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Around four years ago I purchased a pair of William Painter sunglasses through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign advertised a 'Lifetime Warranty', which they clarified in an FAQ on Kickstarter as follows:

What are the details of the Lifetime Guarantee? At William Painter we back up the amazing quality of The Empire with an equally exceptional lifetime guarantee.

Our Lifetime Manufacturer’s Warranty Covers the following: (You will receive a free brand new replacement pair with no time limit restrictions, but you must return your damaged item at your own shipping costs)

  • Screws fall out

  • Hinges break

  • Breaking under the pressure of your badass life.

  • Paint Chipping

  • Lenses are warrantied if the following conditions occur: Breaking, popping out, or bubbling

  • Lenses scratching in first 30 days

Lifetime Manufacturer’s Warranty DOES NOT COVER the following:

  • Does not cover lens scratching after 30 days

  • Hinges becoming loose over time

  • Lost Sunglasses

If you lose your sunglasses or they get stolen, we still have your back! We know it sucks to be apart with your amazing William Painter sunglasses, so we'll hook you up a discount to replace your lost pair. (just show us your order number)

Last updated: Wed, May 24 2017 1:49 AM AEST

Two years ago I did have to go through the warranty process as the hinge had broken. It was no drama, and as outlined on the original Kickstarter all I had to do was organise and pay for return of the damaged glasses.

This time when I started the warranty process I was immediately asked to pay around $70AUD in processing fees, in addition to covering the return shipping.

Their website now shows the following regarding their warranty:

LIFETIME WARRANTY We stand by our products and back them up with our William Painter lifetime guarantee. This means if you break them, shatter them, blow them up, or run them over with a semi-truck we still guarantee them for life. With a small processing and handling fee you receive a brand new pair every time!

Don't get me wrong, I understand why they've changed it in the last two years... but is that legal? I purchased the sunglasses because of that fantastic warranty, and now the terms and conditions of it have changed after purchase.

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    Hah. I warmly remember the one time I fell for a Lifetime when purchasing a then very expensive top-of-the-shelf navigation device of one of the very well known brands. I did not read the small print very closely, and it turned out the Lifetime was meant to be the time of that specific model being around. I.e., when the next upgraded version came, the old one was by definition "out of life" and thus not covered anymore (this was for map/data updates, not warranty, but nevertheless). These days, when seeing any mention of lifetime support, I tend to assume the worst. Good luck with your issue!
    – AnoE
    Jun 22 at 14:45
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    Although written in the first person, this is clearly a question about what the law permits, not a request for specific legal advice, and it should not be closed as such. Jun 22 at 15:11
  • Generally, you should assume ‘lifetime’ refers to the item’s lifetime, not yours. Once it breaks, it’s lifetime is obviously over…
    – Aganju
    Jun 22 at 16:00
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    @Aganju makes a good point. Is it possible your new/repaired glasses fell under a different warranty than your original pair? I had this happen with jewelry I had replaced under a warranty; the original warranty only applied to the original ring, and the replacement would require the purchase of its own new warranty.
    – David K
    Jun 22 at 17:08
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    $70AUD is not exactly a 'small' fee for a pair of sunglasses, even nice ones.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 22 at 20:56
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It's not legal

The terms that you agree when you enter a contract can only be changed if:

  • the contract provides for variation of its terms and then, only in accordance with that procedure. This may allow unilateral changes - these are common in ongoing relationships like telephone and ISP contracts but it appears from the Kickstarter page that this was not the case here.
  • the parties agree to vary the contract either by deed or by another contract. If by deed then the law of making deeds must be followed, if by contract then the laws of contract must be followed.

You mention "around $70AUD" which leads me to guess that you are in Australia. If you were there when you entered the contract then the Australian Consumer Law will apply to the transaction and, more generally, to William Painter since they explicitly "do business in" Australia because they ship there.

It is illegal to make misleading and deceptive claims under the ACL and the fines can be huge. Perhaps a note pointing this out to them and letting them know that if they waive their fees in you case(s), you wont feel the need to report them to the ACCC.

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    Amazing, thank you for the insights! Are you able to clarify with regards to "the parties agree to vary the contract either by deed or by another contract" that it wouldn't be possible for one party to agree to or accept a change in the original contract without their knowledge of said change?
    – Hugh
    Jun 22 at 16:13
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    @Hugh you can’t agree to something you don’t know about.
    – Dale M
    Jun 22 at 22:04
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    This is absolutely bread and butter for the ACCC. Especially if they think this is not, or won't be, an isolated incident. Jun 23 at 2:13
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    As regards the agreement to vary the contract, I know that some companies employ boilerplate stating that a contract may be changed without advance notice, but I think they're still legally required to send such an amendment to you. It's so standard that most people just skip over that line (and I don't know how enforceable it is, really, although I can see an argument for "Well, you agreed to it when you signed"). Jun 23 at 14:12
  • @SeanDuggan: I would note that the only time I saw a "variance" clause in the contract, it was about a contract with regular payments, where receiving a notice that the contract terms will change by "date X" allows you, if you judge the terms unacceptable, to simply terminate your contract, and if you do not terminate it, then you have implicitly agreed to it. In the case of a one-time purchase, I am not sure if it could apply. Jun 23 at 17:50

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