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I got my iPhone XR battery replaced 6 months ago. I chose a bigger capacity battery. The tech guy told me it is not apple's original part. But I decided to give it a shot. Battery life has been working great for me.

The same phone got its screen cracked (I dropped the phone), so yesterday I went to the Apple store for a replacement since I like apple's original screen, but apple refuses to provide screen replacement service due to the fact that they found there is some third-party hardware in the phone.

Question 1: Can apple just do that?

Question 2: is it legal for anyone to fix a phone with a non-original part as a replacement in California? (The tech guy will not get into any trouble ?)

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  • 8
    Given that swelling batteries can cause the screen to crack, I could see that Apple would not want to take on any responsibility for the new screen given the non-standard battery.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 17 at 13:31
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    How might that not be legal? Aug 17 at 22:05
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    @JonCuster Note that the Apple store did not say "Here, see the battery has swollen breaking the screen". They just ditched the whole operation once they saw a non-Apple part was present. The fact that a different used might have the same damage due to a different battery doesn't mean that OP's damage is due to that. It should be on Apple to prove that the damage was caused by a bad repair/replacement in order to refuse warranty.
    – GACy20
    Aug 18 at 8:29
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    @RobbieGoodwin Do you think Ford should void your warranty if you change the tires model/company? Moreover do you think it is resonable for Ford to void the warranty on the repair of the radio antenna because you changed the rims of your tires using a custom non-Ford certified rim?
    – GACy20
    Aug 18 at 8:30
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    OP, now that you had this experience I recommend learning about the Right to repair movement. You can check Louis Rossman on youtube on that topic. Aug 18 at 12:30

4 Answers 4

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To answer the question in the headline, yes, it is legal to install a non-original battery in an iPhone. In a 2016 Supreme Court case regarding another consumer electronics product (in that case, printers), the Court found that once a company has sold a product they cannot dictate how it is used. Since the phone is your property you are free to repair as you see fit.

Re your edit: The tech making the repair would not get in trouble either, unless they separately had a contract with apple that forbade them from doing the repair; that's not something you as a customer can account for.

You do not say if your phone is under warranty. If it is not, Apple is generally free to decline to service it for any reason. For information about your rights under warranty, see bta's excellent answer on this same question. There is also good information in the comments on this answer.

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    In many places they can refuse a free warranty repair if your modification damaged the phone, and they can refuse any paid repair if your modification makes it harder or impossible to do the repair successfully. The fact that someone else replaced the battery by itself is usually not enough reason.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 17 at 11:59
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    In the particular case of warranties, 15 U.S. Code § 2302 (c) states "No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name" (with a minor exception), which is to say, they aren't allowed to void the warranty solely based on the fact that you have used third party products.
    – Arthur
    Aug 17 at 12:08
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    I was also under the impression that if they wanted to void a warranty because of a faulty repair or similar tampering by the consumer or a third party, the onus was on the warranter to show a causal relation between the previous tampering and the reason for the current warranty claim. But I can't remember where that comes from exactly. (Louis Rossmann claims as much on many occations, and he cites some source, whether it's a SCOTUS decision or bill or an act, I don't remember.)
    – Arthur
    Aug 17 at 12:13
  • I really wonder how this works with software services. Like they "service" you by allowing you to use their app store. Could they legally (ofc they can practically) disable their app store and x other features on the phone, once they detect 3rd party hardware? This seems ludicrous but not totally out of the realm of possibility.
    – Hakaishin
    Aug 17 at 13:53
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    Apple's policy is that they will repair if they believe it's their fault even if you cannot prove it, but that's voluntary. Now with the third party battery... Someone has to decide if that caused the problem or not. And in the UK/EU you can decide whether you claim on the manufacturer or the seller. From month six to twelve you are in a better situation claiming on Apple as manufacturer.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 17 at 17:56
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What Apple did is an unfortunately common practice that in most cases is indeed illegal. In recent years, with the rise in support for "right to repair" movements, the FTC has been more aggressive about sending official warnings to companies that try to deny warranty repairs to people who use third-party parts or repair services. According to the FTC, these limitations are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and could potentially be seen as "deceptive statements" under the FTC Act.

There are limitations to this, though. The manufacturer can legally require you to use "official" replacement parts if they provide those parts/services for free, as is often the case for safety recalls. They can also apply for a waiver from the FTC, but those are not common or easy to get.

