Huawei has been facing a massive amount of scrutiny. But the latest news that the former head of the Australian business has been arrested for being part of a global conspiracy could lead to impact for consumers.
The company's links to the Chinese government and allegations that the communications giant is using their equipment to create a spy network for the Chinese government has resulted in the company being banned in several countries from providing equipment for large networks. But as well as creating the infrastructure that massive telecommunications networks use they also design and manufacture consumer goods such as laptops, smartphones and smartwatches.
According to reports, Meng Wanzhou was a director of Huawei’s Australian subsidiary for several years. And it's alleged that the crimes she is accused of - defrauding international banks and US officials about Huawei’s Iran operations - occurred while she was running the Aussie operations.
While most of us aren't building telecommunications networks, Huawei makes some popular smartphones and other devices. And, if Huawei gets banned from selling any products locally what could the consequences be?
What If Huawei Stops Offering Software Updates?
Huawei handsets run EMUI, a customised version of Android. And that means Huawei owners are dependent on Huawei for providing software updates as the regular updates provided by Google for Android aren't going to work.
If Huawei stops providing software updates in countries where the company faces bans then the impact on users could be significant - but it will depend on what the updates are for.
Significant bugs and security flaws that aren't patched could lead to serious issues.
However, upgrades such as the Android 9 Pie update that's currently being tested are a different issue. These potentially add new features to an existing device.
In my view, Huawei will not change how they handle updates. They service a global market and while a government ban on Huawei smartphones might come into play in government, as it has in the USA, the likelihood of this reaching consumers is very low. And, even if local device sales were banned, Huawei would continue updating devices for other markets.
What About Warranty Claims?
Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is very clear about things like acceptable quality of a product and the characteristics of a product. When you buy a product is must be safe and lasting with no faults, look acceptable, and do all the things someone would normally expect them to do.
While the ACCC, who administers the ACL, is sometimes been accused of being a toothless tiger, it has pursued Apple and other tech companies when it comes to product claims and quality issues. I'd expect Huawei to comply with local laws.
If a handset suffers a hardware failure caused by a quality issue then your first port of call is to go to the place of purchase. It's up to the reseller to deal with your warranty issue and not bounce you off to the manufacturer or distributor.
Can You Get A Refund On A Huawei Product?
While ACL is clear on the need for refunds or repairs on defective products, there's no precedent on banned products being subject to refunds. And it gets more complex as Huawei phones have been on the local market for years.
You can buy a Huawei device today and it's 100% legal. If that situation changes, we'll have to wait and see what that means for existing owners.
An ACCC spokesperson told me there is no precedent for this in Austrlaia.