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When the screen goes blue
And the car breaks down
And the smartphone keeps rebooting eternally
Consumers won
t be afraid
No, they won
t be afraid
Just as long as you stand by your warranty.

With apologies to R&B legend Ben E. King, when consumers buy a product with a warranty, it’s with the expectation that businesses will stand by what they sell. But standing by your warranty won’t do customers much good if you disregard the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The FTC staff just sent warning letters to six companies, raising questions about statements the companies are making that appear to tie warranty coverage to consumers’ use of authorized parts or service, a practice that may violate both the Warranty Act and the FTC Act.

According to the Mag-Moss Warranty Act:

No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name.

In other words, companies can’t void a consumer’s warranty or deny warranty coverage solely because the consumer uses a part made by someone else or gets someone not authorized by the company to perform service on the product.

There are only two exceptions: 1) if the company provides the article or service to consumers for free; or 2) if the company gets a waiver from the FTC. Under 15 U.S.C. § 2302(c), the FTC may grant a waiver only if the company proves that “the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and the waiver is in the public interest.” Companies may, however, disclaim warranty coverage for defects or damage caused by the use of unauthorized parts or service.

FTC staff recently took a closer look at companies’ warranties and promotional materials and saw language that raised concerns that some businesses were telling consumers that their warranty would be void if they used unauthorized parts or service. The companies used different language, but here are examples of questionable provisions.

  • The use of [the company’s 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 . . . had had the warranty seal on the [product] altered, defaced, or removed.

FTC staff suggested that the companies review the Mag-Moss Warranty Act and, if necessary, revise their practices accordingly. The letters also put the companies on notice that we’ll be taking another look at their written warranties and promotional materials after 30 days.

What can other business glean from the warning letters?

Untie the NOT. Take a fresh look at your own warranties. Unless you meet one of Mag-Moss’ narrow exceptions, do not condition warranty coverage on consumers’ use of parts or service from you or someone you authorize.

Read your warranty through consumers’ eyes. Consider the literal wording of your warranties, of course. But like any other advertising representation, companies can communicate claims to consumers expressly and by implication. Subject to those two Mag-Moss exceptions, if the language you choose conveys to reasonable consumers that their warranty coverage requires them to use an article or service identified by brand, trade, or corporate name, revise your practices to avoid a warranty whoops.

Section 5’s prohibition on deception applies to misleading warranty claims. A violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. But separate and apart from Mag-Moss, a claim that creates a false impression that a warranty would be void due to the use of unauthorized parts or service may be a stand-alone deceptive practice under the FTC Act. When evaluating what they say and do with regard to warranties, savvy companies approach the task by posing the same questions they ask themselves when looking at their ad claims: 1) What will consumers understand us to mean? and 2) Are we telling the truth?

The law’s reach can be global. If you represent foreign companies, counsel them about compliance with the Mag-Moss Warranty Act and the FTC Act. Those laws apply when business practices of non-U.S. companies constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices that either involve material conduct in the United States or are likely to cause reasonably foreseeable injury within the U.S.

17 Comments

Denis (not verified)
April 10, 2018
Which 6 companies are the ones to which the FTC sent warranty warnings?
Ruby (not verified)
April 10, 2018
What about those ripoff car dealers that own their own dealerships. They make you go to there place for repairs, oil changes, etc...... Not to mention the owner owns his own GAP company!
Elizabeth (not verified)
April 10, 2018
I have the same question, which 6 companies? I have looked on the website to see if the information is posted somewhere else and it is not. Thank you.
JH (not verified)
April 11, 2018
Does this warranty pertain to car parts as well?
Rae (not verified)
April 13, 2018
Does this apply to Window manufacturing companies like Milgard regarding windows that were done 1997 and has a lifetime warranty on window glass that had to be tinted by another company?
Keith Smith (not verified)
April 16, 2018
Anybody bothered to tell Apple of this? They are just about the worst I have ever seen,bricking phones when anyone but Apple does repair work on their product.Same goes for Lexmark
Phillip (not verified)
May 02, 2018
If a consumer uses a third party accessory or non genuine third party repair part with the product the manufacturer has no control over the quality or design of such third party items. If those third party items "Brick" or cause damage to the product the manufacturer can't be held responsible for any damage to the product under warranty. The manufacturer or seller's only possible remedy is to use proprietary patented parts and the DMCA or they will produce products with short warranties( ie 30 to 90 days based on the manufacture date) which means that the warranty will expire while the product is on retail shelves unsold
Rhonda scott (not verified)
August 20, 2018
Received a recall From the ford dealer regarding a recall on my car. Regarding micro. Soft touch sync system. When I went to do the recall they told me that offer has expired . I bought car used . the dealer doesn't handle the recalls. Unless you make the appointment. Well they were going updates but harddrive need updated also. They denied my claim. How do I handle.
FTC Staff
October 12, 2018

