Right To Repair: The Act That Is Changing How We Preserve Devices

Each day, the amount of devices in our lives grows: from the tablet your child(ren) just had to have to the kiosks that you use to order McDonald’s at lunch. Now more than ever, you’re likely to have some device that isn’t working the way it should, and inevitably someone is going to drop one of those expensive conglomerations of tech, only to find that it stopped functioning entirely. Warranties are a good thing to have for these devices—as many times they offer an insurance that if the product you bought doesn’t work, it can be fixed or replaced, or at least that you will be compensated for the inconvenience.

What They Don’t Tell You

The unfortunate truth about these warranties is that manufacturers will do just about anything in their power to avoid paying out on these warranties, usually with the intent of having you spend more money, further driving their bottom line. One of the most popular ways we see manufacturers doing this is by adding “Warranty Void if Removed” stickers all over the inside and outside of the device. These stickers serve as a warning to consumers from the manufacturer, “Bring your device to us to get it repaired, or risk it not working anymore!” One of the worst perpetrators of this style of warranty-dodging is video game console manufacturers, where seemingly anything you look at outside or inside the console has one of these dreaded stickers.

Even though these stickers are rampant, and there are several manufacturers that we’re sure will still try to enforce them until their long-dead, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had a few things to say about these stickers (mostly that they are, in fact, illegal).

The FTC Steps In

In April of 2018, the FTC contacted six major manufacturers to inform them that they have concerns about these companies’ statements that consumers must use specified parts or service providers to keep their warranties intact. These major manufacturers include Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, HTC, and ASUS—amongst others. The letter from the FTW gave these companies 30 days to revise their written warranty and promotional materials before action was taken. A statement taken from this letter mentions, “Warranty language that implies to a consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances that warranty coverage requires the consumer to purchase an article or service identified by brand, trade, or corporate name is similarly deceptive and prohibited.” Basically, if they require consumers to use a particular brand of part or service in order to maintain the warranty given, then it is against the rules.

There are several examples of warranty policies that the FTC deems “questionable,” including, “[…] the use of [specific brand] 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 [specific brand]. This warranty does not apply if this product […] has had the warranty seal of the [product] altered, defaced, or removed […]”

This comes from a law called the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This law states that no manufacturer charging more than 5 USD for a product may put repair restrictions on a device it’s offering a warranty on. This means that if there is a problem with your device (that costs over $5), you can bring it to a repair shop like Armor Techs and the work rendered by the repair shop on the device will not void your warranty.

The Holy Grail: The Right To Repair Act

All of this data culminates in the Right to Repair Act—a set of laws and rules that are currently trying to be passed throughout the United States. This act gives consumers the right to have their device(s) repaired by other means, rather than forcing them to go to the manufacturers themselves. Warranties on devices have long felt like a manufacturer-controlled monopoly, with attempts to hold the only right to open, repair, and replace products by manufacturers being prevalent for a long time. These policies allowed the manufacturers to withhold parts, and information (like schematics and diagrams) from consumers to make it more difficult to repair products. The Right to Repair Act will combat this, and help repair shops and DIY’ers by giving them the ability to work on these products and to offer competitive pricing to give consumers and device-owners more choices in how, where, and when to have their product(s) repaired.

Being consumers, we paid for the right to own and use these products. If something goes wrong with these products, we should also have the right to get it repaired where we want, and with whom we are comfortable with. If we choose to repair the product ourselves, there shouldn’t be artificial difficulty added by not being able to find the information (I mean, we are in the information age after all), or the proper part not being available for the general public.

If you would like to learn more about The Right to Repair Act, and everything tied to it, check out Repair.org. This is the landing page for the act, and it will be able to give you an in-depth look into what your rights are, and what to expect when this act (hopefully) gets passed in more states across the United States.