All that being said, companies will still act like they can do this, though "warranty void if removed" stickers and with clauses in warranty contracts. Even if those things are not enforceable, they're convincing enough that a large portion of the user base won't take a chance on using third-party parts or services. Customer support personnel are even instructed to deny warranty claims on hardware with third-party parts, even though the company knows they can't legally do that. If this happens to you, your recourse is to take the company to small claims court. Between the hassles of filing a suit and the restrictions in the "Terms of Service" agreement (mandatory arbitration, use of a specific venue, waiver of right to class action, etc.), the company knows that exceedingly few people are going to bother suing them. They know they're in the wrong, but enforcing your rights is too expensive compared to what you get in return. That's why it's good to see the FTC working on this from the top, where the problem can be solved more efficiently. They released a report in May of 2021 that explains the overall problems to Congress. Executive Order 14036 instructs the FTC to pursue solutions more aggressively, and shortly afterwards the FTC unanimously voted to investigate and address these sorts of illegal warranty restrictions "with vigor".

If you don't want to go through small claims court or if this isn't a warranty repair, you have a couple of options. You can put the original battery back in, get the screen repaired (at a different location), and then swap back to the larger battery. Alternatively, you can have a third-party service provider install a new screen. Many can obtain OEM hardware by salvaging parts from secondhand devices.

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  • So many companies try to do this, I'm just now filing in a small claims court. Let's see how it goes
    – Hakaishin
    Aug 18 at 10:48
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    wouldn't the phone firmware know that a non-Apple battery has been connected previously? I would assume so. If that's the case, swapping back to an original battery would not help as the Apple technician would find out when running diagnostics on the phone. Aug 19 at 8:19
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One iPhone caught fire after a battery repair when the repairman put two screws into the battery. Creating a fire hazard during a repair is probably illegal, original battery or not.

Charging you for an (expensive) original battery and the using a (cheap) non-original battery is probably illegal.

I think “is it Legal” was probably not the questioned you wanted answered.

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Your issue has a name: Right to Repair

Obviously companies would like very much to block your right to fix your own products, or force you to take service only from their authorized dealers. Fortunately, thanks to the auto industry, this is a well-trod area of law, although as "products" and "services" keep getting closer and closer together, manufacturers just keep trying. Automakers too - just look at Rich Rebuilds on Youtube, and his struggle with Right to Repair on Tesla cars.

Again fortunately, the political sense in Washington right now, and in California generally, is to strongly protect Right to Repair.

  • It will be very difficult for manufacturers to make it illegal for you to fix it.
  • Third party repairmen cannot get in legal trouble. (though, manufacturers can hassle them in petty ways; again see Rich Rebuilds.)

However, this doesn't help a lot with your case.

Let's look at your list of recourses.

Warranties do not apply to user-caused damage. For instance if you crash your car, Ford does not cover that under warranty. That is insurance. Similarly, you broke your screen, which is not a factory defect, so it's a matter of insurance not warranty. As such it's not subject to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

This gets confusing because it's often bundled.

Apple had every right to refuse a warranty repair as it was not a factory defect.

Apple has the right to set any condition on their insurance contract which is not unreasonable, and you can read the contract and see. And in particular things which increase their likelihood of a claim. For instance, that battery may have been thicker than a stock battery, possibly contributing to the screen breakage. Your recourse is to decline that insurance coverage, and get it from someone else.

As far as taking cash for an off-insurance repair, where Apple is playing the role of any random repairman... like any business Apple has the right to refuse service to anyone. *

So yes, Apple can just do that.

* barring certain prohibited categories, like race, religion, national origin and the like.

The financier also gets a say.

Note that if you're not paying $1000-ish upfront for a nice iPhone), there's some sort of financing going on behind the scenes, with the phone as security. Your rights to modify it are limited because you don't own it free and clear. This is often shrouded in smoke and mirrors, like the "free phone" you get in exchange for a contract commitment. Not free, and not yours (yet)... read the contract.

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  • If someone replaces my battery, and then a fault appears, it would depend on the actual facts whether the fault was caused by apple or by the battery replacement or by something completely unrelated.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 30 at 10:38
  • +1 for noticing that “your phone” might not actually be your phone.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 30 at 10:48

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