A nationally representative survey has found that a clear majority of Australians want greater certainty about the longevity of common household products – and stronger rights when it comes to repairing them.
Of the more than 1000 participants in the nationally representative survey conducted for CHOICE:
- 75% say they support stronger laws and consumer protections when it comes to their repair rights
- 88% of respondents are calling for a star rating system to indicate how long a product should last for
- 87% say they want information about how long spare parts will be available at the point of sale.
'Australia must make it easier'
"Australia must make it easier to buy products that last and end the repair challenges people face when trying to get basic household products fixed," says Erin Turner, CHOICE director of campaigns.
"If you want your phone screen replaced or your favourite kitchen gadget fixed, you shouldn't be stuck with the manufacturer's often inaccessible and slow repair options."
CHOICE supports the Productivity Commission's proposals for a stronger right to repair and we think they can go further to strengthen itErin Turner, CHOICE director of campaigns
In June the Federal Parliament passed laws to crack down on car-repair monopolies. CHOICE has now made a submission to the Productivity Commission, calling for similar rights to be extended to household products.
"CHOICE supports the Productivity Commission's proposals for a stronger right to repair and we think they can go further to strengthen it," Turner says.
Off to the scrap heap
Geoff Isaac lives in Canberra. Five years ago, he bought an expensive Sonos speaker for his beach house down on the coast. The speaker was hardly used at all over those five years, as the family rarely visited the property, but when it broke it was out of warranty.
The company refused to offer him a right to repair the product, despite the fault being a minor issue with the power supply. Eventually, after much negotiation, they agreed to replace the product entirely rather than repair it.
It's such a waste to scrap the whole unit over such a small issueGeoff Isaac, Canberra, on his broken Sonos speaker
"I was very disappointed apart from the fact it was only something to do with the power supply, you'd think it would be pretty easy to get that part switched over, it's such a waste to scrap the whole unit over such a small issue," Geoff tells CHOICE.
"There should be stronger protections for people's right to repair. When I had an old analogue stereo, you could get things fixed for such a small cost. Now we are in a situation where people seem to think it's easier to just junk the whole thing if there is any problem."
Consumers need more information
The CHOICE survey also asked people how difficult it is to estimate a product's lifecycle costs (i.e. what they're likely to pay over its entire lifespan) with a majority of respondents saying it's 'quite difficult' or 'very difficult'.
People are also calling for the right to use any repairer without losing their warranty rights (66%) and agree that the current laws give manufacturers too much power over which repairer a customer can use (61%).
Product star ratings for household products?
At CHOICE, we're calling for consumers to get more information about a product's lifecycle costs and repairability at the point of purchase.
"We've seen the success of product star ratings for energy and water, the same should be done for the durability and repairability of our household products, so that we know the products we buy are going to last," says Turner.
A labelling system should make it easier for you to find products that are built to last and easier to repair when something goes wrongErin Turner, CHOICE
"It's far too hard to figure out if you're buying a high-quality product that will go the distance. A labelling system should make it easier for you to find products that are built to last and easier to repair when something goes wrong."
Restrictions on repair options
Eighty-six percent of people also say information about any restrictions on repair options should be disclosed at the point of sale.
In the past 12 months, 23% of the survey respondents have had issues with products stopping working before they were reasonably expected to. And 55% of these people experienced issues in the first 12 months of ownership.
Price remains a key factor in people not seeking a repair of their products – 42% of respondents say they didn't get a repair for this reason.
CHOICE calls for penalties under the ACL
Many people are probably not seeking remedy under the consumer guarantees of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and are missing out on free repairs.
We're calling for penalties for companies that mislead customers about their repair rights and other remedies available under existing law.
The Productivity Commission is due to finalise its recommendations by the end of October for the federal government to consider.
The survey was conducted by Dynata Omnipulse on behalf of CHOICE.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.