If you have a Huawei smartphone, today's news that Google has cut the Chinese tech giant off from support for the Android OS will come as something of a shock. It's possible your shiny new smartphone could become a piece of abandonware. As a consumer, where does that leave you? We went to the ACCC, the nations agency for dealing with consumer law, and asked them where things stand.
The ACCC’s media code of conduct means they can't comment specifically on Huawei or any other businesses. So, that means, we have to interpret what we think might happen and wait for a specific direction or action before we can be 100% certain.
Huawei has been hit by a ban from Google that will see it cut off from a bunch of Android apps and updates to the operating system. Huawei and its 70 affiliates were added to a trade 'black list' last week - a move that seems to have forced Google's hand.
But here's what the commission had to say.
- Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair under the consumer guarantees if a good is not of acceptable quality or fit for any purpose. These rights include software or security updates that are required for mobile devices to operate effectively.
- Consumer guarantees apply to all goods for a reasonable time. What constitutes a reasonable time will depend on all circumstances related to an individual case and will not solely depend on the time since the purchase was made.
Let's break that down.
Firstly, if security updates stop coming, then a refund is likely to be a reasonable remedy as the "fit for purpose" test covers the provision of security updates. Whether that applies to an update to Android Q is a different question. A smartphone can still be used for its intended purpose without the most recent operating system software providing it remains secure.
The time limit for those updates is a more fluid question. Samsung won a court case in the Netherlands that found the two year window it provided for software updates was fair. Apple, tends to support devices for at least three product generations but with many of us hanging on to devices for longer times, the question the ACCC could be asked will be a tricky one to answer.
In the mean time, there's no need to panic. Our friends at Gizmodo learned that existing devices aren't going to be cut off from updates. But given the volatility of things in the US political system and the potential for escalation in the trade war between China and the USA, anything could happen.