There are manufacturer warranties, and then there’s Australian consumer law. Sometimes they match up — and sometimes they don’t.
Over at TechStyles, Scott Fitzgerald writes about the life — and death — of his FitBit Ultra tracking bracelet. He purchased it in February 2012, gave it a good and solid workout life — and then it died. The warranty was twelve months, so he’s plumb out of luck, right?
That’s as much a matter of opinion as one of actual legal responsibilities, but before I point out why, I should note that Fitbit did offer him an upgraded model, the Fitbit One for half price. They’re not legally obliged to do that, and it’s a very good customer retention step.
Still, there’s the matter of what the warranty says, and what Australian consumer law says. I’ve written about this plenty of times previously, but it’s a topic that just keeps coming up. A manufacturer can supply whatever warranty terms they like, but those warranty terms are supplemental — that is, they add onto, rather than replace the statutory Australian consumer law rights. So what does the law actually say?
This is where it gets murky, because there’s no set number or guideline under Australian law. The ACCC has a number of excellent publications that detail this, but essentially speaking, a product has to last for a “reasonable” amount of time based on purchase price and “reasonable” expectations regarding how long it would last. Nobody would buy a smartphone and expect it to only last three months, or a bed only last a year, but that decade old PC you’ve got running as a print server most certainly would be out of statutory warranty.
So what’s “reasonable” in Scott’s case? I’m not a lawyer*, but eighteen months feels just a little short for what is in essence a premium pedometer, not just an ordinary one. Buy a standard clicking pedometer and have it die after a year? I’d say that’s fair.
But the Fitbit lines (and all their competitors) sell you on long-term usage, and I’d be jumping up and down a little more if I was Scott. He’s clear that he’s used it quite a bit, including for a marathon, but then that’s the entire point of the gadget.
As noted, Fitbit did offer him a half-price updated band, which is nice; I hope he finds it more comfortable than I did the Fitbit Flex.
*Declaration just in case you somehow thought I was. Hello to all the lawyers I know!