How long should your gadgets last?

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!
Source: Techstyles

3 thoughts on “How long should your gadgets last?”

  1. Nice article Alex, and thanks for the link. Truth be told, I’m still not sure about whether I should be disappointed about the longevity my Fitbit. We had almost 7 million steps together, and having it has had a positive effect for my health.
    It’s been bouncing around in my pocket a lot as I ran and walked those 18 months, and yes, as you say, it is a premium pedometer, but it isn’t marketed as having anything like or near a military spec for toughness.
    And it was a smart move by Fitbit to offer the replacement deal. That on top of a good support program, and engagement via social media, marks them as a well-run company.

    1. I guess the question is also (as always) the price too… if you’d got that for a discount to begin with, your perceived value would be higher than if you’d paid full price.. or also if you felt, at the time, that it was overpriced.. you might feel later that it is not as much value if it breaks within a reasonable time.
      Yeh.. so many factors…

  2. It is all a bit subjective.. and the problem, as I see it, is when you take your case to Fair Trading and the person who assesses it has a different “subjective opinion” to what is reasonable than you do. For someone in the know.. some “thing” might have a reasonable life expectancy of 12 months.. or 24 months.. whatever.. and industry benchmarks aren’t always correct either…
    In years gone by certain electrical goods used to last DECADES before they broke down.. now we are talking in singular years and even in months for some things.. what is reasonable to one person is not to another..

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