Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
FTC Warns Manufacturers That 'Warranty Void If Removed' Stickers Are Illegal (vice.com)
408 points by runesoerensen 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments



This was not in the US.

My father used to own a computer repair shop. Some of the computers were assembled by us, some were not. After a service was performed, there was a warranty (two months if memory servers).

What would happen is that people would pick their computer up, open it, do some stupid stuff, and then come back and try to claim the warranty. Best one was some guy that installed the CPU in a incorrect orientation on purpose, to see if it would "improve performance". Burned out the CPU and motherboard and tried to blame us. This was back at the Pentium Overdrive days.

So we started adding those stickers in the case itself. People would be free to remove them, but we would not honor any warranties if so.

As a consumer, I know it sucks. But I do know the other side, people will do really stupid things and then try to get others to clean up after them.


In the US manufacturers don't need to fix things that users break but they legally need to prove that the user's actions were the cause of the failure.

If someone performs their own oil change on their car and then a wheel falls off the manufacturer can't just say that you popped the hood open so the warranty is void. I'm not a big fan of car analogies but cars were the main reason this law was passed in the first place.

In principle this law applies to any purchase over $15 that has a written warranty agreement, but in reality most companies feel free to ignore it because few customers are even aware of the law and even fewer are going to bother going to small claims court over anything less than a few thousand dollars.


In fact limited warranties are a scam. You have express and implied warranties by default. So if you expect your dishwasher to last 10 years but it only lasts 5 and the limited warranty said 1 year.. if that limited warranty was not disclaimed properly then you can take the manufacturer to small claims and most likely win. Companies try to get you to sign a product registration card to get you to agree to the limited warranty. It's all a scam. If your dishwasher blows up, call the manufacturer, ask them to fix it, if they refuse, pay for the repairs then take the manufacturer to small claims court and you will most likely win.


This is a big thing in Australia, new laws that came out in 2011 to emphasis the point.

Especially that products should last "as long as you expect them to last".

Take TVs for example - if you buy a 80" OLED for $500, it might be expected it'll only last 12-18 months. However if you purchased a 50" 4k TV for a few thousand dollars, the implied warranty might be 5+ years as it's a product of reasonable quality and cost.

The best bit about it is that if there is a major fault with the product, the remedies are: 1) Refund, 2) Replacement, or 3) Repair. And it is the consumer/purchaser's choice.

So if you purchased a TV for $5000 and then a fault causes it to blow up 5 years later, you can ask to get a full refund, even though the current street value might only be a few hundred dollars.

The benefit of this is it forces manufacturers to actually build quality products, knowing they are liable for full refunds if they fail.

It reduces the chance that they'll build "planned obsolescence" using cheap parts that might only last 12 months and 1 day (1 day past their "warranty").

A longer explanation is here: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees...


> So if you purchased a TV for $5000 and then a fault causes it to blow up 5 years later, you can ask to get a full refund, even though the current street value might only be a few hundred dollars.

That doesn't seem quite fair to the manufacturer to me. You got 5 years use out of the TV, even if it didn't last as long as you expected you still got value out of it and shouldn't deserve a full refund at that point.


> That doesn't seem quite fair to the manufacturer to me.

That's exactly why the law was changed. The balance of power was initially on the manufacturer's side.

All they had to do was say "1 year warranty" and everyone was out of luck if/when it failed. Consumers were required to upgrade and buy a replacement product.

Now the balance of power is on the consumer's side.

Most of the time TVs will last 5+ years, but in the case where it doesn't, and lots fail early due to a manufacturing issue - then the cost (is rightly) put back on to the manufacturer.

It forces them to stand by their product, ensuring the quality is up to a good standard. They must use quality long lasting components and make sure their testing process is up to scratch. Otherwise they will be up for the cost to remedy that.

If they make sure their product doesn't fail early, the cost is minimal to them. So this changes their mindset in terms of the manufacturing and design processes.


The market already addresses that, and if the government intends to address those issues directly it will quickly become a game of whack-a-mole.

You’re not “out of luck” when it fails, as it would be your fault for buying a shoddy (nonessential) product.


Seems very fair to me.

I paid $5000 for a good TV for 5 years. If after 2.5 years it breaks and they refund me $2500, which I am then forced to use to buy a shitty $2500 TV that will only last me 2.5 years, then effectively I paid $5000 for 2.5 years of good TV followed by 2.5 years of shitty TV, which is unfair to me.

If instead I take the $2500 and add my own $2500 to buy a new good TV for 5 years, then they instead switched the deal on me to 7.5K for 7.5 years, which is not what I originally signed up for, so it becomes an unfair bait and switch.


