We are all aware that product lifespans on white goods have dropped over the years, mainly in relation to pricing. Cheaper products have naturally resulted in lower build quality, performance and longevity, something acknowledged by the WTA (Whitegoods Trade Association). The ease of buying on line and our thirst for updated models with the latest features has added to the current ‘disposable’ consumer culture. But this is all coming under increased scrutiny from environmental groups, local government (tasked with the disposal of our consumer choices) and by consumers themselves as plastic and disposable products are increasingly being shunned.
New legislation signed off in January by the EU (due to come into force in April 2021) focuses on these issues and even with the outcome of Brexit unknown, any company exporting electronic products into Europe will need to understand the implications of this legislation. Read the full article on the legislation from Rob Cole in Resource, March 2019 edition.
The Right to Repair legislation
The new legislation relates to household consumer goods, including lighting, display screens and most white goods. It advocates the ‘right to repair’, placing an obligation on the manufacturer to make products more repairable with the provision of spare parts and manuals.
Original proposals published in September 2018 indicated that the legislation would force manufacturers to make spare parts available for 7-10 years and to provide information such as schematics, wiring diagrams and other technical specs. The legislation due to be instigated in 2021 does not go this far and limits intervention to ‘professional repairers’. However, with increased pressure from consumers and consumer groups and more people stating that they would prefer to repair products than buy new, it is easy to imagine that the legislation maybe updated. There are also concerns that the legislation gives too much power to the ‘professional repairer’. That this could be controlled by a few large companies instead of allowing access by small independent repair companies, hubs and repair café ventures is a concern to consumer groups.
So what should an electronics manufacturer be incorporating into their operations now to be ready for the new legislation? Areas such as obsolescence planning becomes critical as spare part availability becomes a long-term commitment within the supply chain. There will be more focus on delivering component quality and general overall build quality. Training for repair outlets offered through face-to-face or online and social media channels, community groups for sharing experiences and expertise, repair ‘kits’ created and available as standard parts will all generate new opportunities and new challenges. However, these opportunities will ultimately help to open up new markets, build new relationships and ultimately drive customer and brand loyalty.