/ Technology

Manufacturers abandon support for tech products too quickly

Smart TV

Why should we have to constantly upgrade our technology products just to keep up-to-date? Our latest investigation finds manufacturers failing to maintain the services they were originally marketed to support.

My dad recently bought a new iPad Air to replace his first-generation iPad. He didn’t buy it for the upgraded design and functionality, but rather because the Sky Go streaming app no longer worked on his iPad 1, and he wanted to watch the cricket.

A Sky Go upgrade this spring meant that devices running iOS 5, including my dad’s iPad, were no longer supported. His tablet was only four years old and still in working order, but now it looks like a dusty relic of yesteryear.

Big brands, little commitment

We’ve been inundated with stories like this. People tell us about computers being left stranded without tech support; smartphones forgotten in software updates; and favourite smart TV apps disappearing into thin air.

As far as smart TV’s go, we’ve found manufacturers abandoning support for a host of apps, including BBC iPlayer and Netflix. In some cases manufacturers refuse to guarantee the availability of apps on their smart TVs, acknowledging that they may be removed without notice.

And in response to my Conversation ‘Smart TVs aren’t as smart as you think’, Keith Boothroyd shared his experience of buying a Hitachi smart TV from Argos so that he could use BBC iPlayer. However, he was dismayed when the catch-up TV app disappeared and the TV’s web browser proved useless.

Keith complained to Argos, and managed to secure a full refund on the TV as he could prove that it’s lack of key features meant it was not ‘as described, fit for purpose or of a satisfactory quality’ as outlined under the Sale of Goods Act.

We love our products, but some manufacturers would rather we bought shiny new versions just to keep getting the latest features and services. They’ve got commitment issues, and it’s time for a change.

What do the manufacturers say?

We contacted some of the biggest manufacturers and asked them to commit to ensuring that apps, services and software features that are used to sell a product will remain available for a reasonable product lifecycle. We had mixed responses. Panasonic told us:

‘We are fully supportive of Which?’s position. We are committed to providing our customers with a first-rate experience and work hard with our suppliers to maintain a good service.’

But Samsung told us:

‘Samsung is unable to guarantee the availability of any application on any specific television model. Content providers may remove applications from the Samsung smart TV platform without notice.’

Make your voice heard

You have every right to a reasonable lifespan for the products you buy, and this should extend to support for the services these products are marketed with in the place. A new Consumer Rights Bill, currently being debated in Parliament, will strengthen the consumers’ hand bringing law into the 21st century and making your rights clearer on digital content.

In the meantime, we want to hear your stories and experiences so that we can build a groundswell of support to challenge the manufacturers to do the right thing by all their customers.

chris says:
3 January 2016

Have lost bbc sports app from Panasonic viera. Have deleted and reinstalled but still doesn’t work. Any advice?

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We have 3 months left on our Amazon Prime subscription. Yesterday Amazon prime pulled the plug on supporting our Sony Bravia TV (a 2010 model). We wouldn’t have signed up to the 12 month subscription if we’d been warned that their support for certain models would end during our membership period. Obviously, not as bad as having purchased a TV and then lose services but I resent that service providers are refusing to support products that are working well in all other respects. We’re still happy with the quality of our TV and it supports many other services including iPlayer. I will write to Amazon Prime to complain but we will not be renewing our membership.

susan says:
17 January 2016

yes have just experienced the same thing bbc i player has just gone along with itv player and all 4 really cross as this is what you pay for am very tempted to take it back as mis sold

Barbara Mott says:
17 January 2016

We bought a Samsung Smart tv for the bedroom from Currys at a cost of £279 in October 2015. We made it clear we wanted it for the tv apps. Last night they all stopped working. Very frustrating. We have asked Samsung to get in touch with us for help via the internet help service on the tv. They say the earliest they can help is 28 January! Not good enough. I thought I could fix it myself with a little help from the internet only to find that these apps are now obsolete. I shall be taking it back and buying a cheaper tv and a Roku stick or similar as advised by the others on this blog. Very disappointed. Why isn’t there more noise generally about how these manufacturers are ripping us off by producing something which is not fit for purpose. Why aren’t the Trading Standards Officers getting involved?

Brian says:
20 January 2016

I bought a 32″ Sony Bravia Smart TV in December 2012. I particularly wanted a Smart TV to give me internet access without having to put the PC on all the time, plus to start with I actually managed to find fixes for minor PC problems purely by using the Smart TV which I was very pleased with. However, over time and especially in the last 12 months the smart functionality has become severely degraded. Since the changeover in April 2015 to the ironically named YouTube for TV App, I can no longer watch YouTube content on the TV as the app is so unstable that even if you don’t get the ubiquitous ‘Memory Limitation Error’ any selected videos simply won’t play and more often than not cause the whole TV to crash back to a ‘just switched on’ state. The (Opera) web browser is also near useless largely again due to the Memory Limitation Error appearing at random, usually within a few seconds of the webpage being fully loaded. Reminds me of dial up days, whereas I have 38Mbps fibre optic broadband and no issues whatsoever on my adjacent PC, even when using the same 2012 version of Opera. The TV came with a 5-year Sony warranty so I reasoned that it would last at least that amount of time as companies don’t dole out long warranties willy-nilly and hitherto I had been very impressed with the build quality of Sony products. Anyway sufice to say that I am now pursuing Sony via the intermediary services of the retailer who sold me the set based both on the warranty and also the ‘Not fit for purpose’ clause of the Sale of Goods Act.

