Families count the costs as big tech fails to offer cheap phone, laptop and fridge repairs – The Conversation UK

Assistant Professor in Law, Coventry University
Professor of Sustainability & Supply Chain Management, Coventry University
Benny Tjahjono receives funding from UKRI (EPSRC, ESRC, InnovateUK).
Katrien Steenmans does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Coventry University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
View all partners
Each year 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste is produced globally. A big part of this waste results from “product obsolescence” – the term used for phones, computers, fridges and other goods becoming unusable because they are too difficult or expensive to repair.
Companies drive down their costs by using easily accessible and cheaper materials and restricting software updates on computers and phones as they get older. Apple, Microsoft and other electric and electronics firms also continue to sell products that have short lifespans by making parts and repairs costly.
In California, where a right-to-repair law is being introduced, it’s estimated that families could save US$330 per year (£243) on being able to repair rather than replace electronics.
Right-to-repair laws have been or are also being passed around the world, in Australia, the EU, France, UK and the US states of Massachusetts and New York. But these laws do not go far enough.
Most of these recently introduced laws cover domestic electronic devices such as washing machines and fridges, but only France’s law covers devices such as smartphones and laptops.
So far, smartphone and laptop manufacturers have done little to react to the environmental waste problem. Apple, for example, only launched a self-service repair programme after years of consumer and legal pressures. There are examples of small-scale initiatives by companies that allow consumers to repair or upgrade their smartphones, but these need to be established more widely.
The requirement to provide spare parts for the first time should, in theory, prolong the life of appliances and reduce the need for new products. But, of course, this will conflict with companies’ imperative to continue to increase profits. What is disappointing is that the current laws don’t give consumers the right to have all products repaired. (Depending on the law, tech firms are only obliged to offer information on products that are easier to fix, spare parts or advice on repairs.) Some right-to-repair regulations also fall short in that they put too many hurdles in consumers’ way, including restrictions on who may repair the product, and that it does not address pricing of repairs.
Electronic waste is bad for the environment, and is also at odds with many law and policy aims that exist on, for example, zero waste and circular economies (moving towards the reuse of products, rather than throwing them away).
To make the right to repair more accessible and avoid further mountains of waste, tech companies can do far more, including:
1. Repairs must be faster
Sometimes firms are too slow with repairing products, causing people to throw them out. Some of the time frame requirements under the right-to-repair laws to repair devices are also impractical for people who may need a product urgently. For example, under EU law the delivery of spare parts for refrigerators has to be within 15 working days. Consumers are more likely to replace a refrigerator than wait 15 days while food in their fridge or freezer is decaying.
2. Spare parts must be cheaper
Spare parts need to be more affordable and easier to get hold of. Manufacturers could take a leaf out of the automotive sectors’ book where many new and reconditioned parts are made available to consumers in an established market.
Read more: Design and repair must work together to undo our legacy of waste
3. Access to spare parts must not be limited
The UK’s right-to-repair regulations, for example, set out that professional repairers should have access to parts rather than consumers, which will add labour cost to the price of repairs, which might sometimes be easy for customers to do themselves. There is not much point in the right to repair if it remains much cheaper to replace a broken product rather than to fix it.
4. Products must be designed for repair
Technology and electronics companies need different business models to move customers and retailers away from a throwaway culture, where it is easier and cheaper to buy new than repair. Products also need to be designed to allow for repair. This needs to be supported by a supply chain that moves products from customers back to manufacturers or sellers for repairs.
5. Consumers must be given more information
Constantly upgrading to the next new phone or television has become an accepted way of life for many people. If people are to change their behaviour, tech and domestic appliance companies need to promote awareness of repair options, the benefits of repair, and how to go about repairing (for example, providing an easily accessible list of professional repairers).
The first steps have been taken on the right-to-repair journey, but there is still a long way to go. Laws need to be tightened and tech and electronics companies must do more to break established consumption and production patterns.
Copyright © 2010–2022, The Conversation

source

Share:

More Posts

Market Research

Pulse Surveys

Turn feedback into action

Our survey platform makes it easy to measure and understand feedback so you can drive growth and innovation

Pulse Handshak

Pulse Handshak

Collaborative online survey tool for the market research industry. Remote assisted surveying just like face-to-face interviews. Here interviewers can talk to the respondent over the web-console without the need for any other communication channel and share the same Q're with responses and click actions.

Pulse FE

Pulse FE

Pulse Field Expert or Pulse FE is the main platform for both offline and online survey at softofficepro.com. It is robust and used by hundreds of clients over tens of years with millions of responses. Do it once Q're and deploy on both offline devices (android) and online forms makes it a great cost effective platform for any kind of responses

Pulse Ultimate

Pulse Ultimate

Pulse Ultimate is targeted for tracking studies and retail audits. An offline survey system offering extreme field control including processes like data quality check, back-check, rework, comparison with previous wave data etc. helps to get the best results on a day-to-day basis

Pulse LS

Pulse LS

Use a managed Limesurvey and our expertise for creating complex forms and token based user management. Use optional mailing system to send survey invitation to each participant and track progress of the response status. Industry standard SPSS / R output supported