So it becomes illegal to sell you a product as-is? Isn't that the point of a capitalist market? The best as-is product provider wins.


Well "capitalist market" can still be "unfair", due to information assymetry. Or can you perfectly decide which product is best "as-is"?

Not saying regulation is best answer here, just that the issue is more complex and "free market" likely isn't 100% solution.


Why would I expect a 500$ TV to last less than 2 years? Why is it suppose to break? I have 2 TVs are the newer one is 4 years old. They're not modern by any means but why should I expect anything less?


> Why would I expect a 500$ TV to last less than 2 years?

My point was specifically a $500 TV that was 80" and OLED.

If all the current models with that specification are up around $5,000 - $10,000 or higher, and there is a model that sells for 1/10th the average price. An argument could be made that you could expect that might not last as long as one ten times higher.

The law is intentionally vague about time limits. "One could expect that a TV that costs ten times less than all the other competition, may not be built to the same quality as all the others which are much more expensive". There still isn't a specific time limit though.

And if it did fail within 2 years then you could probably make the argument that you expect a TV to last longer than 2 years.

To put the argument a different way - If you compare $5 kitchen knives at the local discount store vs $250 Japanese steel chef knives. You'd expect the $200 knives to last longer. As to how much longer, that's up to the person making the warranty complaint.


Wow, that sounds like some serious liability for the manufacturer. Given these regulations I imagine these kinds of products in Australia are quite expensive relative to less restrictive countries.

I also don't fully understand the need for laws to fix the "planned obsolescence" issue - if a manufacturer's products consistently broke shortly after the warranty expired (well before expected end of lifetime), why would anyone continue to purchase from that crap manufacturer...


> why would anyone continue to purchase from that crap manufacturer...

So the people who buy first should just get shafted? That's a license to manufacturers to bring out as crappy products as possible, then just change brand name or do a buyout or something every few years. If you say it's ok to sell rubbish products, then that's what will happen. The Chinese consumer market is a prime example of this, quality control and consumer rights over there are practically nonexistent. The consumer market is a cesspit of scams, fakes, substandard and dangerous products.

Regulation in a democracy is actually a sign of a functioning free market. It's just consumers (voters) getting together and exercising their rights to negotiate terms with suppliers who otherwise would hold all the cards. Markets depend on fair access to information to function. Product standards simply ensure consumers know and understand the quality of the product they are buying, which as individuals we don't all have the ability or resources to determine. That's why commodities markets, one of the cornerstones of the free market economic system, are based on trading highly standardized goods because that's the only way to scale up trading volumes and market efficiencies at the level they operate at.


> I also don't fully understand the need for laws to fix the "planned obsolescence" issue - if a manufacturer's products consistently broke shortly after the warranty expired (well before expected end of lifetime), why would anyone continue to purchase from that crap manufacturer...

There's an information asymmetry - if a previously-reputable manufacturer starts cheaping out on quality to save money, consumers have no way of knowing until a few years later. And unfortunately this seems to be a common pattern.


What I intentionally design and market a TV that only lasts 2 years, in exchange for a lower price. This law would prevent that.

What would hapoen to the disposible plates and utensils industries?


> What I intentionally design and market a TV that only lasts 2 years, in exchange for a lower price. This law would prevent that.

No it wouldn't? The law is that the product is required to last as long as the customer reasonably expects it to last, if it's explicitly advertised as lasting for 2 years then the customer can't reasonably expect it to last longer.


> Wow, that sounds like some serious liability for the manufacturer. Given these regulations I imagine these kinds of products in Australia are quite expensive relative to less restrictive countries.

It's expensive(ish) here anyway, mostly due to lack of competition. A country of 25m people surrounded by water, we're stuck with local manufacturers or importing (without local warranty).

> I also don't fully understand the need for laws to fix the "planned obsolescence" issue - if a manufacturer's products consistently broke shortly after the warranty expired (well before expected end of lifetime), why would anyone continue to purchase from that crap manufacturer...

Because maybe that's all the person can afford.


I also don't fully understand the need for laws to fix the "planned obsolescence" issue - if a manufacturer's products consistently broke shortly after the warranty expired (well before expected end of lifetime), why would anyone continue to purchase from that crap manufacturer...

Not knowing upfront, for example. Assuming their one failure was simply unlucky. Pessimism (deciding all manufacturers design products this way). Lack of money. Seldom used product. Lack of selection. Assuming that it was that one product from manufacturer x instead of their entire line of 200+ products (and of course a few will miss). Researching and realizing product B was really manufactured by Y instead of X, unlike most of their other product lines. Realizing product B was made to be cheaper to sell at Walmart, so you weren't getting the "good" brand you thought you were. Negative review overload (all of them have faults, it seems).


