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Google can keep a phone if you send for repair with non-OEM parts (Update: Changing policy)

UPDATE: Google reversed course. It will remove the controversial clause allowing it to keep phones sent in for repair.
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Published onJune 4, 2024

Google or Google Search logo on smartphone, with colorful background stock photo (3)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Google’s terms and conditions related to Pixel repairs stated it would not return a device if it had non-OEM parts.
  • This would essentially allow Google to “steal” your phone if you sent it in for repair with third-party hardware.
  • However, Google has confirmed it is changing this policy, likely due to public outcry.

Update, June 4, 2024 (03:50 PM ET): Google has responded to Android Authority regarding the controversial clause in its service and repair terms and conditions that allows the company to keep a device sent in for repair if that device has non-OEM parts. Google has assured us that it will not keep phones sent in for repair and that it is changing the wording of its ToS agreement to reflect this better.

Here is the statement from a Google spokesperson:

If a customer sends their Pixel to Google for repair, we would not keep it regardless of whether it has non-OEM parts or not. In certain situations, we won’t be able to complete a repair if there are safety concerns. In that case, we will either send it back to the customer or work with them to determine next steps. Customers are also free to seek the repair options that work best for them. We are updating our Terms and Conditions to clarify this.

This is a positive, customer-friendly move from Google. However, it is pretty alarming that the clause was even there in the first place. Regardless, you no longer need to fear that Google would keep your Pixel from you if you send it in for repair.


Original article, June 3, 2024 (1:00 PM ET): Last week, Samsung found itself embroiled in a controversy of its own making when it was discovered that the company was forcing independent repair shops to snitch on customers who had devices with non-OEM parts installed. Now Google has also landed in hot water for similar anti-consumer behavior.

Like many other phone makers, Google has a self-repair program for servicing your damaged or malfunctioning Pixel device. As its support site explains, there are options to get repair tools, manuals, and certified parts so you can fix up your Pixel like new. Owners can also choose to simply send their device in to have it repaired professionally.

As replacement parts can be expensive, some DIYers choose to use parts from third-party suppliers. But if you go down this route, you may want to avoid sending your device to Google if there’s a problem you don’t have the skills to fix on your own.

As YouTuber Louis Rossmann discovered, Google’s service and repair terms and conditions contain a concerning stipulation. The document states that Google will keep your device if a non-OEM part is found. You can see the excerpt below.

Google service and repair excerpt
Google

Apparently, this rule has been in effect since July 19, 2023, as marked on the page. Imagine sending the phone you depend on in for repair, only to not have it returned to you. This discovery is not exactly a great look for the Pixel maker and has led to some biting reactions online.

One Reddit user says, “Google really hates their customers when those customers don’t keep their wallets open and pointed at Google’s greedy hands.” Another user states, “This is crazy. They truly don’t want us to own anything anymore. They want to control everything we own and dictate our lives.” Meanwhile, a commenter on YouTube says:

Imagine a world where if you bought a car and changed the breaks because they needed to be replaced and then took it to the dealership for another unrelated issue that they not only would not do the repair you requested but then have the vehicle towed and scrapped. That is why right to repair is so important, because if you can’t modify or repair your device as you see fit it ceases to be your property.

This behavior isn’t unique to Google either; Samsung and Apple also engage in similar anti-consumer conduct. For example, in the report about Samsung mentioned earlier, it was found that Samsung requires independent repair stores to disassemble a customer’s product if it has a non-OEM part.

All in all, it just goes to show that the current state of self-repair isn’t looking great. At this point, these programs appear to be more for show than anything else. We have contacted Google for comment and we will update this article accordingly.

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