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Right to Repair

Draft report

This draft report was released on 11 June 2021. It assesses the case for a right to repair in Australia, with a focus on whether consumers face any unnecessary barriers to repair that require a government policy response.

You are invited to examine the draft report and to make a written submission or a brief comment by Friday 23 July 2021.

Make a submission Make a brief comment

The final report is expected to be handed to the Australian Government by 29 October 2021.

Download the overview

Download the draft report

  • At a glance
  • Fact sheet
  • Contents

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Key points

  • This report finds that there are barriers to repair for some products and that there is scope to reduce these barriers. The proposed reforms would improve consumers’ right to repair, without the uncertainty and costs associated with more forceful policy interventions.
  • 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 design and labelling standards, and environmental and resource management.
  • Consumers already have considerable rights to have their products repaired, replaced or refunded under guarantees in Australian Consumer Law. These guarantees are comprehensive and generally work well, but they could be improved by:
    • the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) providing guidance on the reasonable period of product durability for common household products, so that consumers and manufacturers can better understand when consumer guarantees apply
    • providing regulators with alternative dispute resolution processes to assist consumers to resolve their claims, and enabling designated consumer groups to lodge ‘super complaints’ about consumer guarantees, with these fast tracked by the ACCC
    • the inclusion of text in manufacturer warranties that prominently states that consumers are not required to use the repairers or spare parts specified by the product’s manufacturer to access their rights to a guarantee under consumer law.
  • The Commission is seeking further evidence on other reforms that could help consumers obtain repairs and make more informed purchase choices. These potential reforms involve:
    • requiring manufacturers to provide software updates for a reasonable period
    • amending copyright laws to enable third‑party repairers to copy and share repair manuals, and access repair data hidden behind digital locks
    • prohibiting manufacturer warranties from being voided if consumers do not use the repairers and spare parts specified by the manufacturer
    • developing a product durability or repairability labelling scheme to help consumers identify products that best meet their needs.
  • There is also scope to improve the way products are managed when they become ‘e-waste’ by amending regulated product stewardship schemes to remove current incentives that focus solely on product recycling, rather than repair and reuse. Global positioning system (GPS) trackers should also be used to improve monitoring of e-waste.
  • The Commission is seeking evidence on the net benefits of a more extensive right to repair policy through a ‘positive obligation’ that would require manufacturers to provide third‑party access to repair information and supplies.
    • The Commission’s preliminary analysis suggests that restrictions on third‑party repair supplies could be harming consumers in repair markets for agricultural machinery and mobile phones and tablets. However, the evidence base on the magnitude of repair barriers in these markets is patchy and largely anecdotal, preventing a rigorous assessment of whether additional policies would provide net benefits to the community.
    • At a minimum, a review of the policy landscape in the coming years would be warranted, supported by an evaluation of the proposed mandatory scheme for the sharing of motor vehicle service and repair information, once it has been in operation for at least three years.

Media requests

Leonora Nicol, Media Director – 0417 665 443 / 02 6240 3239 / media@pc.gov.au

Media release

Making everyday products easy to repair

There is growing community concern that repairing everyday products is getting harder, with higher costs for consumers.

A draft report by the Productivity Commission on a ‘right to repair’ outlines some measures governments could take to assist consumers to get their products repaired.

“In general, consumer protections work well in Australia, but we are proposing some practical steps that could make it easier for consumers to get goods repaired and enforce the consumer guarantees,” Commissioner Paul Lindwall said.

The report found that many independent repairers find it difficult to access the spare parts, tools and information they need to repair products.

“There appear to be particular problems in markets for agricultural machinery, mobile phones and tablets, and we are seeking further information on this,” Commissioner Julie Abramson said.

One proposal canvassed in the report is to require that manufacturers provide independent repairers and consumers with access to repair information, tools and/or spare parts.

An additional proposal is to change copyright law to allow independent repairers to legally access and share repair supplies such as manuals and software diagnostics.

Although consumers already have considerable rights to have their products repaired, refunded or replaced under consumer guarantees, it can be very difficult for them to exercise these rights. “We are proposing that consumer groups be able to lodge super complaints about the guarantees, with these being fast tracked by the ACCC. We also recommend further powers be given to regulators to help consumers resolve their complaints with manufacturers or suppliers,” Commissioner Julie Abramson said.