bought a Samsung 48 inch curved tv in December and I cannot get ITV hub, bbc I player etc.
I wished I hadn’t bothered and just bought a basic tv .
Bought it from John Lewis and am waiting for them to call me back, I also rang Samsung and I could not understand their employee and he could not understand me, spent 30 mins on the phone constantly repeating myself politely and then the line went dead, they have all my details but didn’t call back.

I bought a Samsung smart tv so that I could use the smart apps and take advantage of the smart features – such as the to learning my tv habits and showing me recommendations based on these. Also so I could use the 3D app to make use of the 3D feature. I was also told I could use the built in camera to Skype my parents and other friends which was great for keeping in touch:
12 months on – 3D app is being deleted!
Skype is being deleted
The ontv feature no longer works
Social TVs no longer works
Movies have been withdrawn
What’s on timeline no longer works
The list goes on….
Can we not get a class action against these companies? I complained to Samsung and suggested that this was a case of missale of goods and they schnidely responded that this was the sellers problem not theirs- even though I bought from Samsung!
I want my money back – or at least partial refund for the lack of services I paid for that no longer exist!

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Agreed – I bought this as it also claimed to be the TV you’d never need to replace as it comes with the expansion pack option – expand what? Into a bigger pile of poop???

Kev says:
19 March 2016

What a rip off, I have a 47″ PANASONIC 3D led tv, it’s 2 years old iplayer doesn’t work properly, never any software updates for the tv, and the lack of apps is ridiculous in this day and age of technology. I’ve had Panasonic products for years, but now feel like I’m not a valued customer. Next purchase I will look outside of Panasonic. Poor customer service to say the least.

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Gary says:
13 May 2016

I bought a Samsung UE40J5200 Smart tv only to find no app support for our national broadcaster, the BBC. So infuriating and frustrating. Where as my other Samsung Smart TVs, UE40F6400 at the moment, seems to be ok.
Amazon Prime, Netflicks etc work fine on both.

It seems that neither the broadcaster or the to company seem interested in solving this issue.

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The manufacturers of ‘smart’ TVs appear to regard around 5-6 years as their limit of obligation to keep maintaining the software features. A Samsung TV we bought in 2011 is gradually degrading (e.g. Amazon Prime no longer available, Netflix has never been available). A Sony TV we bought around the same time has never provided ITV Player, apparently because Sony never paid ITV the license fee (they were very cagey when I called them to find out why a major UK service was not available); this drawback was not mentioned in the Which? review of the time.

It would help greatly if Which? reports addressed the availability of ‘Smart’ features rather than just concentrating on picture and sound quality.

I am a bit annoyed that Which? has recently awarded Samsung ‘best audiovisual supplier’ given their poor attitude to long term support. If you go to the Samsung home page thay make much of their environmental credentials, but obsoleting expensive TVs after 5-6 years is hardly helping the environment.

My own solution was to buy a Roku TV streaming box which can get all the streaming services we want to use (much cheaper than a new TV); will probably buy a 2nd box for the Sony.

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Well it certainly looks like consumers are being subject to bait and switch tactics. I thought this was not allowed under legislation but I have trouble remembering whose. The trouble with reading foreign consumer pages. : (

Ah Wikipedia yet again to the rescue

” Legality
In the United States, courts have held that the purveyor using a bait-and-switch operation may be subject to a lawsuit by customers for false advertising, and can be sued for trademark infringement by competing manufacturers, retailers, and others who profit from the sale of the product used as bait. However, no cause of action will exist if the purveyor is capable of actually selling the goods advertised, but aggressively pushes a competing product.
Likewise, advertising a sale while intending to stock a limited amount of, and thereby sell out, a loss-leading item advertised is legal in the United States. The purveyor can escape liability if they make clear in their advertisements that quantities of items for which a sale is offered are limited, or by offering a rain check on sold-out items.
In England and Wales, bait and switch is banned under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.[2] Breaking this law can result in a criminal prosecution, an unlimited fine and two years in jail. In Canada, this tactic is illegal under the Competition Act.”

Perhaps someone [other than me ] will ask the Which? Legal services. Failing that perhaps Which? will take up the case and see whether the Act applies.

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DL – A very helpful reply. : )

I appreciate the current situation and also the caveats [in small print] on the life span of some apps.

