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February 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Mergers, Acquisitions, and Warranties

where did my Aeris warranty go?

from the February, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Are you the proud owner of Aeris diving equipment?

AUP (American Underwater Products) was once diving pioneer Bob Hollis's umbrella company, producing and marketing Aeris, Oceanic, and Hollis products, as well as Pelagic computers bearing those brand names. Pelagic was recently sold to Aqualung, while that big diving conglomerate, Huish Outdoors, bought Oceanic and Hollis last May. Huish also owns Atomic Aquatics, Bare, Stahlsac, and Zeagle, and markets Suunto products. Some of its acquired brands, such as Liquivision, appear to have fallen by the wayside. And Aeris, too, has disappeared.

Aeris owners have probably been "left high and dry."

Undercurrent spoke with one of Hollis' sons, suggesting that it must be sad for such a great diving and diving equipment icon, now in well-deserved retirement and declining years, to see his empire broken up. Yes, his son said, "my father was very disappointed." (Maybe he didn't sell the businesses for what he expected they were going to be worth.)

But, for dive consumers, Aeris didn't get sold but just disappeared, and that has led to some problems. For example, Craig Beasley (Houston, TX) told Undercurrent that two years ago he bought an Aeris A300 CS computer (which is similar to the Oceanic VTX, both made by Pelagic). During his first dive trip, it had problems, so he returned it under warranty. He was surprised that it went to Oceanic rather than Aeris until he learned they were both parts of AUP.

A year later, while he thought it was still under warranty, the screen of his Aeris computer cracked during a dive, killing the computer. He returned it to his dive store insisting it was unfit. The shop told him that Huish Outdoors had bought Oceanic, but not Aeris, and that the Aeris brand no longer existed and there was no company to honor Aeris's warranties (though his warranty had probably expired by then). Truth is, says Dean Garraffa (a co-founder of Atomic Aquatics now with Huish Outdoors), Aeris owners have probably been "left high and dry."

He contacted Pelagic (now part of Aqualung), the manufacturer of the Aeris computer, but they would not replace or repair an Aeris, since it had died with AUP. As a favor, his dive store offered to discount the price of a new computer as a replacement. Beasley thinks that companies should not be able to shed liability for warranties by dint of merger or acquisition. He asks, "Should warranties be allowed to be canceled in this way?"

Unfortunately, consumers have little recourse. Furthermore, when a brand such as Aeris disappears, divers will be out of luck if they need repairs, whether or not under warranty. Such gear won't be supported by any manufacturer. In fact, even though Aeris ceased to exist years ago, some dealers might still be selling old stock. Maybe Beasley bought something that his dive store had kept on the shelf for some time.

Beasley filed a report with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is interested in the safety aspect of computer failures. He believes they will be contacting the companies regarding the Aeris failures. He was also told to contact the state attorney general in Texas or California, which is where AUP (Aeris and Oceanic) was based; Huish is located in Utah.

There's an even bigger battle looming for those divers who have spent $4000 or more on a Hollis Explorer semi-closed-circuit rebreather. As it turns out, Huish told Undercurrent, they no longer support that rebreather. Although the company exhibited an improved version of the Hollis Prism fully closed-circuit rebreather at the DEMA show in November, we don't expect Huish to assume the liability and possible litigation connected with recreational semi-closed-circuit units. Hollis Explorer owners will not be happy when they learn they have neither extended warranties nor product support.

- John Bantin

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