Second strike: Fitbit fined again for misrepresentation

Fitness tracker Fitbit is facing an $11 million penalty in Australia after admitting it committed deceptive representations about consumers’ rights to a refund or replacement if the device sold was found faulty.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that Fitbit misled 58 consumers, marking the second time one of the US-based company’s subsidiaries has fallen foul of Australian consumer laws.

The company admitted that its customer service staff told 40 consumers between November 2020 and February 2022 that they did not have the right to a replacement because the two-year warranty period had expired.

Thirty-nine of those consumers contacted Fitbit about a replacement product, but the company told them that the warranty period was that of the original product and that it was no longer valid.

In addition, Fitbit admitted that its staff told 18 consumers between May 2020 and February 2022 that they did not have a right to refund unless they returned the faulty device “within 45 days of purchase”.

However, when a consumer requested a refund due to technical problems on the device, Fitbit responded that refunds would only be given if such a request was submitted within 45 days upon shipment and if the product had been purchased directly from Fitbit’s online store.

ACCC chair Catriona Lowe said Fitbit’s action may have caused additional expenses and inconvenience for consumers needing repairs or replacements as they believed that these were rights they could avail in case they purchased faulty devices.

“All products sold to consumers come with a guarantee that goods are of acceptable quality, and retailers must provide a remedy for faulty goods if this guarantee has not been met, which includes repair, replacement or refund, depending on the circumstances,” said Lowe.

In 2018, the ACCC said it found that Fitbit misrepresented consumer guarantee rights under Australian law from November 2016 to March 2017 when the company told consumers that a warranty for faulty products was valid for only one year.

The ACCC said that Fitbit also said it would only replace faulty products for the remainder of the calendar year or 30 days, whichever was longer.

The ACCC accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Fitbit to amend information on its website and product packaging and to extend the express manufacturer’s warranty from one year to two years to Australian consumers.

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