Google-owned fitness company Fitbit has come under fire for new allegations on behalf of Australia’s competition watchdog, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), which alleges the company made “false or misleading representations” about warranty rights for customers “under Australian Consumer Law law after their Fitbit wearable devices malfunction”.
The allegations further state that between May 2020 and February 2022, Fitbit made statements to Australian consumers that they would not be entitled to any refunds for a defective product if they sought to make a return after 45 days from the date of purchase or shipment. . This is the second time Fitbit has been criticized by the ACCC, following very similar allegations made against the wearables maker in 2018 (opens in new tab).
“Fitbit has again drawn the attention of the ACCC for allegedly misleading consumers about their consumer warranty rights,” ACCC President Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement, “We are taking this case against Fitbit because we consider the alleged serious conduct and that manufacturers must have processes in place that ensure compliance with the Australian Consumer Act.”
When asked for comment, a Fitbit spokesperson told Australia: “Fitbit will review the ACCC’s claims and has no further comments to share at this time.”
Google was unable to contact for comment at the time of publishing.
Analysis: Respecting your rights
Under Australian consumer law, a customer’s rights in relation to a defective product are not limited for any period of time, whether from the date of purchase or otherwise. The law further mandates that companies and manufacturers that sell a product that has a major problem, or that develops a major problem, must provide Australian consumers with a refund or an offer of replacement.
A deduction from a refund made based on how long a consumer had a product before developing a major problem is also not allowed under Australian consumer law.
Fitbit’s new stoush with the Australian watchdog makes for a rough few months for the fitness tracker giant, having faced troubling issues plaguing its existing products as it continues to lose ground in the wearables market for the Apple Watch and seeing the competitor Samsung gaining considerable momentum with its Galaxy Watch offerings.
Meanwhile, Google’s other entry into the wearables space – the Google Pixel Watch – has faced some problems of its own, despite an initially warm reception upon its launch. Given the importance of fitness tracking for wearables and Google’s ownership of pioneers in the fitness tracking space (aka Fitbit), persistent problem reports (opens in new tab) with the Pixel Watch’s burned calorie tracking would be cause for concern for the tech giant. Poor battery life has also been a constant complaint since the launch of the Pixel Watch, a problem similarly faced by the main competitor, the Apple Watch, when compared to less-featured wearables such as the Fitbit range. Likewise, user reception pointing out how poorly the Pixel Watch manages to differentiate itself from competitors or demonstrate any advantage has led to considerable disappointment due to the hype prior to the watch’s launch.
While the aforementioned issues are not under consumer law protections, this legal battle could be a cause for concern and, we hope, a spur for Google to improve its entries into the wearables market, with Fitbit’s ability to comply with consumer laws. consumer is probably one of those areas now high on the agenda.
The ACCC is seeking penalties, injunctions, a compliance program and other orders against Fitbit, with adjustments expected for future lawsuits given Fitbit is headquartered in the United States.