Dear Lifehacker, I remember reading on your site a while ago a great article on the new Australian Consumer Laws, stating that if a device breaks in an 'unreasonable' time then a consumer has a right to ask for a repair or replacement. So here's the issue: I bought a $1700 Asus laptop (the stylish Zenbook) from JB Hi-Fi in March 2012 that has just gone kaput. The screen is white and scrambled. JB won't help as its out of warranty, and Asus tell me they don't even make the screens any more so can't fix it either. Does 4 years for a $1700 laptop fall within the 'unreasonable' time frame outlined in the ACL? What would you do? Thanks, Chris
Broken Laptop image via Shutterstock
It's always disappointing when a device fails out of warranty, and determining how long it should have lasted can be difficult, and is going to vary depending on who you ask. In this case it all hinges on that definition of a 'reasonable' amount of time for any given device to last without fault. This come from JB Hi-Fi's warranty and replacement page:
Services must be carried out with care and skill. These rights, which the ACL says automatically apply whenever goods or services are supplied to a consumer, are called ‘Consumer Guarantees’. Consumer Guarantees have no set time limit but generally last for an amount of time that is reasonable to expect given factors including the cost and quality of the product or any representations made.
The government's Consumer Guarantee page goes into a little more detail, with the following test of 'acceptable quality':
This test takes into account: • the nature of the goods - for example, a major appliance such as a fridge is expected to last longer than a toaster • the price paid - for example, a cheap toaster is not expected to last as long as a top-of-the range one • any statements about the goods on any packaging or label on the goods - for example, the toaster box shows a special defroster function • any representations made about the goods by the manufacturer or supplier - for example, the supplier said the crumb tray was easy to detach and clean
JB Hi-Fi's page also lists a table with a guideline to the kind of lifespan you should expect for various devices. Products costing up to $4000 excluding computers can be expected to last up to 3.5 years, while computers up to $2000 are only given a 2 year safe lifespan. Of course this is only JB's guideline, and they do say that any concerns should be brought up with a manager and, failing a resolution there, can be submitted to ACL through this form.
In this case, however, you may be out of luck. While you could expect something like a fridge to function for ten years without breaking, laptops and other portable devices are notoriously short-lived — most only get a functioning lifespan of around four years, while the hardware becomes outdated in two or three. Unlike desktop computers, laptop parts cannot be easily upgraded or replaced, and their comparative lack of cooling leads to much more rapid wear-and-tear on components.
While you can submit a claim to ACL, it's unfortunately doubtful that your laptop will be seen to have stopped functioning within a 'reasonable time'. At this point, unless you're looking to upgrade, your best part is to find a local repairer who will most likely be able to replace your screen for a few hundred dollars.
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