However, warranty conditions that forbid consumers from opening or repairing their devices are illegal under a provision of the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act that forbids "tying," meaning the conditions of the warranty "tie" the consumer to using a specific service or specific types of parts, experts told Motherboard."Apple and others have crafty attorneys that know darned well that Magnuson-Moss exists as do anti-trust laws against 'tying agreements.' The contracts are very clever and appear to be within the law—but are anything but in practice," Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, a group lobbying for right to repair laws around the country, told me. "Manufacturers threaten to do things they cannot do legally but 99.9 percent of consumers have no idea of their actual rights."
"Manufacturers threaten to do things they cannot do legally but 99.9 percent of consumers have no idea of their actual rights"
The car warranty is a good way to visualize the way the MMWA works. If you replace your Honda transmission with a used one you bought off your neighbor or one manufactured by a third party, Honda can't refuse to replace the engine if it blows while under warranty, so long as the aftermarket transmission didn't directly cause the engine to fail.The burden is on the manufacturer—not the consumer—to prove that the aftermarket part caused the failure in the other part of the car. With a smartphone, this means that if you do a successful repair on one part of the phone, the manufacturer can't refuse to replace another part of it if it breaks down the line. For example, if you crack the screen (not covered by warranty), replace it, and, months later, the charging port malfunctions, Apple must prove that your screen repair somehow contributed to the charging port failure. (Of course, manufacturers aren't required to fix things that you break—they just can't stop you from fixing it yourself or having someone else fix it.)
"If you replaced the screen yourself with an appropriate one, then they could not claim that voided the warranty"
Representatives for Apple, Microsoft, and Sony's Playstation division did not respond to Motherboard's request for comment. To be clear, not every manufacturer puts this type of language in their warranty agreements (look up the warranty information for your devices if you're interested), but such language is also found in medical equipment and other electronics.Frank Dorman, a spokesperson for the FTC, told me that warranty-voiding stickers appear on their face to be a violation of the MMWA."The stickers could be deceptive by implying consumers can't use parts the warrantor doesn't pre-approve, which violates the anti-tying provisions of MMWA," Dorman told me.The FTC's interpretation of the MMWA "makes clear that the mere use of an aftermarket (or recycled) component is not alone a sufficient justification for warranty denial."Warranties and the Right to RepairSo why do manufacturers continue to put these stickers inside their devices and this language in their agreements? These warranty agreements and stickers need to be looked at in the wider context of the repair industry—most electronics warranties are short (either 90 days or a year), and most electronics don't malfunction within their warranty period. Most devices that need to be repaired are either already out of warranty or have a user-caused problem such as a crack on the screen or water damage, which are not covered by warranties. But stickers and these agreements create the illusion that electronics are mysterious black boxes that shouldn't be opened by anyone who isn't authorized to by the manufacturer.
"The manufacturers know that the litigation costs would be prohibitive in any given single case"