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Consumers are often told by printer, copier, and fax support and sales personnel that the use of remanufactured or compatible supplies may “void your warranty” or “violate the terms of a service contract”. THIS IS NOT TRUE, AND IT MAY BE A VIOLATION OF FEDERAL TRADE LAWS IF ENFORCED BY THE MANUFACTURER.

If you ever place a call to a manufacturer’s support number or utilize an authorized service center, it is common that one of the first things the technician will do is ask or check to see if you are using brand-name (Original Equipment Manufacturer or OEM) cartridges – and if not, immediately tell you that this is the cause of your problem.  Further, they may try to tell you that your warranty has been voided.  Considering that the supplies business is the most profitable part of an OEM’s operation, none of this is a real surprise.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FALSE, AND THE PERSON TELLING YOU IS EITHER INTENTIONALLY LYING OR IS BADLY MISINFORMED.  The only way that the use of a compatible cartridge can void a machine warranty is if the equipment manufacturer can prove that the cartridge caused the machine to fail, and this is highly unlikely.

Fortunately, United States law is designed and intended to protect consumers and to prevent manufacturers from requiring the use of their supplies.  These anti-consumer practices are prohibited in the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts, and are very explicitly prohibited in the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the US federal law that requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to provide consumers with detailed information about warranty coverage. It affects both the rights of consumers and the obligations of warrantors under written warranties. Specifically, Section 102, Part C of the Act discusses “Tie-In Sales” Provisions. As it is illegal to include such provisons, it means that it is prohibited for OEMs to require that customers use OEM supplies in order to keep their warranty in effect.

The following is directly from the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) web site in explaining Tie-In Sales Provisions prohibited under the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act:

“Generally, tie-in sales provisions are not allowed. Such a provision would require a purchaser of the warranted product to buy an item or service from a particular company to use with the warranted product in order to be eligible to receive a remedy under the warranty. The following are examples of prohibited tie-in sales provisions.

“In order to keep your new Plenum Brand Vacuum Cleaner warranty in effect, you must use genuine Plenum Brand Filter Bags.  Failure to have scheduled maintenance performed, at your expense, by the Great American Maintenance Company, Inc., voids this warranty.”

This is the same law that allows you to have your new car serviced at locations other than the dealer and to use supplies (oil and oil filters, for example) that are not made by the car manufacturer, or OEM – and keep your warranty in effect.

The FTC web site does go on to explain what Tie-In provisions are permitted.  The Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act does permit an OEM to require the use of OEM supplies ONLY IF they have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the FTC that their product will not work properly without a specified item or service – and they MUST specifically apply to the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for a waiver of the tie-in sales prohibition.  To our knowledge, no waivers have been granted in regards to our industry.

The OEM can also suggest, but not require, that you use their authorized dealers, and they can void your warranty only if maintenance or repair work is performed incorrectly.

You can read more about the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act on the United States Federal Trade Commission web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/adv/bus01.shtm#Magnuson-Moss.

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