> The best bit about it is that if there is a major fault with the product, the remedies are: 1) Refund, 2) Replacement, or 3) Repair. And it is the consumer/purchaser's choice.

I'm surprised; in NZ it is the seller's choice which of the three to provide.


I am a (former) US lawyer, and this doesn't scan for me. Just because a buyer—or even most people—expects a dishwasher to last 10 years doesn't mean that they can get free warranty service until then. Is your experience outside the US? I'll admit I never worked in this area of law, but I do keep up on consumer rights types issues, and this seems at odds with the general contours of US consumer law that I'm aware of. I am very curious to know more about where/how these legal theories apply.


In all of EU, it is legally required to repair stuff that does not last for reasonably long time, but it is not up to each induvidual to define how long they think a product should last. That is defined per category of product. Most electronics and appliances are expected to last at least 5 years.


How long do expressed and implied warranties last though?


Basically the idea is what reasonable people think it should last. I've seen dishwashers still working from the 1970s. So if quality is constantly improving then why didn't my new dishwasher last? So if you can show that, especially from the same manufacturer or brand you should be ok. Otherwise this relies on the judge (who is reasonable by definition) and will have an opinion on the matter. You could also take a random survey of people as to their expectation. Everyone will say 10 years at least. Or just buy a report from a consumer survey company.


> I've seen dishwashers still working from the 1970s.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

No comment on whether things really are becoming lesser quality, but just so you know this exists.


The MMWA would not require you to provide service in that case.


And it still happens: https://www.macrumors.com/2018/04/11/iphone-repairs-ambient-...

So I’m wondering how this law addresses this.


Hmmm . . . so two questions:

1. (serious) What recourse do customers have when the company says your warranty is void because you broke the seal? Because the tech on the phone isn't going to have the power to do anything, he's reading from the binder. (Edit really asking: I'm sure someone here will already know the formal complaint process) /edit

2. (sarcastic) How long before the companies get the law changed de jurie instead of just de facto?


For your first question, step 1 is to escalate and when you escalate make sure they know you are creating a paper trail. If you can use the term "paper trail" it will help get your call escalated. Ideally you will get to someone senior enough that you can mention this enforcement action by the FTC and they will recognize it.

If that fails, you take your paper trail to small claims court. This can be challenging in different circumstances to serve the other party but courts can be pretty liberal here in California. I was watching cases one day and the person had served Microsoft by giving the summons to a Microsoft Store employee who worked in a kiosk at the mall. Microsoft hadn't shown up so they won their default judgement and went to the next step which was to put a judgement lien on the corporation's assets. (long before that actually happens their legal team will pay you your damages).

You could concurrently file a complaint with the FTC. It won't give you any money but it will add on to other complaints and that will eventually get action (like this article). Getting a registered mail letter from the FTC tends to get the attention of the right people.

As for your sarcastic question it is isn't that manufacturers have tried to get the laws changed, they have been unsuccessful. Support the 'right to repair' efforts when you run into them, talk to your representatives if you get a chance. That will keep the pressure to maintain the status quo.


> For your first question, step 1 is to escalate and when you escalate make sure they know you are creating a paper trail. If you can use the term "paper trail" it will help get your call escalated. Ideally you will get to someone senior enough that you can mention this enforcement action by the FTC and they will recognize it.

Do try to avoid the term "lawsuit", though. If you do, any customer service rep that didn't sleep through training will hang up, leaving you free to converse with their legal department... Through snail mail.


Very good point. I usually say "so how do I spell your name again for my notes?" that is often enough of a clue.


Anyone dumb enough to hang up on customers is going to be fired when said snail mail arrives. The customer using the word lawsuit doesn't relieve you of your obligation to provide customer service and the appropriate action is escalation to a manager.


Anyone dumb enough to keep speaking, when everything they will say can, and will be used against their employer in a court of law will be fired when said snail mail arrives, not the other way around.

Terminating that call is the civil equivalent to: "I have nothing to say officer, I want my lawyer." The customer support reps aren't being paid for their profound understanding of what to say without opening up the firm to liability. They are being paid to shut up, and fob you off to the legal department, in response to threats of legal action.


Most situations can be resolved without actual legal action. Your customer presumably wants you to do something if it's reasonable to do so you should resolve their issue or escalate to a manager.

I've been involved in several issues where legal action was a valid threat. I can think of 5 occasions off the top of my head. These involved corporations and none were handled as you described and I've dealt with local government and corporations. Most were handled without court. All were dealt with acceptably in my favor.

