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Planned obsolescence and the right to repair

06 Jul 2021 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

What have light-bulbs in common with Apple products? They are designed so that you can't repair them and they are (needlessly) designed so that they need replacement pretty fast. Batteries are glued into the phone and the glass front panel breaks easily and is hard to replace. Is that legal? I feel it shouldn't be.

Fortunately, fines of millions of euros are given to counter this phenomenon also known as "planned obsolescence". Still it seems these fines are not frequent and/or high enough to stop manufacturers from applying this practice. Planned obsolescence is mainly a environmental threat as many appliances and devices are thrown away and end up on garbage dumps (needlessly).

Planned obsolescence laws in France

France has a law (decree 2014-1482) that obliges French producers to inform sellers, who then are to convey this information to consumers, about the durability of their products and the availability of the spare parts under a threat of fine of 15.000 euro.

Another law (2015-992) defines planned obsolescence as: "all the techniques by which the marketer tends to deliberately reduce the lifetime of a product in order to increase its substitution rate".

Even though there are plans to make similar laws apply in the entire EU (and even in the US), this is not yet the case.

Fashionable styles

In clothing planned obsolescence is caused by trying to influence the "taste" of the consumers. By convincing people that something is fashionable or not, they are helping shorten the (required) lifetime of the clothes. You could say that consumers do this to themselves. One could also argue that fashion (the concept) is not very environmental friendly .Since these fashionable styles apply to cars, home decoration, etc, etc... this is a serious problem with large (environmental) impact.

How about computers?

Desktop computers can last very long. Many parts of desktop PCs have well standardized interfaces and are easily interchangeable, this is great! Still one should be careful when buying small form factor computers such as laptops and tablets. Many of these small form factor devices are not advertised as being easy to repair or as having a long expected lifetime.

I feel "Clevo" is a good brand for repairable laptops, and "HP" has some very repairable tablets. If you care about the environment, go buy these brands, even if they seem to cost a little extra!

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