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Disclaimer: the content of this post is a brief overview of this area of law and is intended to be used for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. Before you do anything crazy with your phone, do proper research about the risks of your planned actions, and if you find yourself in a position where you need to assert your statutory rights against an uncooperative manufacturer or telco, please seek further information from your local consumer protection agency. Details can be found on the ACCC’s website.

When Motorola and Telstra announced the RAZR HD, the big question floating around the internets (at least among the Ausdroid team) was whether the bootloader would be unlockable. After all, in the United States, Motorola have produced the Droid Razr HD Dev Edition (despite its extra fun name, it’s the same phone) that has an unlockable bootloader, but taking advantage of this feature will void the device’s warranty. Telstra are trying the same policy here – they’ll unlock the device, but only if you agree to void your warranty. Unlike America though, who wouldn’t know consumer protection laws if you slapped them in the country’s (metaphorical) face, Australia has some of the most awesome consumer protection laws in the world, which make such claims as ‘voiding the warranty’ ridiculous, not to mention prima facie unlawful.

Australia’s new-fangled Consumer Law grants a number of protections to consumers in respect of purchases of goods, which together amount to a ‘reasonable warranty’ over those goods. This statutory warranty cannot be waived or contracted away by consumers, and it is illegal for a vendor of goods to claim that it can. This means that any agreement by a consumer to give up their warranty in exchange for their device to be unlocked is of no effect. Of course, if you stab a screwdriver through your phone, you can’t demand that it be replaced under warranty, but it might surprise you that the stabbing itself doesn’t void your warranty. It’s just that the damage was caused by your actions, rather than a defect in the device itself.

Warranties exist to protect against defects in the goods being sold, whether the defect is apparent a week after the device is bought, or whether it manifests itself 23 months into your contract. For example, if you have the bootloader unlocked, and it turns out later that the glue used to hold your device’s display assembly together proves defective and the device’s touchscreen becomes unresponsive, you would still be entitled to a repair or replacement of the defective device. The more unrelated the defect is to what you might have done to your phone as a result of unlocking it, the easier it will be for you to assert your warranty claim.

To summarise:

  1. Don’t stab your phone with a screwdriver. No one will help you.
  2. You cannot agree to waive your statutory rights, and it is unlawful for a vendor to misrepresent the nature of these rights.
  3. If a carrier or manufacturer is refusing to honour your warranty, contact your local consumer protection agency. I’ve found that in Victoria, often the mere mention of Consumer Affairs is enough to get what you want.
Companies: Motorola