In reply to by Rhonda scott (not verified)

You can check to see if there is a current safety recall for your car. Go to the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website at NHTSA.gov/Recalls.  Type in the vehicle identification number (VIN) for your car and search for recalls connected to your car.

If you have questions about the recall, call the vehicle manufacturer at its toll-free number.

Ameer (not verified)
December 15, 2021

In reply to by FTC Staff

I feel I have been unjustly denied a warranty claim by Toyota. After examining ECU data and I believing finding nothing, Central Atlantic Toyota did a social media search and found a social media post, and based on that post, has declined coverage. I'm not sure what steps to take next.
Michael (not verified)
January 23, 2019
If our product literature states, "No user-serviceable parts inside. To be opened only by our company's representative," and we cover warranty repairs without cost to the customer, are we violating the law to put a "Warranty void if sticker removed" sticker on our product chassis?
nicki (not verified)
January 25, 2019
My fiancee bought an engagement ring from Allurez (NY) and we live in Texas. The ring arrived with bent prongs and was made the wrong size - they fixed. Then the center stone fell out. They "fixed" but never addressed the bent prong issue. The stone fell out a second time. We are asking for a full refund due to the defective ring/fabrication and are getting the run around. We have a warrenty but they never address the prongs, just reset the center stone. We recently were married without the ring as it sits in a bag on my dresser waiting for their response. It's been an absolute nightmare. Does the Maguseum Act apply to this? Or is there something else we can do? They state that refunds are only allowed in the first 30 days - go figure, the ring broke not long after that...thanks!
Michael (not verified)
February 16, 2019
Apple has a repair program on it's iPhone 7 due to a known issue with the logic board. When we took our phone in, they refused to do the repair since the phone had a third party screen on it. How does this work with this policy? The phone is out of warranty, but they are fixing a known issue and doing it for free - unless you have a third party screen and then you have to pay for a new screen (which is not the cause of the problem).
FTC Staff
February 21, 2019

In reply to by Michael (not verified)

This blog is about what a company may do when a product is still under warranty.

Song (not verified)
March 14, 2019
I have a vehicle where I bought in late 2017 from Toyota dealership. About a week or so later, I went and had an auto starter installed on it from Best Buy. Works great and everything was fine until February this year where the auto starter stopped working. I took it tobest buy, they said that on their diagnosis, everything should be working fine. They did however notice that the vehicle's steering lock was not working, and explained that I should get it checked out. I took my vehicle to Toyota to check the problem with the steering lock, they said the starter MIGHT have caused the ECU to fry and stop working. Now they charged me $100 for diagnosis, and then also is charging me near $2,000 to get two items fixed. They've also now added a note saying that the installation of the auto start device caused the issue, where every Toyota dealership sees the note. Almost a week later, the steering lock started working again. I took the vehicle to Best Buy, and had them remove my auto starter so I can take my vehicle back to Toyota so they can look and see if there's anything wrong with my vehicle still. Once uninstalled, I went back to Toyota and they told me that I was no longer covered under the warranty and now I would need to keep paying for diagnosis and service. From this, it doesn't even look like Toyota diagnosed correctly and they didn't even care to prove the problem. They've already charged me. Is there any way I can go about getting my money back and seeing if my ECU is fried or just malfunctioning?
Magmo (not verified)
April 24, 2019
If a warranty of a consumer product says "Lifetime" and does not say "Limited" as required under Magnuson-Moss, does that make it a FULL warranty?
Guest (not verified)
June 14, 2019
Have there been any rulings on warranties that require the purchase to be from a specific seller in order to be entitled to the manufacturer's warranty? This would seem to be of the same vein that warranties cannot be tied to the use of specific services, but I was wondering if the agency had ever specifically opined on the issue.

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