When a traffic and navigation product promises a buyer “lifetime maps,” what should the buyer take that to mean? The complaint for this class action alleges that Garmin USA, Inc. deceptively offers something much too restrictive.
Several classes have been proposed for this action.
Garmin makes navigation devices, including DriveSmart, Nuvi, Drive, and DriveAssist. All of the products have the designation LM (Lifetime Maps) or LMT (Lifetime Maps/Traffic).
The complaint shows the packaging for one of the products. Its upper left corner says, “Lifetime Maps & Traffic” and, along the bottom, Garmin DriveSmart 7 With Lifetime Maps & Traffic EX.” According to the complaint, the pictures of the devices in advertising, point-of-sale marketing, catalogues, and websites show banners promising “Free Lifetime Maps” or “Free Lifetime Maps & Traffic.”
Consumers feel that new models of electronic devices come out too often nowadays, forcing them to buy the new models when they would prefer to keep their older ones. Frequent replacements are a financial burden. The promise of “lifetime” services therefore can be an important selling point.
However, the complaint says that Garmin’s is a false promise, and that consumers don’t find this out until they’ve already a device.
For example, “Lifetime Traffic” means that you receive traffic info for “the useful life of your Garmin traffic receiver or as long as Garmin receives traffic data from its traffic supplier…” What is this “useful life”? It’s “the period during which the receiver (a) has the required technical capabilities to utilize current traffic data service…”
The “Lifetime Maps” conditions are even more restrictive, requiring that the device “has sufficient memory capacity and other required technical capabilities to utilize current map data…” A product’s “useful life” will be deemed to be ended “if no updates have been downloaded for such product for a period of 24 months or more.”
Also, “[i]n some instances, your Garmin product will not have sufficient memory remaining for you to load an update to the map data…” You then get to either reduce your map data coverage or buy a card for more memory. If neither of these measures helps, then Garmin may decide your product has reached the end of its useful life. But your lifetime map subscription “may not be transferred to another person or another Garmin product.”
The complaint also finds fault with the services offered by Garmin for updates and repairs. “Garmin Express is one of the avenues [Garmin] directs consumer to perform updates, yet the inconsistency of [Garmin’s] proprietary program frustrates and stymies the ability of consumers … to seek the updates they were promised.”