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Are smart appliances doomed to early obsolescence?

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Smart appliances costing hundreds of pounds more than their regular counterparts could be rendered virtually obsolete within as little as two years because manufacturers stop supporting them, a Which? Investigation has found.

The consumer body said that customers can expect to pay around £855 more for a smart fridge-freezer than a standard one, £259 more for a smart dishwasher and £190 more for a smart tumble dryer.

Dishwashers and washing machines typically last for 10 years before they’re replaced due to faults or poor performance, while fridge-freezers and tumble dryers typically last for 11 years.

However, many manufacturers are failing to give clarity about the length of time their products would be supported, Which? said, as well as for how long they would receive important security updates.

Without regular security and software updates, smart appliances may also begin to lose many of the key features promised upon initial purchase.

When Which? asked major manufacturers about how long their products would receive vital software updates, it found that many were not being transparent, with one even suggesting that it could stop providing security support after only a couple of years.

The majority of manufacturers claimed they would offer updates for what they termed ‘the life of the product’, but refused to say how long they would expect that to be.

Hoover/Candy claimed an appliance’s lifetime depends on intangible factors such as regularity of use and whether the appliance is loaded or maintained correctly.

BSH (which makes Bosch, Neff and Siemens appliances) said that it is difficult to provide a specific length of time for updates across its smart products, but reiterated that it would provide updates for the lifetime of the product. Whirlpool stated that it does not have a timeframe for updates.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Being able to check the contents of your fridge from your smartphone or having your dishwasher order itself more salt when it starts running low may seem appealing, but with some appliances costing up to an extra £900, these smart features don’t come cheap.

“Until manufacturers are clear and upfront about how long they will support these products for, consumers could be better off avoiding smart appliances that might turn ‘dumb’ after only a few years and stick to more reliable and significantly cheaper non-smart alternatives.”

When Which? asked its members how long they thought a smart appliance might last, 69 per cent per cent said they would expect it to last the same length of time as a non-smart equivalent.

Samsung subsequently responded, saying it would provide software updates as needed and not limited to warranty periods.

“Samsung takes the security of its products very seriously and our products and services are designed with security in mind,” a spokesman said.

“We continuously monitor and respond to emerging software vulnerabilities by promptly providing a security patch for identified threats.

“Security updates for Samsung smart appliances are available to all customers in the UK not only for the two-year warranty period, but beyond the aforementioned period for critical security vulnerabilities.”

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