Your suggestion would have wasted everyone's time and their money. It is simultaneously fictional and terrible advice. I promise you that your manager wants the option to handle these situations before they blow up into disasters


I disagree, I wouldn't want any of my minimum wage employees to be talking outside of the approved script for the reasons vkou said. It's too expensive to train someone who is probably only temporary anyway, and of questionable capacity to properly converse about legal technicalities. If a customer wants to escalate, then can escalate by sending an email to a manager. If the customer doesn't understand that, then they're free to hang up and help the next person.


Presumably maybe you should pay more than minimum wage or at least pay SOME of them more than minimum wage so you can find some people of higher caliber than the the average taco bell employee. Then perhaps your hypothetical customers wouldn't feel like the only outlet for their frustration was to sue you.


Then prices would rise and customers go somewhere else. And when dealing with legal matters, the costs can get so high, there is no amount of training for temporary employees that can insure a business from material harm, so it's best to create protocols that reduce liability instead.

There's a reason why all businesses tend to some of the same solutions, because if you don't, you fail.


I’ve been on the other side, and whether legal action is a valid option or not it doesn’t really matter.

Once you escalate to that point, we took it seriously, and you don’t speak over the phone to a minimum wage representative. If someone threatened legal action over the phone I would tell them management will be in touch with legal details, and terminate the call immediately.

I’m not saying you won’t get a satisfactory resolution out of it, but it will almost certainly end the call immediately.


Not literally hang up the phone, but when I worked in CS in a PC repair store, if someone mentioned lawsuit, small claims, courts or legal issues, I’d stop them immediately, and tell them that our management would be in touch with our legal details, and terminate the call immediately.

At that point, the onus is on management/legal to decide whether the threat is credible or not, but you don’t have a slightly above minimum wage kid getting everyone in trouble then.

I would expect a similar response from almost any CS representative for most companies.


You could try this: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-... Not sure if you'll get a response but it will raise some ire and the company is likely to take it seriously. Hopefully...


Use the small-claims court to get a refund on the broken item they refused to repair.


Also if you bought using an Amex they have a pretty decent return policy. Should cover cases like this.


I've usually had good luck filing claims with credit card companies, depending on how long it's been. The one downside is that the extended warranty service may not be as valuable as just filing a normal claim right after you buy something.


Unrelated, but, wasn't the Empiricist a System-class GSV? Although, always nice to bump into Culture fans..


Yes it's meant as a little bit of self depreciation on a name that's a personal reminder: "don't be the big butt plug"


1) My guess would be a lawsuit of some sort.


A lot of people forget small claims courts are an option, lawyers arnt allowed, and judges are pretty sensible. Its a good option for sub $10k USD claims.

Large corps are unlikely to even show up, meaning you win by default.


I've heard that just asking for the leagal department's address to send a small claims summons will get your issue resolved right away.


It's a good option for $1k-$10k claims.

It's not so great for a $150 claim when you take into account the filing fee and the time it takes.

Can you reliably get the fee back? Still a giant hassle.


Probably varies by jurisdiction, but I know in my jurisdiction, court fees and related costs (such as the cost of serving the summons on the defendant) are automatically added to the judgment if you win.


Yeah and this varies by person obviously. I wouldn't even think about small claims court unless I thought there was $1,000 or more recoverable.


> lawyers arnt allowed

Not true - any time you take a big corp to small claims court, they're going to send a lawyer to represent them. You are suing an entity, not a person, and the entity will pick who represents them.


Washington State:

"Unless a judge grants permission, Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims suit."

http://www.atg.wa.gov/small-claims-court-0


So who would show up to represent the defendant in the case where a multi-national corporation got sued? Do we expect that the CEO show up to every lawsuit? A randomly chosen employee?


Officially it can be any employee other than "an attorney-at-law or legal paraprofessional". I imagine most companies would send whoever has the best chance of explaining the issue away: some sort of expert or PR rep.


Operative word being with, I believe. If I am Microsoft, and I have a lawyer on staff, I should be able to send that lawyer.


I believe not, if you consult the full text:

> A corporation may not be represented by an attorney-at-law or legal paraprofessional except as set forth in RCW 12.40.025.

12.40.025 covers the transfer of cases from the district court to small claims, so for claims starting at the small claims level, the restriction appears pretty tight.

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=12.40&full=true


Nope.. not if they passed the bar or are otherwise a paralegal.


So, if you sued a law firm, you’re going to win by default? I find that hard to believe in practice.


