Saturday, December 10

The right to repair and the fight against planned obsolescence

We have become accustomed to using and throwing away. Clothes last us a year, not only because they go out of style, but because they deteriorate quickly. A mobile phone over two years old is already obsolete, as is a car over five. This is no accident, but a very calculated strategy.

This frenzy of purchases and constant renewal produces large amounts of waste, especially electronics, which in the case of European Union, more than 2,500 million tons year. As it explains the documentary “Buy, shoot, buy” produced by RTVE, manufacturers put on sale products that are designed to break down or become non-functional. For example, lithium batteries inevitably lose their charging capacity over time, but that shouldn’t force us to change the entire mobile phone instead of replacing the battery.

For example, in 2017, Apple was forced by US law to offer battery replacements for the iPhone 6 and later at a reduced price, after it was revealed that the company was purposely slowing down older phones with every single charge. software updates with the excuse of extending battery life.

According to one Eurobarometer survey79% of EU citizens believe that manufacturers should be required to facilitate the repair of digital devices or the replacement of their loose parts, and 77% prefer to repair their devices to buy new ones.

On April 7, the European Parliament established priorities on the “right to repair”, which will result in a Commission proposal scheduled for the third quarter of 2022. The objective, achieve a circular economy model by 2050which involves sharing, renting, reusing, repairing, renewing and recycling existing materials and products as many times as possible to increase their life cycle.

The right to repair and its enemies

Planned obsolescence is present in many products today, from cars to phones to home appliances. The origin of planned obsolescence is attributed to the automobile industry in the United States. In the 1920s, the automobile market in this country was saturated, and sales began to fall. To avoid this, General Motors executive Alfred P. Sloan Jr. suggested launching new models every year.

In addition to cars, planned obsolescence affects all electronics, from computers to mobile phones, household appliances, computer software, fashion, shoes, toys, textbooks or even furniture. The Right to Repair is a movement that began in the early 2000s in response to the increasing amount of e-waste being generated. The aim of the movement is to make it easier for consumers to repair their own devices, instead of having to replace them.

In 2012, the US state of Massachusetts became the first to pass a right-to-repair law for automobiles, requiring manufacturers to make diagnostic and repair information available to independent repair shops and individual consumers. . In that same year, the European Union approved the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, which obliges manufacturers to provide consumers with information on how to repair their products.

The directive also established standards for the collection and recycling of electronic waste. Several Member States have passed laws based on this directive, such as the program in Sweden to exchange their old appliances for new ones at a discount, or the law in Finland that has introduced a law that obliges manufacturers to sell spare parts for appliances .

However, this first directive was ambiguous and its implementation in the different EU countries was uneven. Parliament’s new resolution stresses that devices need to be more durable, easier to repair and include parts that can be removed and replaced. In addition, it proposes harmonized rules on consumer information regarding repair and extension of guarantees.

More time to repair, more instructions to do it

In Spain, this year the updating of the General Law for the Defense of Consumers. With this reform changes are introduced that protect the right to repair of consumers. The first is the extension of a product warranty from two to three years. This would cover any manufacturing defects that occurred in that period. In addition, manufacturers must have spare parts for products available for 10 years after their withdrawal from the market, instead of five as before.

With the old legislation, during the first six months it was assumed that the fault was manufacturing, but beyond that the consumer had to prove that he had not misused the device. This term is extended up to two years with the new law. The French government has gone further with its reparability indexor repairability index, a rating that indicates whether the product is more or less repairable.

However, there are other strategies used by manufacturers to encourage consumers to replace rather than repair. One of them is the software, much more difficult to control. It is what happens when an old computer or phone stops being compatible with a new version of the operating system. The European Parliament also contemplates that these updates are reversible and do not affect performance, and that it is guaranteed that old models can use them for a time period yet to be determined.

The right to repair is fundamental to the environmental health of the planet. The most immediate consequence of planned obsolescence is the increase in technological waste, which ends up being processed in developing countries and is highly polluting. In addition, the increasingly shorter manufacturing cycles consume a greater amount of raw materials, some of which are scarce and strategic, such as coltan for antennas or lithium for batteries. Repairing, in addition to a right, is a necessity.

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