I’m Paula Santolaya, reporting live from SANTOLIVE in my virtual reality. Have comments, opinions, or suggestions? Post them in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who has not ever broken the fridge, microwave, hair dryer, mobile phone or TV and has been told that the reparation costs more than buying a new one? But what many people do not know is that this deterioration of the product has been planned by the manufacturer to limit its useful life. And why does a company want to design a product that will not last? The goal is nothing less than to force the consumer to buy a new one and, in that way, obtain a secured periodic income. And what about the abuse of the spare parts? Sometimes, due to the failure of a simple screw, it is necessary to change the entire piece, if it still exists.
To the present day, the planned obsolescence of products has come from the incandescent light bulb, which was created to last a lifetime, to the nylon women’s stockings, which are still manufactured to produce the detestable ‘runs’.
But is the planned obsolescence illegal? The European Union does not consider it an illegal act at the moment, although in 2021 a European Commission regulation will come into force and will companies will have to sell spare parts of household appliances up to ten years after the purchase. Some associations for the defense of consumer rights have already described this measure as weak.
According to a 2017 Eurobarometer survey, the 77% of European citizens would prefer to repair their appliances instead of replacing them. But France is the only country in Europe with a legislation that applies two-year jail terms and fines of up to €300,000 to companies.
On the other hand, it is also intended to alleviate the most negative consequences of planned obsolescence: not only the waste of raw materials and energy but also the large amount of unnecessary waste generated by the developed countries on a planet with limited resources.
All civilized countries need a law that protects consumers from the abusive practice of planned obsolescence. As Mahatma Gandhi said: «The world is big enough to meet everyone’s needs, but it will always be too small to satisfy the greed of some.»