19 December 2017

Product Lifetimes

What is a lifetime in relation to a product warranty under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reminded people that 'lifetime' refers to the consumer - put simply, the human animal - rather than to the shorter period of flourishing of a snail, gnat or other non-human animal or to the lifetime of electronic kit.

The ACCC reports that it has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from consumer electronics manufacturer Belkin to honour claims under its lifetime warranty policies for the lifetime of the original purchaser.

It comments
 During 2016 and 2017, Belkin supplied certain products with a “lifetime warranty” or “limited lifetime warranty”. However, Belkin applied a policy of only repairing or replacing products under these warranties within the five years from the date of purchase.  
A disclaimer was not printed on product packaging but was referred to on Belkin’s website. Products affected by these “lifetime warranty” claims included wireless routers, switches and cables.
“Belkin has acknowledged that its lifetime warranty representations may have breached the Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations about the effect of a warranty or guarantee,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. “Manufacturers must ensure consumers are not misled by warranty representations. If a business makes a lifetime warranty claim, they must be very clear about what this means with their customers.” 
In addition, Belkin has admitted that some products with lifetime warranties were likely to be non-compliant with the Australian Consumer Law because they did not include the wording required for use in any warranty against defects. 
Belkin has undertaken to correct its website and packaging to comply with this requirement.
Belkin cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation and has taken steps to resolve the ACCC’s concerns.
The specific Undertaking notes
Between about July 2016 and July 2017, Belkin made representations on the packaging of more than 130 types of its products that those products were sold with a “lifetime warranty” or “limited lifetime warranty”.
In fact, Belkin had a policy on repairing or replacing those products pursuant to the warranty only within five years of the date of purchase.
On its website, Belkin stated that these warranties applied for the lifetime of the product, which Belkin had determined to be five years, not the lifetime of the consumer. However, there was no material on or in the packaging of Belkin’s products informing consumers of this.
The ACCC considers that some consumers may have understood that a “lifetime warranty” or “limited lifetime warranty” applied for the lifetime of the purchaser, or a period longer than five years.