FTC: Third-party repairs don’t invalidate your iPhone warranty

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Illegal warranty seal
The FTC said warranty seals like this are illegal. Companies can't forbid third-party repair work.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Federal Trade Commission warned companies today not to tell customers that using independent repair facilities invalidates the warranties on their phones, video game consoles, or cars. Doing so is a violation of U.S. law.

It’s not clear if Apple was singled out by the watchdog agency. But it could have been.

Who are the guilty parties?

The FTC sent letters today to six “major companies” reminding them of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This 1975 law expressly forbids corporations from requiring that warranty work be done with parts that carry the company’s brand.

The FTC declined to name the six companies, just stating that they “market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems.” It’s possible Apple was one of them.

Your iPhone warranty is safe

Apple has never stated publicly that customers are forbidden from using third-party repair companies. Even so, reports occasionally appear on the web claiming that someone had been turned away from an Apple Store because their iPhone had unauthorized parts. If this happens to you, know that it’s forbidden by law.

Independent repair companies accuse Apple of a different strategy. Every now and then, iOS updates will cause unauthorized iPhone replacement parts to stop working. The recently released iOS 11.3 breaks some iPhone 8 touchscreens that had been replaced by third-party repair facilities, for example.

When similar problems cropped up in the past, Apple moved quickly to fix the iOS bugs. Possibly to avoid problems with the FTC.

Rip that sticker off now!

The watchdog agency specifically called out the practice of placing so-called warranty seals on devices, and telling customers that removing these stickers is a violation of their warranty. (Anyone with an Xbox should recognize this practice, but Microsoft is hardly alone.) These stickers are a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

And as the FTC pointed out, it’s not just consumer electronics makers that are guilty of this practice. Some high-end luxury car makers, such as Lamborghini, raise a stink about any work done by unauthorized parties.