Reading through it, that situation doesn't appear to be specifically addressed, but I _suspect_ that it would depend on the specifics of the case:

* If you are suing an LLP, you are taking an action against an individual member of the partnership, thus they can appear as the defendant. Though 12.40.080 can be read as excluding attorneys regardless of their status as the defendant, I believe that has to be read in conjunction with the notice that the court issues under 12.40.060. The defendant is "direct[ed] and requir[ed ...]to appear personally in the small claims department", thus granting the permission described in 12.40.080(1). Even if that is not the case, it would seem inequitable to prevent the defendant appearing, thus I would expect the judge to grant permission to appear.

* If you are suing a larger company that ISN'T operating as an LLP, it would seem likely that they would have staff beyond the attorneys/legal paraprofessionals, thus they can represent the company.

* If you are suing a corporation that is truly made up of 100% legal professionals, that seems to be the case where things get somewhat murky, though that really does appear to be a corner case. The restriction in 12.40.080 is quite clear: "A corporation may not be represented by an attorney-at-law or legal paraprofessional", and I suspect it gets into the minutia of interpretation that I am not equipped to determine. However, I do note that 12.40.060 requires the defendant to appear, not _necessarily_ participate in the hearing. Thus, perhaps the hearing can proceed WITHOUT representation from the defendant, allowing the judge various options to achieve a equitable result (transfer the case to the district court where the restriction is lifted, issue a judgement if the facts are clear or it seems the company setup is deliberate in order to try and avoid the small claims court, summon employees as witnesses -- so even though they are not representing the company the facts of the claim can be established, make an order permitting a legal professional to represent the company--depends on the extent of judicial powers/making an equitable case to overrule the restriction etc.).

Note that this is just based on reading through the linked laws, and is likely wrong/inaccurate in some ways. However, it does appear that a law firm would have options beyond a default judgement.

12.40.080: http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=12.40.080

12.40.060: http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=12.40.060


You might get the secretary or intern!


Many small claims courts do not allow the company to send whoever they want. Some outright disallow sending lawyers.


For person to person suits, yes. For a suit against a corporation who has an attorney on staff? You're getting an attorney. Granted, it may be one who's not familiar with small claims court, but it'll be an attorney. BigCo isn't sending the CEO or the receptionist - they have a legal staff in house, they're gonna use them.


Not in California [1] in the general case.

[1] http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection...


Every state I have seen they have to send a Non-Lawyer Employee to Small Claims

The Small Claims court is specifically designed to not be handled by lawyers, even for business and "large corporations" does it does not matter if they have a laywer on staff unless the judge waives the rule the Corporation must authorize a non-lawyer to act as it represnative for the purposes of Small Claims.

That could be any employee approved by the Board of Directors, so no they would not send the CEO, but they likely would send a person who is viewed as an expert or have detailed information to defend the corporation against the claim in a Small Claims environment which is far far far far less formal than a Normal Court room.


In some states, companies have to send a regular employee to small claims court.

For example, in California, "a corporation may appear and participate in a small claims action only through a regular employee, or a duly appointed or elected officer or director, who is employed, appointed, or elected for purposes other than solely representing the corporation in small claims court."

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection...


My naive reading of this leads me to believe that they can send a lawyer who is primarily employed for... A million and one other purposes. (M&A, non-small-claims-court litigation, contract law, etc.)

What they can't do is send a lawyer employee whose sole job is small-claims-court litigation.


The section the poster above you referenced also includes this:

> (m) Nothing in this section shall operate or be construed to authorize an attorney to participate in a small claims action except as expressly provided in Section 116.530.

Here is the relevant part of section 116.530 [1]:

> (a) Except as permitted by this section, no attorney may take part in the conduct or defense of a small claims action.

> (b) Subdivision (a) does not apply if the attorney is appearing to maintain or defend an action in any of the following capacities:

> (1) By or against himself or herself.

> (2) By or against a partnership in which he or she is a general partner and in which all the partners are attorneys.

> (3) By or against a professional corporation of which he or she is an officer or director and of which all other officers and directors are attorneys.

So...it looks like for a corporation that is not a professional corporation, they cannot send an attorney even if that attorney is a regular employee.

That does raise an interesting question. What happens if a corporation is not a professional corporation, but every officer, director, and employee is an attorney? They would not fall under the 116.530(b) exception, and so would seem to all be excluded uner 116.540(m).

[1] http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection...


but at the same time there really isnt any point for them to send a lawyer that is going to cost massively more than what the claim could be even theoretically.


There's one point:deterrence. Half of a corporate lawyer's work is about deterrence, anyway.


Unfortunate if so, nothing will change until someone organizes class actions, and then the victims get at best enough to buy a lunch, a cheap lunch.


You can't organize a class action, the companies had a shrink wrap agreement to mandatory arbitration.

