Today I bought a cordless drill from Amazon. I immediately noticed something weird: on the label, under the inevitable "made in china" text, there is what looks like a manufacturing date. However, it's wrong because it reads "2018-12". Assuming the possibility of it coming from the future is unlikely to say the least, it might have been made on purpose.

Why would they do that? I think it could be in case they weren't able to sell that unit, so that they could pretend it is newer than it really is. This might be unpleasant for the customer, expecially considering the aging that the included lithium batteries are subject to.

My question is: is this behaviour by the manufacturer illegal? What should I do now?

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    I think you're jumping to the conclusion that 2018-12 is a YYYY-MM manufacture date - it may well be something else. For instance, 12 could be a week number - that's a common system in manufacturing - which would put it in March 2018. Or it could be a lot number, or just a part number or serial number that happens to resemble a date. Jul 19 '18 at 20:41
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    For this to be fraud, you'd have to show that they intentionally misled you into thinking it was a YYYY-MM manufacture date, and that you suffered some sort of harm as a result. Since it isn't labeled "manufacture date" at all, I expect they'd be able to convince a court that they did not intend you to interpret it as one. Jul 19 '18 at 20:43
  • @NateEldredge this actually makes sense, I haven't really considered the fact that it could be a week number
    – Mauro F.
    Jul 19 '18 at 20:50

It may be illegal under product labelling regulations that apply to that kind of product (or under a general deceptive trade practices act), but even then, only if you are interpreting the numbers, whose meaning is not clearly spelled out, correctly.

But, to be actionable as fraud it must, among other things, be a misrepresentation as to a material fact (which if the goods, such as cordless drills, are not perishable it probably isn't) and the recipient of the misrepresentation must have justifiably relied upon the misrepresentation (which is necessary not true in the case of a representation that it was made in December 2018 on a product sold no later than July of 2018).

It is also not entirely clear that this is a "made on" date. It could refer, for example, to the the twelfth batch or lot or shipment of products made in 2018, and not to the month of December, or it could refer to a product made in 2018 at factory number 12. @NateEldredge in the comments also makes the plausible observation that it could be a week number which is a common system in manufacturing which would put it in a more reasonable March 2018 time frame.

You probably shouldn't do anything, because you haven't been harmed by this cryptic string of numbers embossed on the product, and even if you were, your damages would not be worth the time or money involved to pursue it as anything other than part of a class action lawsuit.

  • Thank you, that was very clearly explained and I admit I might have jumped to conclusions too quickly. Still, you say that cordless drills are not "perishable item", however considering that lithium batteries start to get old once they are made and stored, it might be considered in some way perishable as their shelf-life is not unlimited. Also I wasn't considering my harm but rather that of a potential future customer who might get a product that is older than stated. Anyway, thanks for the clarification
    – Mauro F.
    Jul 19 '18 at 20:58
  • "I wasn't considering my harm but rather that of a potential future customer who might get a product that is older than stated." You are only allowed to take legal action based upon harms that you suffer. Protecting future customers and the general public is the jobs of regulatory agencies and the respect state and federal attorneys' general.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 19 '18 at 21:09

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