and inaccurate view of the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act.

    First, this details what a FULL warranty is, and does not supersede state laws or the FTC's addressing of antitrusts.

    Furthermore, the following law clearly states that they CAN detail the limitations of the warranty. https://www.law.cornell.edu/us... [cornell.edu]

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