I’d bet good money that you’ve probably run into a Warranty Void if Removed sticker at some point. After a decade of teardowns, we’ve come across loads of them.

We’ve found them inside Xboxes, the PSP Go, Asus laptops, and even on NVidia graphics cards. Turns out, those stickers are not only unenforceable—they’re illegal under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This federal law was put in place to protect the rights of consumers. It imposes strict guidelines on manufacturers that offer product warranties. While the law has been in place since 1975, it’s been largely ignored by manufacturers without penalty—until now.

The Feds are finally taking action against offending manufacturers. Last month, Motherboard discovered that the FTC sent warning letters to Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Hyundai, HTC, and ASUS. The letters warn manufacturers about their violation of policy, and set a May 9th deadline to comply with requirements. Failure to do so could result in some serious legal action.

FTC Warning Letter from Motherboard, Vice

Fear-mongering stickers are out of control

The number of lying stickers inside our products is ridiculous—and the effects of their misuse have broad cultural and environmental implications. We’ve even seen new companies emerge that are solely dedicated to selling sophisticated tamper-proof stickers. These stickers scare people away from tinkering. They discourage repair—and that challenges the very idea of ownership. Once you’ve paid money for a product, the manufacturer shouldn’t be able to dictate how you use it.

Our mission is simple: we want teach the world to fix everything. But the most common objection we get when encouraging people to repair is, ‘What about my warranty?’. Thanks to the crafty work of manufacturers, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that opening a device voids the warranty. That fear of voiding warranties translates into fear of repair—even for hardware that is entirely out of warranty.

That ends now. These stickers are illegal. Tell your kids, tell your wife. The scaremongering party is over.

Mea culpa: We’re guilty of this, too. We sell some RAM upgrade kits, and the sticker from our supplier has ‘warranty void if removed’ on the memory stick. We’ve asked them to knock it off and we’re definitely honoring the warranty, sticker or not. We’re sorry for that, and we’re working to ensure that this will never happen again.

License to tinker

Here’s the bottom line. Under US law, these are the actions that do not void your warranty:

  • Modifications or improvements (like painting the case of a device or upgrading its software), as long as those improvements don’t damage the product
  • Performing an upgrade that requires opening the device (like adding more RAM, or a bigger hard drive), as long as you don’t damage the product while opening it
  • Repairs to fix accidental damage (like a broken screen), so long as the repair doesn’t damage other components
  • Casual disassembly and tinkering for curiosity’s sake, as long as you don’t break anything in the device

See the pattern? It’s your device—do whatever you want with it. Of course, it’s worth noting that warranties won’t cover any new parts you install in a device. (Although, most of the time, that new part ships with its own warranty.) For example, if you crack the screen on your brand-new iPhone, and then replace it with a screen you purchased from iFixit, that replacement screen is covered by our lifetime warranty. Even if you don’t use an Apple Genius to replace the screen, Apple is still legally required to cover any manufacturing defects you run into with any other parts of the phone, during the warranty period.

By the way: your warranty generally only lasts twelve months. So if that Xbox sitting in your living room is more than a year old, the warranty is irrelevant.   

If Honest Abe says it’s ok to open up your iPhone, then that’s good enough for me!

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

So go ahead, stop living in fear of warranties! Every sticker you peel off is an opportunity to stick it to the man. Don’t let the futile attempts made by lawyers at megacorps control your life. You’ve got the law on your side, so start removing those warranty stickers!

Behold—an illegal warranty void if removed sticker in its natural habitat. Get him!

We want to make sure that everyone knows warranty stickers are bullshit, so we’re embarking on a good old-fashioned sticker hunt. Nothin’ works better than a public shaming to keep manufacturers honest—which was the inspiration for our new contest. In conjunction with Motherboard, the bastion of fine reporting that blew this scandal wide open two years ago, we’re going on a hunt for evil stickers. The contest rules are simple: Post a photo of a “warranty void if removed” sticker to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #voidifremoved. Let us know in your post what device you found the warranty sticker in (so we can catalog them appropriately by manufacturer). We’ll be giving out our new Manta Driver kits as prizes to our favorite entries through the end of June. The better your post, the more likely you are to win. Enter as many times as you want—we’ll contact each winner on the platform they used to enter and re-share our favorites right here on our blog.

This isn’t just another social media contest. We’ll turn over the results of your investigation to the FTC and see if we can get them to send out another round of letters.

One by one, we’re beating down the barriers to self repair. With the help of lawyers at the FTC and journalists at Motherboard—and citizen activists like you—we can neutralize a weapon that manufacturers have been using in their campaign of fear, control, and greed.

Director of Communications at iFixit. Sometimes I tweet here: @kaykayclapp

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