A Productivity Commission Right to Repair Inquiry has found significant and unnecessary barriers to repair for some products. It is proposing a suite of measures intended to enhance consumers’ right to repair while providing net benefits to the community.

According to the report, a ‘right to repair’ is the ability of consumers to have their products repaired at a competitive price using a repairer of their choice. However, realising this in a practical way involves a range of policies, including consumer and competition law, intellectual property protections, product labelling, and environmental and resource management.

Among the suggestions the Commission said the government should consider are:

  • Undertake more detailed investigations into specific product markets, including mobile phones and tablets, to better understand the extent of harm and examine whether additional regulation would yield net benefits, and
  • Amend copyright laws to facilitate the accessing and sharing of repair information, such repair manuals, and repair data hidden behind digital locks.

The Commission said lack of consumer information about a product’s repairability or durability is likely to make it difficult for some consumers to select more repairable and durable products based on their preferences, while reducing manufacturers’ incentives to develop such products.

To address this the government should consult with consumer, environmental, and industry groups and introduce a product labelling scheme that provides repairability and/or durability information for consumers. A pilot scheme should target a limited number of white goods and consumer electronics products.

There is also scope to improve the way products are managed over their life, to reduce e-waste ending up in landfill.  

Commenting to Appliance Retailer Electrolux Home Products managing director Kurt Hegvold said the report into the ‘right to repair’ is a significant industry review.

“We are currently digesting the contents to gain a better understanding of the findings and the wider industry implications in both practical and commercial terms.

“Electrolux is always excited to identify where opportunity exists to continually improve the way our products are managed over their lifecycle and improve our consumer offering. We look forward to further review of the report and to continue our strong sustainability focus in reducing waste to landfill,” he said.

In its submission to the inquiry The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the question of whether Australia should introduce some form of ‘right to repair’ is a complex and multi-faceted one.

The ACCC considers that reforms to consumer law or specific regulatory intervention will be necessary to address harms relating to consumers’ and small businesses’ access to repairs or spare parts.