Right to repair or repair it right? - APPLiA meets the Productivity Commission to the Australian Government

APPLiA meets the Productivity Commission to the Australian Government on the right to repair in Europe.

The right to repair represents a large part of the contemporary discourse at both the EU and global level. Within this framework, APPLiA Europe was asked to share the industry’s expertise on the right to repair in Europe with a government agency providing policy advice to the Australian Government, the Productivity Commission. 

Building on the EU Eco-design framework, Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA’s Director General, provided an overview of the main dimensions that characterise the repair market, outlining some core aspects of the products’ lifecycle. 

“The repair market as part of each company’s after-sales strategy, accounts up to 4% of the brand’s revenues and creates common ground for competition among the industries.” commented Mr Falcioni. APPLiA has collected data on the state of repair requests and how they were handled back in 2016 and in 2018 from its Membership. 81% of the requests to manufacturers for a repair of a product resulted in an actual repair in 2016, to then increase up to 91% in 2018. This figure proves that appliances are repairable.  Delving into the cost of repair activities, the breakdown shows that for large appliances, for instance, the biggest chunk is the labour cost, representing 42%; 37% of the average price for repair is the cost of the spare parts; 16% goes to transport and 5% are listed as other costs. As a result, nearly 50% of the cost is linked to the work behind the repair which involves around 32 000 workers directly or indirectly linked to repair activities. 

“Repair cannot be carried out by each of us, simply because we may not have the required technical skills to repair the product right” explained Paolo Falcioni, mentioning that the switch in the words order (right to repair to repair it right) is crucial. If an appliance is not properly repaired, safety within the home could be compromised. For this reason, the repairer needs to comply with the applicable regulations for repairs of electrical equipment, but also needs to have relevant insurance covering liabilities resulting from the service.  Given the relevance of the topic for the sector, APPLiA Europe is supporting  a study book produced by APPLiA Hungary aimed at training young generations of technicians in repairing home appliances at the EU level.

“What is the industry perspective?”, asked the experts from the Productivity Commission,“on some National initiatives on a so-called “Repairability Index”? In reply to this, Mr Falcioni stated that National initiatives create barriers to the Single Market and are therefore to be avoided. “We must first understand what would be the value of such an index, especially for consumers. On top of that, it is valuable what is verifiable” he added. At the moment, there are still too many concerns on both these aspects.

Another dimension to be considered concerns the durability of the product. The lifetime of an appliance varies depending on many factors that are beyond the manufacturer’s control including use frequency, maintenance, installation and location (the room being damp, too cold, too hot, badly ventilated).  Manufacturers conduct endurance tests but patterns of use can differ significantly among consumers. What is certain is that the care with which appliances are installed, used and maintained will have a direct impact on their efficiency and longevity. 

According to the French study by TNS Sofres, many would like to keep their appliances for a long time. Developing consumer loyalty is a strategic goal for manufacturers of branded products. Any shortcomings in product quality would indeed turn consumers away from the brand. “The average age of discarded household appliances has in fact not changed significantly over time, with the only difference that today these are subject to a more intensive use while offering greater performance and higher energy efficiency.” noted Paolo Falcioni.

Let’s then go to the recycling phase. Based on the European producer responsibility legislation for white goods, our industry funds and manages recycling of our appliances all over the EU. Despite the relevant achievements, data show that around ⅓ of the products, especially small appliances, are sent to the waste-bin by consumers even when these have not yet reached the end of their lifecycle. Keeping this in mind, it is of fundamental importance to continue expanding a circular culture aimed at facilitating the shift towards a more circular model. 

To conclude, APPLiA welcomes the introduction of the new Ecodesign regulation, setting the boundaries of the market as from 1 March 2021. The new legislation will set the stage for a level-playing field for all businesses, obliging all market actors to meet a set of minimum requirements this way producing a positive impact on both consumers and industries.