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Unleash the potential of your phone: Rooting your device does not void its warranty

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As users we sometimes face the issue of rooting our devices. We may want to regain control of our device or we may want to keep using a device with an outdated operating system. But we are afraid of losing our legal warranty. Let’s be clear: Just rooting your device and installing new software will not void the statutory warranty.

An illustration about the right to repair
CC-BY-NC-SA by Rahak

EU law stipulates that consumers should have a minimum 2-year guarantee (statutory warranty) when acquiring a new device. However, in the past few years, vendors have tended to include specific clauses stating that if the consumer changes the device, the warranty will be void. That is why the question of whether rooting or flashing a device voids the statutory warranty is quite recurrent. The answer is no.

The FSFE has previously addressed this issue. In short, if you acquire a device as a consumer in the European Union, the mere fact that you have modified or changed the software of your device by rooting or flashing it is not a sufficient reason to void your statutory warranty.

Since our previous discussion of this topic, the Sale of Goods Directive 2019/771 (the SGD) was enacted, repealing the previous 1999/44/CE Directive, which provided the original statutory warranty. The SGD deals with the contract of sale between a consumer and a seller, and it entered into force on June 11, 2019, applying its provisions to any contract concluded after January 1, 2022.

Reasons to root your device

Rooting the phone and installing Free Software extends the lifespan of the device. Most phone devices are not controlled by the users, but by the manufacturer and the operator of the telephone network. The software that runs on them is not entirely Free Software. Even Android phones ship with non-free software and proprietary add-ons that often work against the full interest of the user.

Through rooting or flashing a device, the user can take complete control over it. When consumers buy a phone they buy the physical aspects of the phone. They should be free to choose which software should be on their phone without having the fear of losing the warranty. Monopolies hurt fair competition and consumers. Companies/vendors regulating operating systems which provide critical online services, results in limiting user choice and freedom. The devices should therefore be neutral so as to enable the users to freely choose any software on their phones without any conditions.

The SGD is on your side

At the FSFE we have already analyzed the changes brought in by the SGD and how they impact rooting and the statutory warranty.

The SGD covers goods with digital content, including smartphones, smart TVs, smart watches, and fitness trackers. All such goods covered under the SGD must have a mandatory two-year warranty from the seller that the product will meet the purposes for which products of the same type would normally be used. One of the main changes enacted by the SGD is the reverse burden of proof. This means that if your device becomes defective within one year, it is presumed that the defect was present all along, and you do not need to prove anything; instead, it is the seller who has to prove that this is not the case. This period was six months under the previous 1999/44/CE Directive.

There are currently no instances of litigated cases about warranty issues when rooting, flashing, or jailbreaking smartphones in Europe, nor has there been a rule or provision on this issue. This makes the legality of such acts unclear. So, you can root your phone, but if you wish to keep the warranty intact without any problems, then reverse the root to the stock operating system and check if everything was undone. If the stock OS functions as it should, then you do not have an issue.

Future Updates to Keep An Eye On

Lastly, you should know that the SGD is relatively new as it came into effect in January 2022. The European Commission, under the Sustainable Consumption of Goods-Promoting Repair and Reuse Programme, has already introduced a proposal for a directive to make some changes to the SGD to accommodate repairing obligations on the producers and to encourage consumers to choose repair over replacement if there is a possibility. This can also have an impact on the subject matter of this article.

The FSFE will keep you updated on this issue as and when there are more developments.

Footnotes

  1. Article 23 of Directive 2019\771
  2. Recitals 12, 13, 14, 15 and Article 2 of Directive 2019\771
  3. Article 10 of Directive 2019\771
  4. Article 11 of Directive 2019\771