Welcome to 21st century America.


Aren't you underestimating the ability of Americans to litigate, especially about whether they can litigate? I'm sue you are.


Unless the FTC decides to pursue the matter. The FTC can obtain relief for all US consumers and is not bound by the arbitration agreement.


Those are basically unenforceable. You file a lawsuit, big co asks to squash to arbitration, judge says wtf no, this is potentially a class act.. continue.


Unfortunately the Supreme Court disagrees with you

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/supreme-court-backs-...


The courts have disagreed amongst themselves regarding the legality of shrink wrap agreements.


does that still apply? The stickers aren't a misunderstanding, they're illegal. You can't fine print away crimes.


>Welcome to 21st century America.

Which is still more plaintiff-friendly than any jurisdiction in Europe.


Not exactly, since individuals could still file small claims suits to get their money back if they don't mind the prospect of giving up the product at issue. I have successfully done this myself under similar circumstances.


I'm curious as to how this works out in practice. I can see the motivation for stickers like this -- half-assed attempts to repair a device can result in the device being in a state where it is no longer reparable by the manufacturer.

Is it still possible for a manufacturer to refuse to honor a warranty if that is the case, namely that the device was damaged by a botched repair, and this just says that they can't make that determination based on a sticker alone?


In short, yes.

An analogy with cars, where the same law already is being applied, will work. (Do we still do car analogies in 2018? And on sites which aren't Slashdot?) Suppose you get your brakes changed at some place which is well-known for brake repair. Then, later, your engine dies but the manufacturer's warranty should still be valid. Then, if the manufacturer wants to claim that the third-party brake repair is the cause of the engine failure (and thus that the warranty is invalidated), the burden of evidence is on them.


In general, yes, however - the manufacturer is unfortunately the one who is responsible for both producing and validating the burden of evidence. I know someone with a very expensive car(Audi RS6) who had an aftermarket exhaust and in year 2 of ownership the engine died - Audi refused warranty repair, saying that the modified exhaust could have changed the outgoing pressure of the gasses and caused the engine failure....and they are not wrong, but at the same time the character of the failure made it really obvious the issue was elsewhere. But the manufacturer says that it's caused by something you did so that's that. The whole case is being decided by the court right now, but it's anyone's guess which way it will go - and I suspect it will be ruled in favour of Audi.


Nah.. expert witnesses will show it was a failure elsewhere. Also the aftermarket exhaust will have design specs within tolerances of the OEM. You can run an engine with no exhaust just fine. It will be expensive to litigate that though, maybe more than the cost of the engine repair itself. They should probably include the aftermarket exhaust manufacturer in the suit as well. They have a vested interest in Audi not winning. After market parts have a long history of litigation especially with insurance company repairs. If they are effectively within spec your friend should be fine.


Yes, an independent expert will show that, but the issue here is that the cost if litigation is not zero, and the whole case could take months in courts - all while you're making payments for a car you can't drive at all. And yes, you can produce a witness that will say "this damage wasn't caused by the aftermarket exhaust" and Audi will produce a written statement by their engineering team in Ingolstadt staying "this damage was caused by the aftermarket exhaust" - and which side will the judge side with? The makers of the engine, or an independent expert? I have no doubt that Audi would lie(or at least make statements which are not false but are not necessarily applicable in this situation) about it to get out of replacing an engine for an RS6. I agree that involving the manufacturer of the exhaust would have been a good idea.


Unless Audi has more than "well that could have caused it" they will lose...

They will need to prove the failure was more likely than not caused directly by aftermarket part, I am actually surprised they are taking it that far instead of of just offer some kind of fractional settlement, i.e covering 80% of the repair or something.


Car warranties some times also requires that you follow the service interval and that it was done at authorized dealer giving you that shiny sticker in your service book


Presumably, the manufacturer owes repair of the defect that they caused, nothing more, nothing less, and neither a broken sticker nor even any other damage is a reason for that liability to go away--possibly unless the repair would be completely pointless given the state of the device. No clue about the details in the US, but that's how that usually should roughly work.


The law seems to only cover paid warranty repairs. That means if you botched the repair and send it in, it makes it illegal for the company to deny a repair from them. If they deem it to be irreparable, I'd imagine they'd just bill for a replacement.


> The FTC hasn’t said which six companies it sent letters to, just that they “market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.”

Does anyone else read this to imply that Tesla got a letter?


I would be shocked if Tesla is not on the list.

They do not take very kindly to people even daring to connect to the diagnostic port on their cars, literally calling people on the phone (because of course their servers log everything you ever do with the car and they know who owns each car) and telling them to stop: https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/posts/610152/

It does not bode well for any sort of attempt to repair the things.


