The Productivity Commission's inquiry into the ‘Right to Repair’ of consumer products has published a report with their finding’s this morning. Our team has investigated the report to bring you the key takeaways in relation to independent mobile and electronic device repair in Australia.
The term ‘right to repair’ describes a consumer’s ability to repair faulty goods, or access repair services, at a competitive price. This can relate to a range of product faults, including those for which the consumer is responsible. It may include a repair by a manufacturer, a third-party, or a self-repair option through available replacement parts and repair information.
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) prohibits anti-competitive behaviour however, many right to repair issues are the result of conduct that is not being captured by the prohibition. In many cases, suppliers do not impose any such restrictions on consumers with respect to the repair of products they supply. Instead, consumers or third parties are prevented from being able to repair the products due to a lack of access to necessary tools, parts or diagnostic software.
For these reasons, existing provisions amount to some limited rights or protections in relation to repair facilities in Australia, but do not amount to a full ‘right to repair’. As such, premature product obsolescence and a lack of competition in repair markets remain. The expense of repair and product design accelerate the transfer of consumer goods into waste.
Key Findings for Independent Electronic Repair
- SOME LIMITS ON ACCESS TO REPAIR SUPPLIES LACK SOUND JUSTIFICATION
There is no evidence of a systemic competition problem across all repair markets. For some products, however, manufacturers are limiting third-party access to repair supplies (such as information, tools and parts).
While manufacturers often justify these limits as a way to safeguard against risks from poor-quality repair (particularly for safety and security), these risks can be overstated for many products and types of repair. Where manufacturers have genuine reasons to restrict access to third-party repair, they should show clear and verifiable evidence of the associated risks
- EXTENT OF HARM IN MOBILE PHONE AND TABLET REPAIR MARKETS IS UNCERTAIN
Manufacturer restrictions on repair supplies for mobile phones and tablets are likely to be resulting in some consumer harm (through higher repair prices and reduced choice of repairer), which could be material in aggregate, given the ubiquitous nature of such goods and the concentrated market for new devices. However, data limitations and some countervailing market characteristics (such as high product turnover) mean that the evidence base is insufficient to justify specific policy interventions at this time.
- MANUFACTURER WARRANTIES CAN DISCOURAGE INDEPENDENT REPAIR
Some manufacturer warranties include terms that automatically void the warranty if repairs are undertaken by a non-authorised repairer or use non-authorised parts. Other warranties often contain dense and difficult to understand language, which can lead consumers to mistakenly believe that such terms exist. These voiding clauses can deter consumers from using third-party repairs during the warranty period, limiting their choice of repairer and reducing competition in repair markets. Many consumers are also not aware that consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law cannot be displaced by terms in warranties, and the guarantees are not extinguished if consumers have previously used non-authorised repair services or spare parts (as long as those services have not caused any damage to the product).
- COPYRIGHT LAWS ARE AN IMPEDIMENT TO ACCESSING REPAIR INFORMATION
Copyright laws that prevent third-party repairers from accessing repair information (such as repair manuals and diagnostic data) are the most significant unnecessary intellectual property-related barrier to repair in Australia.
- BETTER CONSUMER INFORMATION COULD LEAD TO LONGER-LIVED PRODUCTS
Product labelling is likely to help address information gaps in product repairability and durability for certain products, such as white goods and consumer electronics (finding 6.1). This can assist consumers to purchase more repairable and durable products that align with their preferences and encourage manufacturers to develop these types of products.
Key Takeaways for self repair in Australia
- VOIDING CONSUMER WARRANTIES FOR SELF REPAIR IS AGAINST AUSTRALIAN CONSUMER WARRANTY
Australian consumers should be aware that independent repair or installation of third party parts is not a valid reason for the manufacturer to void their product’s warranty. Manufacturer guarantees are not extinguished if consumers have previously used non-authorised repair services or spare parts (as long as those services have not caused any damage to the product). We hope the Australian Government takes the advice of the Productivity Commission to better educate Australian Consumers of their rights under this provision.
Provided you have the right guidance and tools, and (most importantly) safe third party parts, there is no impact on the warranty of your device by conducting your own repair. These are the three areas that TechXS builds it’s D-I-Y repair enabling products around.
- ACCESS TO DIAGNOSTICS AND REPAIR SPECIFICATIONS SHOULD BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE CONSUMER
We, along with other repair giants like iFixit, have been advocating for better transparency by manufacturers like Apple regarding the repair of their devices. Until now, consumers have relied on companies like ours to publish freely available repair schematics and installation tutorials to complete independent repairs on their own devices.
Recently Apple announced their own self repair program that will become available for select iPhone devices later next year. While this is a great step forward for the self repair industry, with Apple admitting that self repair can be done safely with the right tools and parts, it is still unknown just how affordable and accessible this program will be.
For the foreseeable future, we are happy to continue to bring iPhone owners a trusted solution to complete DIY repairs on their iPhones.