Europeans want devices that can be easily repaired
“Planned obsolescence” is not just some abstruse jargon reserved for market speculators and economists. Nowadays, the average consumer is likely to experience this concept and its real-world ramifications during every trip to the supermarket. Technology enthusiasts in particular have been conditioned to buy into this notion (quite literally). Why hang on to an old device, or attempt to repair it if it breaks, when something newer, faster, and better is right around the corner? Manufacturers have an active interest in enticing their consumers to continually buy their products – particularly those that produce yearly iterations of a device, promising improved performance and new features (I’m sure more than a few companies like this will come to mind).
Some of these companies are routinely criticized for designing their products to be difficult to repair – sometimes accused of doing so intentionally to promote future product sales, or revenue collected through specialized in-house repair services. One particularly reputable critic of such practices is iFixit: a company known for its in-depth product tear-downs and rating system that grades devices on their ease-of-repair and serviceability. In a piece of recent legislation, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved of a resolution that would lay the framework for a similar rating system to be implemented in the EU.
The proposal calls for a “voluntary European label” that could be slapped on a product to better inform consumers of its “durability, eco-design features, [and] upgradeability in line with technical progress and reparability”. Although this “European label” would be voluntary, Parliament sought to give its guidelines added weight by calling for “appropriate dissuasive measures for producers”. Additionally, Parliament made a number of recommendations for manufacturers and consumers on how to further define and combat the issue of planned obsolesce and poor serviceability. Among these recommendations was a call for “an EU-wide definition of ‘planned obsolescence’”, which could be used as the basis for the proposed rating system.
While it is important to note that, at present, the resolution is little more than a set of recommendations, it could have an impact on future legislation in the EU – especially if the proposed “dissuasive measures” are to be implemented. There does appear to be strong support for such motions, however, as the resolution was approved with a margin of “662 votes to 32, with two abstentions”. Additionally, Parliament pointed to a survey conducted in 2014 which showed that “77% of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones”. The fate of the resolution now lies in the hands of the European Commission, but it is clear that the European Parliament is making the public’s voice heard when it comes to consumer expectations.