Ask LH: How Long Should My Laptop Be Covered For Replacement Or Repair If It Fails?

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

Dear Chris,

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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    If you want a suggestion that could be reasonably argued, check out the ATO depreciation guide. Most items have a listed lifespan to depreciate an item over (or similar items will give you a solid idea), and it could be a fair basis for expectations. I can see the argument that if you're still depreciating, it still has an expected capability, and hence still within a fair lifespan. The depreciation guides arent unreasonable either.

    I dont think dollar value is a fair judgement, simply because some base components are more costly than others, while other cheaper products would have a far longer fair lifespan. A wooden decking for example doesnt need to be expensive, but would be reasonably expected to last decades. So if it degraded after 5 years, you'd be pissed.

    id go for something along the lines of half the warranty lifetime, so if its a one year warranty, it should fall under whatever applicable warranty/consumer guarantee for 6 more months.

    Added to the above comments mobile device manufacturers will always be hesitant to offer any additional coverage beyond the stated period off the cuff (sometimes a friendly chat to their support team can pay dividends).

    The reason is they cannot verify how a device was treated during the warranty period. It could have been dropped or knocked.. moisture or dust could have inadvertently entered the device because of environmental location etc etc... it could have been charged with the wrong charger the list is endless. Sometimes even if its in pristine condition something can go wrong. If they didnt protect themselves then the system would be abused by every devious fiend intentionally destroying their property right before the warranty runs out to try and exploit the system.

    To protect yourself generally you need extended warranties or even purchasimg on a credit card that offers free extended warranty cover like a platinum visa.

    Beyomd that you could go to the accc but you may have a hard time getting that one through.. good luck though!!

    It could be a number of things, but a quick google search for Asus Zenbook white screen shows some results. You may like to look at this url: http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/solved-asus-zenbook-ux32vd-screen-suddely-turns-white-its-a-burin-in.711465/

    If your experience was similar, this could be a solution.
    Or you may find another page with symptoms more similar to your own.

    A decent laptop should really last a good four to five years in my opinion. So long as you treat it well and don't make any silly mistakes. I've been around and working on tech for around 15 years.

    Good luck.

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