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Right to repair

Inquiry report

This report was sent to Government on 29 October 2021 and publicly released on 1 December 2021.

The report sets out the Commission's findings and recommendations on the issue of a right to repair in Australia. The focus has been on whether there are barriers to repair that may require a government policy response, either through existing or new laws.

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  • Key points
  • Contents
  • Survey results
  • This report finds that there are significant and unnecessary barriers to repair for some products. It proposes a suite of measures that aim to enhance consumers’ right to repair while providing net benefits to the community.
  • A ‘right to repair’ is the ability of consumers to have their products repaired at a competitive price using a repairer of their choice. Realising this aspiration in a practical way involves a range of policies, including consumer and competition law, intellectual property protections, product labelling, and environmental and resource management.
  • Consumers already have rights to have their products repaired, replaced or refunded, and to access spare parts and repair facilities, under consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law. These guarantees are reasonably comprehensive and generally work well, but they should be improved by:
    • introducing a new guarantee for manufacturers to provide software updates for a reasonable time period after the product has been purchased, to reflect the increasing dependence of consumer products on embedded software
    • expanding options for ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, the guarantees to assist individual consumers to resolve their claims and for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to address systemic breaches of consumer guarantees
    • requiring manufacturer warranties to include text stating that entitlements to a remedy under the consumer guarantees do not require consumers to have previously used authorised repair services or spare parts, so that consumers are more aware of their rights.
  • There are several opportunities to give independent repairers greater access to repair supplies, and increase competition for repair services, without compromising public safety or discouraging innovation. To this end, the Australian Government should:
    • require suppliers of agricultural machinery to provide access to certain repair supplies to reduce the harm of the pervasive barriers to accessing these inputs
    • undertake more detailed investigations into specific product markets (including mobile phones and tablets, and medical devices) to better understand the extent of harm and examine whether additional regulation would yield net benefits.
    • amend copyright laws to facilitate the accessing and sharing of repair information (such repair manuals, and repair data hidden behind digital locks).
  • A lack of consumer information about a product’s repairability or durability is likely to make it difficult for some consumers to select more repairable and durable products based on their preferences, while reducing manufacturers’ incentives to develop such products. To address this issue:
    • the Australian Government (in consultation with consumer, environmental, and industry groups) should introduce a product labelling scheme that provides repairability and/or durability information for consumers. A pilot scheme should target a limited number of white goods and consumer electronics products.
  • There is also scope to improve the way products are managed over their life, to reduce e‑waste ending up in landfill. In particular, the Government should amend product stewardship schemes to allow for reused e‑waste to be counted in scheme targets. Further, the use of electronic trackers within product stewardship schemes should increase, to improve awareness of the end‑of‑life location of e‑waste and ensure it is being sent to environmentally‑sound facilities.
  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright, Letter of transmittal, Contents, Terms of reference, Acknowledgments and Abbreviations
  • Overview
    • Key points
    • 1 The ‘right to repair’ is a multifaceted policy issue
    • 2 Enhancing consumer rights
    • 3 Enabling access to repair supplies
    • 4 Improving product information and e-waste management
  • Findings and recommendations
  • 1 About this inquiry
    • 1.1 The Commission’s task
    • 1.2 The Commission’s approach
    • 1.3 Conduct of the inquiry and consultation
  • 2 The Australian repair sector
    • 2.1 To repair or replace, that is the question
    • 2.2 Snapshot of the Australian repair sector
  • 3 Repair rights in consumer law
    • 3.1 Consumer guarantees and repair
    • 3.2 Consumer definition is not a barrier to repair
    • 3.3 Reasonable product durability is difficult to measure
    • 3.4 Access to spare parts
    • 3.5 Consumer guarantees need to reflect technology developments
    • 3.6 Super complaints for consumer guarantees
    • 3.7 Consumer guarantee enforcement issues
  • 4 Competition in repair markets
    • 4.1 Weighing competition concerns
    • 4.2 Evidence for restricted competition in repair
    • 4.3 What are the reasons for restricting repair?
    • 4.4 Are consumers harmed by repair restrictions?
    • 4.5 Policy solutions for competition issues in repair markets
  • 5 Intellectual property protections and repair
    • 5.1 How IP protections can act as a barrier to repair
    • 5.2 Key IP-related barriers to repair in Australia
    • 5.3 What IP reforms are needed?
  • 6 Product design and obsolescence
    • 6.1 Obsolescence: key definitions and concepts
    • 6.2 Arguments for government intervention to address premature product obsolescence
    • 6.3 Is premature obsolescence a problem in Australia?
    • 6.4 Are reforms needed to prevent premature product obsolescence?
  • 7 Managing e-waste
    • 7.1 Australia’s generation of e-waste is growing relatively quickly, but is a small share of total waste
    • 7.2 Community concerns about e-waste
    • 7.3 Australia’s e-waste regulation and disposal
    • 7.4 E-waste product stewardship schemes
  • 8 Are broader right to repair laws needed?
    • 8.1 Considerations for imposing a repair supplies obligation
    • 8.2 Is there a case for an economy‑wide obligation?
    • 8.3 A targeted obligation is preferable
  • A Public consultation
  • B Competition theory and policy in aftermarkets
  • References

The Productivity Commission conducted a survey to learn more about people's most recent or most significant repair experience regarding agricultural machinery.

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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