50,000-hour claim leaves firms open to legal action, top lawyer warns

Lighting manufacturers who quote 50,000 hours product life are leaving themselves open to possible legal action from customers in the future, a top lawyer has warned.

Paul Stone, senior litigation partner at global practice DLA Piper, says the common practice of quoting 50,000 hours life for LED lamps and luminaires in marketing material means that customers have a strong legal case when equipment fails before 50,000 hours.

‘If you quote 50,000 hours on your website but the product fails after a fraction of that, then it’s an open goal frankly,’ Stone told the Lighting Fixture Design 2013 conference in London yesterday. ‘If you offer a warranty, fine – but don’t think you’re in the clear after the warranty period has expired. Under the Sale of Goods Act, the product must be fit for the purpose described.’

‘In a PFI streetlighting scheme, for example, the actual life cycle of the lighting can be a very significant factor in the contract. The timing of the maintenance is based on the expected life cycle of the lamps and contractors on these type of contracts will know the [terms] and that’s a potentially very expensive exposure for a manufacturer.’

‘Alternatively, if you’re targeting the hospitality and leisure market at 5,000 hours [annual use], you are making a representation that that product is fit for that market and if it can’t do that, then you’ve got a problem.’

Stone, pictured, warned the industry that clients have six years to bring a claim under the Sale of Goods Act. Customers with failures after a period of five years could make a claim that the products were ‘not of merchandisable quality’ if the lighting manufacturer made a lifetime claim of 50,000 hours.

Dave Tilley, Lux magazine’s lighting economist, told the conference the widespread practice of quoting 50,000 hours life was due to the competitive nature of the LED lighting business but was unnecessary in most cases. ‘Sophisticated clients are far happier with a realistic lifetime and decent warranty’ he told the gathering of manufacturers. ‘It works best when it’s a partnership between supplier and customer’.

Picture: Robert Bain

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