Right to repair: Too many products being dumped

Too many products get dumped because spare parts aren’t available. So what can be done?

"What are companies’ obligations to provide spare parts for broken products? I hate throwing away items that can’t be fixed because spare parts aren’t available. It’s a waste!"

Products that get dumped because spare parts aren’t available waste money and valuable materials.

So what are the rules? The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) requires goods to be of acceptable quality and that includes being durable.

If your fridge or TV fails before its time – and you haven’t caused the failure – you can go back to the retailer. It needs to sort the problem. That means either repairing or replacing the item or giving you a refund.

The CGA also puts the onus on manufacturers to ensure spare parts and repair services are available for a reasonable time after a product is sold. But there’s a loophole.

Manufacturers don’t have to do this if consumers are told when they make their purchase that parts and repair services won’t be available. This means a product with only a minor fault could end up being dumped because there are no parts to fix it.

Though you’re still entitled to get a replacement or your money back if the product isn’t of acceptable quality, it doesn’t solve the problem of goods being needlessly junked because they can’t be easily repaired.

Getting rid of the CGA loophole would be a step towards reducing the tonnes of failed products that become trash. We’d like to see the CGA amended to require all manufacturers to have spare parts for products for a reasonable period, especially for common faults.

What else could be done?

Manufacturers and retailers need to shoulder more responsibility for the environmental impacts of the goods they sell. Their obligations don’t end when their products leave the factory or the shop floor.

We’ve called for a product stewardship scheme for electronic waste – which includes everything from phones to fridges. These schemes make companies responsible for dealing with a product at the end of its life.

When you do this, manufacturers have a bigger incentive to design products that go the distance and can be easily repaired.

Electronic waste (also known as e-waste) is a major problem because it can contain hazardous substances, including heavy metals and flame retardants. It also contains valuable materials that can be reused to make other products.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage announced in August the Ministry for the Environment is investigating product stewardship schemes for e-waste, starting with lithium ion batteries.

Schemes for agrichemicals, used tyres, refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases are also being explored.

In the meantime, if you’re making a purchase, use our reliability surveys to find which brands are more likely to last.

Right to repair

Other countries are already moving to beef up consumers’ rights to get goods repaired, driven by growing environmental concerns.

In Europe, proposals are on the table that could force manufacturers to make spare parts more readily available and to improve the design of major appliances so they’re easier to repair.

In the US, the burgeoning “Right to Repair” movement has also succeeded in getting proposed legislation in some states that requires manufacturers to make spare parts available to consumers and independent repairers.

A major focus of the movement is giving consumers the ability to repair products themselves or pick their own repairer, rather than being beholden to the manufacturer.

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