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Australian GPS makers busted for 'lifetime' updates

Screenshot of Navman GPS unit

The consumer watchdog has ordered GPS device manufacturers to stop using the word ‘lifetime’ to describe their services, as it could potentially mislead customers.

The Australian branches of TomTom, Navman and Garmin have agreed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s demand that the word be removed from all packaging and marketing material.

Examples of the liberal use of the word included “Lifetime TomTom traffic”, “Lifetime FREE maps” (Navman) and “Free Lifetime Maps & Traffic” (Garmin).

Despite these claims, according to the ACCC, each company had the discretion to stop services before the end of the lifetime of the device.

“The statements about ‘lifetime’ services made by these GPS manufacturers were inconsistent with what consumers would understand ‘lifetime’ to mean,” said ACCC commissioner Sarah Court.

“Consumers would have rightly expected to receive those services for the lifetime of the device, without the manufacturer being able to unilaterally terminate the commitment.”

The claims were made on all sorts of material — websites, packaging, retail shop displays, retailer catalogues and websites — but the ACCC ruled this was potentially “false, misleading or deceptive”.

The three companies will now remove all references to ‘lifetime’.

“Businesses must not deceive or mislead consumers in advertising, whether through small print, or by using ill-defined, broad terms like ‘lifetime’,” said Court.

“We also encourage consumers to invoke their consumer rights if they believe they have been misled or are not getting what they paid for.”

The agreement with ACCC comes one year after TomTom withdrew updates on a range of older “lifetime” devices, triggering consumer anger.

In 2017, wifi device manufacturer Belkin admitted its “lifetime warranty” only applied for 5 years after purchase — but agreed to honour customer claims after the ACCC started an investigation.

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