Media Release 9 September 2020

A comprehensive report into ‘right to repair’ is calling for measures that encourage consumers to repair electronic goods such as mobile phones, vacuums, computers and televisions, rather than throw them away.

The Pathways for Right to Repair in Aotearoa New Zealand from WasteMINZ’ Product Stewardship Sector Group states the case for right to repair measures to be introduced into law in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It tackles issues such as planned obsolescence, when items are not designed to be repairable in the first instance; the costs of repair over replacement; and a lack of knowledge about consumer rights.

Amendments to current legislation could embed measures to make repair of a faulty electrical item easier than replacement, a significant step towards a circular economy.

Vicktoria Blake, part of the Right to Repair Working Group behind the report, says the regular replacement of electrical items is often caused by manufacturers frequently updating product designs, not providing spare parts, gluing batteries into mobile phones, requiring special tools to access a product’s mechanism, or preventing software updates for older models of electronic goods.

“Planned obsolescence is so ubiquitous that many people take it for granted that they won’t even be able to get an electronic item repaired. This is especially the case if the item didn’t cost them much in the first place. This leads to unacceptable rates of e-waste, an issue that is exacerbated by the small amount of e-waste that actually gets recycled,” says Ms Blake.

One of the concerns manufacturers raise in opposition to right to repair legislation is intellectual property (IP).

But working group member Professor Graeme Austin, of Victoria University, says that repair rights are not a threat to intellectual property rights.

“The manufacturer already benefitted from its IP when it sold the original product. IP rights were never meant to be used against people who repair their own products.”

The report proposes amendments to the Consumer Guarantees Act including:

– An amendment so manufacturers cannot opt out of an obligation to repair faulty items.
– The inclusion of a defined ‘useful life’ for electrical products that the CGA covers.
– A period of time to which a consumer should expect an electrical product to remain ‘fault free’.
– The removal of the (refundable) fee required by many retailers before an item is sent to the manufacturer for repair.

“A mandatory labelling system could also be implemented to allow consumers to determine before purchase whether goods can be repaired easily and affordably; and whether batteries can be replaced easily by the consumer,” Ms Blake adds.

“The recent Government announcement of the co-design of a regulated e-waste product stewardship scheme is a great opportunity to incorporate right to repair measures. The scheme could ensure manuals, tools and parts are made available to consumers and repair could be incentivised.”

Read the full report.