Tesla has also basically thumbed its nose at the Massachusetts Right to Repair law. Technically they comply in that you can access their service manual online but it's $30 [per hour] or $3,000 per year or something like that.


And, I believe, before that, you had to go to a Tesla dealership to view it. After making an appointment. After paying a fee. And you weren't allowed to make copies of anything or take photos.


Tesla’s popularity is always surprising to me. They seem like a really shitty company to deal with.


They did two things incredibly well-- marketing, and top-notch engineering of core components which pushed both battery management and electric drivetrain tech forward.

Other than that, it's been a mixed bag. Personally I love what Musk has accomplished with SpaceX, but Tesla is more worrisome. The autopilot thing has been handled badly, their treatment of employees is apparently not stellar, and they seem to view their customers similarly to how Apple views theirs, only worse.

Time will tell how it all plays out. I would hesitate to call the odds either way, though; that is one unpredictable CEO.


>>Time will tell how it all plays out.

Bankruptcy most likely, once the big boys get off their ass Telsa is done, at least as a Auto manufacturer.

5 years tops before they are on the verge, 10 years before they are either out of the Automobile Manufacturing market (licensing their name to one of the Big Car Companies who actually make the cars) or are bankrupt

Their Future may be in Technology (battery, Auto Pilot, etc) that they can sell to other companies, unless they refuse to do that in which case Bankruptcy


I think it's most likely one of the conglomerates will buy it up once it's cheap enough. The brand name alone has value.


Bmw will remotely disable a car if you don't use their batteries or have an authorized dealer install it. Would be cool if that sort of thing was covered.


Now that's a class action lawsuit. Find an attorney and collect.


Remotely? On what model year? Mine has the "anti-theft" system that disables all the electronics without a dealer-provided unlock code, but is a few years old (2013).


I wonder what the response would've been if he literally told Tesla to fuck off. Also known as the "I bought it, I own it" rule.


Disconnect the car's free LTE service and refuse vehicle servicing at any service center? Tesla isn't obliged to maintain your Model S any more than Ford are obliged to maintain your Explorer. Breach the terms, lose the perks.

Hope you know a good electrical engineer.


That really is circular logic, and one of the primary reason the Warranty laws were passed

Dealers were pressuring Manufacturers to make rules to prevent owners from allowing 3rd party independent mechanics from serving the cars, dealership (aka stealerships) saw the extreme profit that can be made on servicing thus wanting to have a captive market to ensure high profits with no competition.

They used the same augments "well these are complex machine and you just can have any old moron on the street working on them"

That argument failed decades ago, and it should remain a failure today. Telsa should not be allowed to lock out independent repair shops under the guise of "well these are complex machines and you need to be Electrical Engineer to understand them"


> That argument failed decades ago, and it should remain a failure today. Telsa should not be allowed to lock out independent repair shops under the guise of "well these are complex machines and you need to be Electrical Engineer to understand them"

If only it was just Tesla, manufacturers of consumer electronics have gotten customers to buy this hook, line and sinker. The comments on this story and others related to third party repair services found on /r/Apple are filled with such anti-consumer garbage.


And then they will be sued and lose.

You are correct, that Tesla 'can' just refuse to follow the law. They might even be able to get away with it. In the same way that I can just go kill someone, and I might be able to get away with it too.


Their stance on this is one of the main reasons I will not even consider "buying" a tesla... They do not treat their "owners" as owners... If I wanted to Rent a car I would call Enterprise


> they know who owns each car

Of course, that's an easy one to answer. Tesla owns each car.

Not quite true, even if they sometimes act like it, but a lot of companies do try to make it this way. For instance, CHEP pallets: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHEP


I'm pretty sure more than a decade ago my dad had a keyless entry fob for a car, who's make I do not recall, that had a sticker to discourage battery replacement.

This anecdote is only relevant in the sense that the sticker might not be on the hood of the car; remote control for AV system or keyless entry or tire pressure monitoring gadgets inside the wheels are definite possibilities.


I also had John Deere in mind with the issues of them blocking farmers out of repairing their own equipment.


Yeah it's a big deal and being litigated.


I was baffled by this but then read this sentence buried in the article:

> "Unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC, such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that governs consumer product warranties. Similarly, such statements may be deceptive under the FTC Act."

It seems this rule only applies if the warranty services are not free. If the warranty covers free repair, they are still allowed to deny said free warranty if tampering is evident.


That was easy to miss and very important.


Meanwhile, warranty void if you run your own software in the device you own.


Isn't this reasonable though? Surely if I overclock and burn out my GPU, NVidia shouldn't be on the hook?


