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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Minister welcomes ‘right to repair’ issues paper

The Productivity Commission has launched its ‘Right to repair’ issues paper, focusing on consumers’ ability to have faulty goods repaired and to access repair services of their choice at competitive prices.

ACT Greens leader and Minister for Consumer Affairs, Shane Rattenbury, said he was glad to see the Productivity Commission finally begin the review after a long campaign. Mr Rattenbury advocated for a ‘right to repair’ inquiry at last year’s Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs, attended by representatives from federal, state and territory, and New Zealand governments.

“My hope is that a detailed examination by the Productivity Commission will allow the ‘right to repair’ concept to be imported into the Australian context, resulting in reforms that both benefit Australian consumers and improve sustainability,” Mr Rattenbury said.

According to the Productivity Commission, there are concerns that repairs are becoming difficult, resulting in consumers throwing products away. Each Australian, among the highest users of technology products, generates on average 25kg of e-waste every year.

Mr Rattenbury, Canberra Weekly reported recently, believes consumers were increasingly restrained by manufacturer warranties that dictated repair options, and by intellectual property constraints such as specifically made tools and product designs. Mr Rattenbury wants to see power back in consumers’ hands.

“A ‘right to repair’ means that consumers won’t simply be stuck dealing with one manufacturer,” Mr Rattenbury said. “They can take issues into their own hands to get the product repaired and get help from a third party. It also means manufacturers will be obliged to build products capable of being repaired, as well as providing manuals.

“The ACT has led the way by advocating for a national ‘right to repair’, demonstrating a strong commitment to sustainability as well as supporting a community to make informed decisions when it comes to their consumer rights.”

The Commission will assess costs and benefits to consumers, suppliers, and manufacturers of right to repair in Australia; the impact that regulators or policy changes could have on market offerings for repair services and replacement products; and arrangements for preventing premature or planned product obsolescence and the proliferation of e-waste, and means of reducing e-waste through improved access to repairs.

The Commission said it would take a community-wide view, balancing (sometimes competing) interests of consumers, manufacturers, suppliers and repairers to achieve the greatest benefits for the community (including the environment).

Interested parties – consumers, repairers, suppliers (including retailers), manufacturers, waste managers, and environmental groups – are invited to make a submission by Monday 1 February 2021. The draft report is expected to be published in June.

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