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Why your ‘smart’ appliance might stop working in two years

Written by: Emma Lunn
Which? claims smart TVs and washing machines could be “abandoned” by brands after two years.

The consumer group has warned that expensive, high-end smart products risk losing features and functionality or start posing a security risk after as little as two years because manufacturers are failing to provide vital tech updates. 

A product being ‘smart’ means that it is internet-connected – which opens up an array of sophisticated features that can be helpful for consumers. However, they can be much more expensive than traditional versions.

But Which? research suggests that smart appliances like washing machines or dishwashers, which might be expected to last more than a decade, could stop working as marketed within as little as 24 months. It also said these appliances could pose “hacking risks”.

Which? looked at popular smart TVs, dishwashers, washing machines, smartphones, inkjet printers, smartwatches and fitness trackers and found that hardly any brands even came close to matching their expected lifespan with their smart update policies. 

Some brands failed to respond to Which? when they were asked to clarify the length of support.

Big brands

Which? approached 119 brands about hundreds of smart device products, across 20 different categories. As of November 2022, only half (49%) had replied with clear information about support periods.

Which? Claims that LG smart TVs, washing machines and dishwashers,could lose support just two years after launch despite the estimated lifetime of these appliances being seven, 11 and 13 years respectively.

LG told Which? that its TVs might get up to five years of support for critical security vulnerabilities.

Which? also found that Sony only offers guaranteed support of its smart TVs for two years from launch, while for Samsung’s smart TVs it is three years.

HP guarantees support for its smart printers for just three years, even though the estimated lifetime for inkjet printers is 13 years.

Big-name brands, including AEG, Apple, Epson, Hoover and Whirlpool, failed to respond with guaranteed update support periods. 

Which? Says that if these companies failed to provide clarity to Which?, there appears to be “little hope” for consumers wanting these assurances.

Important security updates

When Which? surveyed 1,051 Which? members in October 2022, around nine in 10 said that security updates were an important factor when they bought a smart product. Yet, across nine key smart product categories, an average of two-thirds of people had no idea how long their product would be supported for when they bought it.

Some companies such as Hisense, which supports smart TVs for 10 years, and Miele, which supports smart dishwashers and washing machines for 10 years, show that it is possible to offer guaranteed support for products for longer periods of time.

New laws

The recently passed Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Act is an important first step in giving the government the power to require manufacturers to be upfront about how long their products will be supported with updates.

However, Which? believes industry must not simply wait for the commencement of new laws to improve transparency – and that manufacturers should also proactively extend the minimum lengths of time they support smart products. 

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “It’s unfair for manufacturers to sell expensive products that should last for many years and then abandon them. This means the product could lose the features that justified the hefty price tag and potentially create a security risk or add to the electrical waste mountain if it has to be replaced.

“Manufacturers must up their game and provide vital tech updates for their smart products for longer, otherwise the government should consider further intervention in this area, including specifying a minimum number of years that these products have to be supported for.”

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