A 'lifetime' to TomTom is 5 or so years

Discontinues map updates on two dozen GPS models.

  • TomTom pulls 'lifetime' map support for some GPS devices
  • Questionable use of 'lifetime' marketing
  • ACCC challenged Belkin over similar practices

Loyal TomTom customers have labelled the brand 'misleading' after it killed updates on GPS products it advertised as supporting 'lifetime maps'.

Daryl Johnson bought his TomTom Via 220 because it promised a lifetime of map updates, but the 42-year-old from Melbourne wasn't happy when he received an email telling him it was no longer supported.

"The word 'lifetime' is misleading," says Johnson. "The company could instead advertise it as 'guaranteed map updates for at least five years', so people know what they're really getting."

The bottom of the email – sent to TomTom Australia customers who purchased 24 different models before 2013 – listed discounts on new GPS devices that start from $240.

"The device still works perfectly," he tells CHOICE. "I think it's planned obsolescence."

'Lifetime' is a precarious word to use in advertising. Electronics company Belkin recently faced regulatory action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over its similar use of the term.

TomTom says its GPS products have a limited lifetime because the computing parts can't deal with newer maps.

"We're very clear on what [lifetime] means," says Greg Morrison, head of PR at TomTom International.

"It's essentially the useful lifetime of the device – while it's still able to run the software and maps it requires to navigate you properly."

He says a 2010 map of Europe would've measured 1.6GB, but that same map today would take up 6.5GB of storage.

There are similarities between Belkin and TomTom's use of the word 'lifetime'. Both companies claimed support was only available for the lifetime of the product – and not the person making the purchase.

But in December 2017, the ACCC undermined Belkin's definition of the term and pressured the company into changing its warranty to cover the lifetime of the original purchaser.

"A reasonable consumer would understand many 'lifetime' claims to refer to the lifetime of the original purchaser," a spokesperson said.

"If a business makes a 'lifetime' claim, they must be very clear about what this means with their customers."

The ACCC wouldn't disclose if it is investigating TomTom's use of the word in its advertising.

We test a range of GPS devices and compare them with free apps Apple Maps and Google Maps in our latest car GPS reviews.

Leave a comment

Display comments