Not all that is new is good, and not all that is old is bad.
About four years ago I bought a great all-in-one printer. Last year red ink started printing with yellow streaks. I went back to the store where I bought it twice; twice I was told the whole unit needs to be replaced and the old one needs to go to landfill. All because a color has been compromised? Eventually my grandson found the self-cleaning button and three cycles later it still works fine.
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The desire to waive the right to reparation is not a new phenomenon, at least not in my lifetime.
In the 90s, a newcomer to town moved into a house and discovered that the ceiling fan was not working. He installed a new one and asked me to get rid of the old one. If he had spent more time with him like I did he would have found a broken wire which was easily fixed with a drop of solder. The following year we built a new house and that same fan went into the ceiling of our bedroom where it still works, 30 years later.
My daughter recently sent me a clipping from England, saying that the UK, like the EU, had passed legislation requiring manufacturers to make spare parts available to buyers and sellers. third-party repair companies. The legislation aims to extend the life cycle of appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, refrigerators as well as monitors and televisions for up to 10 years.
In July, US President Joe Biden gave a boost to supporters of the right to redress as part of an executive order aimed at boosting the economy. Part of that included a demand to drop “unfair anti-competitive restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers” that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment or buyers from bringing damaged electronics to a third-party store for a fix.
A May report from the United States Federal Trade Commission found that “many consumer products have become more difficult to repair and maintain” due to a lack of access to special tools, diagnostic and parts, reserved for manufacturers only. Consumers, in the end, are forced to “replace products before the end of their useful life”.
What comes closest to Canadians is Liberal MP Bryan May’s private member’s bill. May’s bill suggests updating the Copyright Act to prohibit the use of digital locks to block device repairs. This means that companies would no longer be able to force buyers to use their certified technicians to correct defects. However, at second reading only, it is not known when – if at all – the bill will be adopted and become law.
In addition to costing buyers money, the lack of a repair fee harms our environment. While there are depots where you can take your used devices for recycling, many people are unaware or unable to bring them there due to pandemic restrictions. As a result, there is an unacceptable amount of electronic waste each year that ends up in landfills.
Citing data from Statistics Canada, the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling reported that Canada produced 638,300 tonnes of “electronic scrap” (electronic and electrical equipment) in 2012. Many of these devices contain such toxins. as mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, and arsenic which cannot be disposed of properly with household garbage.
The three proposals from the UK, US and Canada date back to a simpler time when cities still had small home appliance repair shops. Lights, toasters, coffee makers, vacuums and frying pans lasted decades longer thanks to these repair shops. The current versions of these stores are often specialty stores in linear malls or kiosks in large malls. Ideal if you live near one, but no luck if you are in a rural area.
I repeat: not everything new is good, and not everything old is bad. The idea that Canadians should have access to repair for the goods they buy is not a new concept. And for the sake of our planet, the future of our children and our bank accounts, the right to redress is certainly not a bad right.
David Gilchrist is a retired minister and former host of a travel agency concerned about how countries deal with their pollution. He now lives in Olds, Alberta.
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