Australian courts fine LG $110,000 for misleading consumers about burn-in

A hot potato: Since their slow introduction over five years ago, LG’s OLED televisions have gotten brighter and more colorful, becoming the sweetheart of film enthusiasts. Yet they’ve still retained one key flaw: burn-in, the ghost of a previously displayed image that sticks around, permanently. As it’s a guaranteed issue, it’s been explicitly excluded from LG’s warranties, but an Australian court ruling says LG needs to do better by its customers.

The issue of burn-in was first brought to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in 2013 when two customers who had purchased OLED TVs began experiencing burn-in after less than a year of use. The two customers contacted LG and were told that LG was unable to help as the issue wasn’t covered by warranties, and they would have to pay for any repairs themselves. LG subsequently updated their policies to replace burn-in under warranty in certain circumstances in 2016.

The case made it to the Federal Court in 2015, with the two customers claiming that Australian consumer law should require LG to repair the TVs, regardless of their warranties. Australian law specifies that products be “safe, lasting and with no faults,” and notably, “match any demonstration model or sample you asked for.” The TVs in question had been displayed in-store with no burn-in, and after one year of normal use, should be expected to function the same. An unfavorable ruling for LG and an AU$160,000 ($110,000) fine has been imposed.

“Consumer guarantee rights are separate to warranties offered by manufacturers and will always be available to consumers who find they have been sold a faulty product,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. “The Court’s decision is a reminder that making misleading statements about consumer guarantee rights, even to only one or two consumers, can result in penalties being imposed.”

LG’s OLED televisions now handle burn-in much better, though not perfectly. For reasons related or otherwise, OLED sales have kept growing but at a slower pace than anticipated. Half a million units were sold in the first half of 2017, 1.1 million units sold in the first half of 2018, and 1.3 million units are expected to be sold in the first half of this year.

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