The hardware shouldn't be relying on drivers in the host OS to protect it from melting. That's too failure-prone even when the user isn't trying to push the limits of the hardware through overclocking. Thermal and voltage limits need to be enforced by the peripheral device itself either in hardware or in its own firmware. Relying on software running on the host CPU to provide a realtime response to critical situations is foolish.

Extreme overclocking of the sort that can break your hardware should require soldering or external re-flashing of a firmware ROM.


What if I change the firmware? What if I change the hardware? Where is the line and why distinguish between a pure hardware product and a combined product that uses both hardware and software? Why should we legislate engineering decisions?


I don't think any of those are productive questions. If you alter firmware that is usually unchanged over the life of the product (as for a desktop graphics card) and you specifically edit the rules it contains for thermal throttling, then you are obviously liable for the lump of slag that you end up with. Likewise if you're making hardware modifications that compromise the thermal management capabilities. In either case, it will be pretty easy to show after the fact that the product was modified, and that your modifications were probably related to the failure. None of that applies when the host software is responsible for preventing hardware damage. As I've explained, relying on software running inside of Windows to prevent hardware damage is asking for trouble even without user intervention.

You may also notice that I'm not advocating for "legislating engineering decisions"; though there are plenty of situations where engineering decisions obviously should be determined by legislation, this is more a question of after the fact liability to be worked out by the courts, which are generally pretty good at figuring out whether to place the blame on a user or on the engineers.


It all boils down to personal responsibility which, admittedly, doesn't seem to be a particularly valued trait these days.

Both you and the manufacturer know if your customization was the likely cause of a failure or not. Life would be much simpler if everyone just admitted that and moved on.


Reminds me of Dell denying warranty support due to VLC damaging the speaker

https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/02/09/1828229/custome...


I was referring to jailbreaking my iPhone.


Say you jailbreak your phone and the new operating system has bad state of charge tracking software. Should Apple be on the hook for a new battery?

I think that a lot of people who agree with your statement aren't considering that running third party software on a device might inflict costly (or irreparable) damage on a product.


Isn't battery charge management handled by an entirely separate microcontroller that functions even when the application processor is powered down? I know that's how Apple's laptops have always worked.


IF the bad software causes the failure, then no Apple should not be in the hook.

But if it is not, then yes they they should be.

And the burden of proof that says that the software caused the issue, should be in Apple.


I wonder how this applies to those moisture-evident stickers they used to put inside phones so they could deny warranty if you answered a call in the rain or spilled a drink on the table or something similar.

Technically, they don't say that wetting the sticker will void your warranty, but if the sticker shows that it was wet, the manufacturer would have denied warranty coverage anyway.


I'm pretty sure those turn in ambient moisture. I don't think I've ever seen one not "wet".


Define "ambient". Here in semi-arid California, they might work just fine. OTOH I once spent two weeks in Borneo.... my Palm Pilot (yes, it was a long time ago....) crapped out within 24 hours. Electronics really suffered there. (A friend and I repaired a ham radio amplifier for a local ham. We found the problem.... in the form of a skeleton of a gecko that had gotten itself across the filter caps of the 1200V @ 900mA power supply.... not directly a moisture problem, just a general jungle problem.)


I think it is their proof that something wet happened. You could sue in small claims and ask for evidence that the stickers perform (or file an FTC complaint). The new phones though claim to be water proof or at least water resistant so that denial probably won't hold up anymore.


Not really the same situation though is it... That sticker is to confirm damage beyond warranty, not to restrict the end users ability to fix the problem.

Anyway, proof of misuse or consumer damage should void your warranty.


Except the stickers also showed that you lived in a region that sometimes had days with high humidity, which was not a condition that should void a warranty.

Perhaps the seal stickers should say, "Warranty inspection waived if this seal is intact."


It would be nice if companies were required to provide service information and parts. There is a long history concerning this issue starting with the 1956 consent decree against IBM:

https://repair.org/history/


Companies like Apple have been in violation of this for years. Sending them a letter isn't going to do anything. The FTC should either fine these companies or admit that it's not going to do anything. It's absolutely ridiculous that these companies get a pass on this for years. What incentive do they have to remove their stickers or change their policies?


> or admit that it's not going to do anything.

What would that be good for?

Honestly. Now they have started applying pressure.

They can start sending fines later this year or next year.

But giving up? I can't seen an upside in that.


If people see their public agencies failing them, maybe they'll vote differently or at least act in accordance to try to effect change themselves. Pretending to do things makes the public complacent because they think those things get done. But I agree, fines are much better if they're really coming up.


Fixing Sh!t is not a crime




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: