When a smart device is considered faulty

Usually it's obvious if your device is faulty - broken straps, screens or buttons falling off are tell-tell signs.

But many of our devices now come with a digital element that's crucial to the operation of the physical device, such as a companion app that is used to sync your device and your phone.

Examples of smart devices with a physical and digital element include products such as fitness trackers, smart TVs, smart home security systems and virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo's Alexa, Apple HomePod's Siri and Google Home.

If the digital element of your smart device stops working, it isn’t very ‘smart’ any more.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, where the goods you’ve paid for have been designed to function with digital content (such as the mobile app for your fitness tracker) it must be:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for a particular purpose
  • as described by the seller.

So, if the physical, digital or both elements of the smart device don't stand up to one or more of these requirements, you have the right to a remedy.

Your next step depends on how long ago you took ownership of the product.

Bought before 1 October 2015

If you purchased your smart device before 1 October 2015, then your returns rights for a faulty product fall under the Sale of Goods Act.

When your rights begin

If you purchased the smart device online, your right to return starts from the day it's safely delivered to you, your nominated neighbour or left in your approved safe place.

If you purchased the smart device from a store, your rights begin from the day you walk out of the store or click and collect location with the product.

Get a refund, repair or replacement

Make a faulty goods complaint


You could be entitled to a repair, replacement or a refund, answer some simple questions and Which? can help you start your complaint for free. 

First, what do you want to return? 

Start my letter

I've owned it less than 30 days

If you took ownership of the faulty smart device within the past 30 days, you can go back to the retailer to reject the device and ask for a full refund.

This is because the product as a whole, which includes the digital component, isn't fit for the purpose you purchased it for.

After 30 days, within six months

If you’re outside the initial 30-day period, don’t despair. If you got your smart device within the past six months and it was working initially but isn't any more, you still have rights.

You have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace your device, and they must do this within a reasonable time after your request.

If the retailer can't offer you a repair or a replacement within a reasonable time, you can request a full refund instead.

If the smart device breaks again after the repair or replacement, you can also then ask for a refund.

I've owned it longer than six months

If it has been longer than six months since you took ownership of the smart device, you can still ask for a repair or a replacement or even a partial refund if it’s now faulty.

After six months, the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time you took ownership of the goods.

This may require you to provide some form of expert report, opinion or evidence, such as news stories and online forum complaints of similar problems or defects across the product range.

The retailer is allowed to make a deduction from any refund for fair use after the first six months of ownership, if an attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful.

I paid for it with a credit card

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act provides additional protection for credit card purchases costing between £100 and £30,000.  

It makes that your card provider is jointly liable for a breach of contract, for example this could be a faulty product claim.

This is really useful if the retailer you purchased from has ceased to trade or refuses to help.

This additional protection only applies to credit card purchases, not debit card purchases.

It was bought as a present

If the faulty device was a present, the retailer might request that the person who bought the product contacts them to arrange for a refund, repair or replacement.

This is because it is the purchaser, not the recipient of a gift, that has the contract with the retailer.

If the retailer requests this, you’ll need to speak to the person who bought you the smart device about helping you to resolve the issue.

Bear in mind that the timeline for the remedies will have started from when the purchaser took ownership of the goods - not from the date they gave you the gift.

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