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When smart TV app support vanishes, what next?

You might spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a smart TV, but what happens if the smart TV apps you watch, like iPlayer and Netflix suddenly disappear?

You might spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a smart TV, but what happens if the smart TV apps you need to stream online shows suddenly disappear, or won’t update to provide you with the latest services?

New Which? research reveals that manufacturers are abandoning support for smart TVs once they are a few years old, potentially leaving people with obsolete TVs. Manufacturers pay licences to host apps such as BBC iPlayer or Netflix, so they may choose to only cover app licences for their newer products, and not their older ones.

Which? Best Buy TV reviews – our pick of the best TV sets around

The smart TV app generation gap

Buy a new smart TV and you might well think you’ll be getting a future-proof piece of the latest tech. Yet manufacturers rarely allow their older models to keep up with the latest apps, as they only buy licences for newer ranges. This can mean that early adopters miss out on the latest online streaming services, as manufacturers look to cut costs by shifting focus to their latest sets.

The infographic below shows how app choices have expanded over the years, as each of the main smart TV manufacturers have rolled out generation-after-generation of smart TVs. Yet early adopters who spent a premium on smart TVs just a few years ago, could miss out on Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video (formerly LoveFilm), BBC iPlayer or a web browser app, as manufacturers limit licences to their newer models.

This can leave owners of smart TVs that are only a few years old missing out on the latest services. In some cases, as with 2010 Samsung smart TVs and 2011 LG smart TVs, services that were promoted at the point of sale – LoveFilm in these cases – have disappeared just a couple of years down the line.

What can you do if your smart TV apps vanish?

If you buy a smart TV and find out that the manufacturer isn’t willing to add newer apps to its range of services, you may not have any consumer rights to complain to the retailer with. Though this is frustrating, the TV is technically still ‘as sold’.

However, if the services that you bought the TV specifically to use should disappear – such as an iPlayer or Netflix app no longer being supported – then you may be able to challenge the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act, 1979. This stipulates that a product must be durable and fit for purpose, including any specific purpose for which it was built.

If you’re unhappy with the support that your smart TV, or any other technology product you own, has received, make your voice heard. We want to hear from readers who’ve been affected by this issue, so we can lobby manufacturers to show real commitment to their paying customers.

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