The question to consider is whether the prominence of the apps in the sales literature, or at a shop versus the prominence of the warning that some of all the applications will not be available two years after you buy the appliance.

Given the insecure nature of most internet capable TV’s it may be worth exploring the risks that come with them and seeing if that aspect of the sale is also mentioned to buyers. My guess is that all the bumf will be on the advantages and not the shortcomings. This is unsurprising but consumers deserve a balance.

I have had an HP wireless printer for years and it has been well behaved. I had fibre broadband installed and the printer stopped working because the router had been replaced. For reasons that I don’t understand, the computer does not communicate directly with the printer. The engineer who installed the broadband system had provided a new 5G router and my printer does not even detect it never mind make a connection.

I had already intended to buy an additional printer, capable of printing A3 pages, so I was anxious about whether it would work. The new printer did not see the 5G router but at least it would link to the router via 2.4G (I believe) rather than 5G. From what I read online, this is an established problem. Once the connection had been established I was able to print with the computer linked via 5G.

I cannot think of a way of continuing to use the old printer wirelessly unless I turn on an old router when I’m printing. 🙁

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I think you are right, Duncan. It’s a ZyXEL VMG8924-B10A unit and it must be operating in dual-band mode because from the computer etc. I see two wireless devices with the same number except that one is appended 5G. I had read that 5G has a shorter range when discovering that I’m not the only one with the problem. I will give my ISP a ring and see if they can offer any advice, but I suspect that I will have to use an old router to continue to use the older printer. I’ve done this for years to turn an old laser printer into a wireless printer.

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neston says:
17 June 2016

i just purchase a 2016 samsung high end tv and none of the uk catchup services are on it – just a load of rubbish apps. samsung says they are working on it but no date yet – i’m thinking of returning it to richer sounds where i purchased it. i made the point to samsung its not really a smart tv if no apps are available.

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Something nobody seems to be concened about is the fact that Smart TVs track your usage and send data back to the manufacturer. They are actually monitoring what you watch in the same way as google builds a profile on you based on your searches – and presumably they are monetising this data in a similar way to google.

This might be tolerable if you were getting something in return – iPlayer for example – but as this discussion shows, you are not.

Add to this the fact that it is pretty much impossible to buy a new TV (esp 4k) that is NOT “smart” and it looks a lot like manufacturers are getting away with murder – forcing an internet connected TV that provides them with valuable data and neither providing you with the services that you expect from the device nor a “dumb” alternative.

Come on Which?, consumers are being exploited here let’s get some serious coverage.

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Panasonic are totally lying, I contacted them several times through emails and phone calls, emails ignored and phone calls to the customer service, well brick walled, I contacted the US customer service who then got Panasonic UK to call me, told this guy about my outrage, said he would look into it and call me back, never heard of him again, I’ve had my set less than one year !!!
So lost most U.K. Apps but still have the useless foreign ones, for the UK market Panasonic are just a non runner, who in the U.K. Wants more French and German apps than English?????

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Many satnavs (certainly the standalone variety) come with ‘free’ map updates now. It has taken a few years but the manufacturers have recognised that ‘lifetime maps’ are an important selling point. Perhaps it is time to push TV manufacturers to do the same with their apps.

adrian jones says:
10 December 2016

APPS no longer work on Panasonic TV. The TV is supposed to be smart but it ain’t

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I have a smart TV that I bought six years ago. It was a considerable investment for me, as I am on a low income. Now I can’t seem to use iPlayer at all (its on there, but no longer works) and YouTube disappeared a year ago. A friend told me my TV was too old and probably iPlayer was no longer being updated for my TV, hence the problems using it. I purchased an Amazon FireStick to be able to continue using iPlayer and whenever I use it the audio and visuals soon become out of sync – and so its like watching a badly dubbed film – totally awful. It is really infuriating! TVs used to last for years!!

What about all the waste and landfill created by people (who can afford to) replacing their devices?

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Most of us keep our computers up to date by downloading software from the internet. With an increasing number of TVs (or boxes) connected to the internet, perhaps the way forward is to update the apps when necessary. I am happy with a dumb TV and use iPlayer, YouTube, etc on the computer, but my concern is the waste caused by premature replacement of smart TVs, and the cost to the consumer.

We can’t go on wasting resources.

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“We can’t go on wasting resources. “. As has been said many times before that means we need more durable products. Something consumers’ associations should be working for.

From the consumer’s perspective it does not matter why smart TVs stop working, Duncan. The manufacturers and software producers need to sort out the problem between them and I don’t see that happening without legislation. The public is being conditioned into replacing electrical goods on a regular basis and those of us who take a strong objection are in the minority.

There is not much sign of Which? pushing for more durable products, Malcolm. I suspect that Which? subscribers are more keen on durable products than the majority of the population, but I have not met many subscribers who see this as an important issue, even though a few of us bang on about it on Which? Convo. With smart TVs we have planned obsolescence so that the manufacturers and software companies have control over how long their products will last without loss of function.