The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gave Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony a 30-day window in to change their console warranty language to let consumers know they can make repairs or use third-party replacement products without voiding them.
The FTC said in a press release on April 10 that various companies, including some in the video game industry, were using language in their warranty terms that could be considered deceptive and which ran afoul of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act governing consumer warranty rights. Typically, console manufacturers say they will void warranties if owners go to anyone else for repairs or replacement parts. The actual letters sent to the companies in question are now available thanks to further reporting and a FOIA request by Motherboard, and show that Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony were recipients and had been warned by the FTC that “violations of the Warranty and FTC Acts may result in legal action.”
“FTC investigators have copied and preserved the online pages in question, and we plan to review your company’s written warranty and promotional materials after 30 days,” the letters state. “You should review the Warranty and FTC Acts and if necessary, revise your practices to comply with the Acts’ requirements.”
The warranty language that could be considered deceptive or in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act varied between companies. In Nintendo’s case, the FTC specifically cited the following statement from the company’s website: “This warranty shall not apply if this product: (a) is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo (including but not limited to non-licensed game enhancement and copier devices, adapters, software, and power supplies).” The letters state that language like this which gives consumers the impression they can’t work with third-parties when it comes to console maintenance and repairs could be in violation of the law.
In Sony’s case the FTC calls out stickers on the back of the PS4 that say “warranty void if removed,” while for Microsoft the agency took issue with the following language on the Xbox Support website: “Microsoft is not responsible and this warranty does not apply if your Xbox One or Accessory is...repaired by anyone other than Microsoft.”
The “right to repair” is an important subject among the people who do maintenance on electronics. In decades past it was hotly debated in the context of car repairs. More recently, it’s been an issue with smartphones and console owners who want options for fixing their devices without needing to go through the original manufacturer. But console manufacturers have long argued that hardware tampering could lead to copyright infringement.
The letters were also sent to HTC, Asus, and Hyundai, but not other consumer electronics companies like Samsung or Apple. Given that the FTC originally sent them in on April 9, the companies only have about a week left to review their existing warranty terms to make sure they are compliant. The agency says that any violations found after that period could result in law enforcement action. Neither Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony responded to a request by Kotaku for comment.