FSFE Lawyers: Rooting does not void warranties in the EU
In a joint blog post published by FSFE legal team member Matija Šuklje and attorney Carlo Piana, both lawyers argue that rooting mobile devices does not void statutory warranty under EU law. They also point out that there are very few hardware defects caused by software and that the seller of the device would have to prove such an occurrence in order to declare the warranty void. The research was carried out as part of Šuklje's work for the FSFE Freedom Task Force.
According to Piana and Šuklje, confusion arises from the fact that many manufacturers and sellers offer voluntary warranties that often state that flashing another operating system will void them. While this is completely reasonable and means rooting will nullify that particular warranty, it does not mean that this stipulation extends to the statutory warranty offered by EU law. Since European Union Directive 1999/44/CE does not include such a stipulation, the manufacturer and seller cannot deny statutory warranty claims if the purchase was undertaken by a consumer inside the European Union.
Under the statutory warranty, defects in the device that appear within the first six months after purchase are automatically assumed to have been present when the device was sold. In this case, the seller has fulfil the warranty without recourse. If the defect surfaces after six months but within a total of two years after the purchase date, the seller can refuse to fulfil the warranty but has to prove that the fault was caused by the consumer. According to both lawyers, "it is generally recognised by courts that unless there is a sign of abuse of the device, the defect is there because the device was faulty from the beginning."
Should the seller refuse a warranty claim because a device was rooted, the consumer can sue them in a civil lawsuit and report the incident to relevant national authorities. Many European countries have consumer associations that will ensure such a suit on behalf of the consumer and legal action of this type often does not require the litigant to hire a lawyer.
Piana and Šuklje recommend users to flash the original firmware back onto the device to make sure that the defect was not caused by rooting. Then, if the fault still persists, it is quite clear that the underlying hardware is the culprit, they say.