New survey: 43 major appliance companies void warranties for independent repair, despite consumer protection laws

BOSTON – A new survey by the US PIRG Education Fund found that all 43 device manufacturers we surveyed would void warranties if a device were “unauthorized” repaired despite a 2018 warning from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) . Three years ago, the FTC warned six companies that “Removing the warranty will void” stickers on their products under warranty laws. A report by the US PIRG Education Fund found that 45 out of 50 device manufacturers were also voiding independent repair warranties. Since then, device manufacturers haven’t made things easier despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Device repair requests increased during the pandemic, causing delays for many people trying to repair a refrigerator or dishwasher. Many would have chosen to do an independent repair at their own expense to avoid downtime, but manufacturers have told people that they can’t do it without voiding a warranty, ”said Nathan Proctor, campaign director for US PIRG Education Find. “It is totally unacceptable that the FTC hasn’t cleaned this up. Consumers should be able to repair the things they own, and manufacturers should follow federal warranty laws. “

The results underscore the need for the FTC to step up its enforcement and ensure a broader right to repair as manufacturers seek to find independent repairers and repair shops.

The Magnuson-Moss Guarantee Act sets guidelines that “exclude guarantees from conditioning guarantees for the use of a replacement product or repair service by the consumer by brand or name”. When a manufacturer revokes warranty service because the service was not provided by an authorized service provider, it is generally understood as a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

After finding that 45 of the 50 companies we reviewed in 2018 were informing consumers that attempted repairs would void the warranty, we wondered if the FTC’s warnings had changed things. We’ve tried all 45 of these companies again in the past few months and haven’t been able to contact just two.

Of the 43 people we either reached out or who had clear guidelines on their websites, all said they would let consumers know that if their products received “unauthorized” repairs, they would automatically void the warranty.

Eleven of the written warranties we read, such as the following examples, clearly discourage consumers from attempting self-repair or independent repair at the expense of their warranty.

Guarantee extracts from Essick and Waterpick.

Of the 34 remaining companies, we reached out to Customer Service and asked if self-repairing or independent repair would void the warranty. We tried three contacts each. 22 of the companies told us that the warranty would be void on all three attempts, and the remaining 12 had mixed responses.

(See Appendix: 2.1.34, 2.1.22, 2.1.16.)

Consumer reports contributed to the analysis of the report.

“Consumers benefit from being able to choose where to take their electronics for repair. This key report from the US PIRG Education Fund shows that some manufacturers may mislead customers into thinking that warranty is the only way to get repair services We urge federal agencies to investigate and take action to ensure consumers receive the complete and accurate information, and we urge states to exercise their own right to repair Passing laws will expand consumers’ options for independent repair. “

The report recommends that the FTC enforce the ban on this practice, and recommends lawmakers improve access to no-warranty repair options by enacting the Right to Repair, which requires fair access to parts and service information.

“When manufacturers can decide what to fix and what not to fix, it increases waste and consumer costs. We should pass the right to repair reforms to ensure that Americans have a choice in repairing, ”Proctor said.

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