Too many products get dumped because spare parts aren’t available.
As environmental concerns mount, more consumers are opting to get products repaired rather than replaced. But efforts to repair items can hit a major snag when spare parts aren’t available.
So what are companies’ obligation to provide spare parts for their products?
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. Products that get dumped because spare parts aren’t available not only waste money but also valuable materials.
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.
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.
A product stewardship scheme for e-waste is among the government’s plans to reduce waste, though details of what it will require and when it will kick in are yet to be released.
In the meantime, if you’re making a purchase, use our reliability surveys to find which brands are more likely to last.
Other countries are already moving to beef up consumers’ rights to get goods repaired.
In Europe, rule changes will soon force whiteware 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 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.
The issue is also on the agenda across the Tasman. Australia’s Productivity Commission has been asked to add it to its work programme.