Consumers should also have a clearer idea of the expected life of their product so they know when they can exercise their rights. The report proposes that guidance be developed by the ACCC in consultation with industry and consumer groups on the life expectancy of common household products.

It also proposes requiring manufacturer warranties to clearly state that if consumers use independent repairers, they will not lose their legal rights to the consumer guarantees, even if the manufacturer ‘voids’ the warranty due to independent repair.

“Not being able to easily repair products can lead to them being discarded as e-waste rather than being reused,” Commissioner Lindwall said.

Australia’s e-waste is small as a share of total waste, but it is growing relatively quickly and could be better managed. This could be done by amending regulated product stewardship schemes to allow discarded products to be repaired and reused, rather than just recycled. Use of GPS trackers would also allow Australia’s e-waste to be better monitored.

People can make comments or submissions on the right to repair inquiry at www.pc.gov.au . The final report is due to Government in October.

Media requests

Leonora Nicol, Media Director – 0417 665 443 / 02 6240 3239 / media@pc.gov.au

Download the fact sheet

Productivity Commission Investigates Right to Repair

There is growing community concern that everyday products are becoming harder to repair, leading to higher costs, greater inconvenience for consumers, and growing waste.

The Australian Government has asked the Productivity Commission, its independent research agency, to look at what can be done to address these concerns.

Our draft report sets out some of the obstacles that consumers may face in getting goods repaired and some recommendations on how to reduce them.

We are calling for further information and feedback from the community to inform our final report, which will be delivered to government in October 2021.

Consumers have some rights to repair but could be better assisted to exercise those rights

More clarity on how long rights apply

Problem: Consumers have some existing rights to have their goods repaired, replaced or refunded under guarantees in consumer law. But it can be hard for them to know when they can exercise their rights.

Solution: To give consumers and manufacturers more clarity, the ACCC should provide a guide as to how long common household goods should be expected to last without fault. The Commission is also considering whether manufacturers should provide software updates for a reasonable period of time.

Power to resolve more issues

Problem: When exercising their rights, it can be hard for consumers to resolve issues with suppliers.

Solution: Governments should introduce new ways for regulators to resolve disputes (such as requiring a business to take part in conciliation). Consumer groups should also be able to lodge complaints on behalf of many consumers, that will be fast-tracked by
the ACCC.

It could be made easier for independent repairers to repair goods

Repair information, tools and spare parts

Problem: There are concerns that some manufacturers are making it difficult for consumers and independent repairers to repair goods, such as by not providing repair information, tools or spare parts. This can give manufacturers the ability to increase the price of repair and reduce the choice of repairers.

Solution: The Commission is considering ways to make it easier for independent repairers to access the things they need to repair goods.

One approach could be to change copyright law to allow independent repairers to legally access and share copyright information (such as manuals and diagnostic information).

Another approach could be to require that manufacturers provide independent repairers and consumers with access to repair information, tools or spare parts. This may be more beneficial for certain products, such as agricultural machinery or mobile phones and tablets.

Warranties

Problem: In some cases, manufacturers say that a warranty will become void if the consumer does not use an authorised repairer.

This can discourage consumers from using independent repairers. However, even if their warranty is void, consumers still have the right to have their faulty goods repaired under consumer law.

Solution: Warranties should be made clearer to inform consumers that even if they use independent repairers, they will not lose these legal rights. The Commission is also considering a ban on voiding warranties if consumers don’t use the manufacturer’s repairer.

Product labelling

Problem: There are some concerns that consumers don’t have enough information on how easy it is to repair something, or its life expectancy, when choosing which product to buy.

This means that manufacturers may not have a strong enough incentive to produce long-lasting and easy-to-repair goods.

Solution: The Commission is interested in understanding whether introducing product labels, that indicate how easy it is to repair a good or how long it is expected to last, would help consumers make better choices.

Management of e-waste could be improved

Encourage repair and reuse of e-waste

Problem: If people find it hard to repair their goods, they are more likely to dispose of them, contributing to ‘e-waste’. Australia’s e-waste makes up less than one per cent of total waste generated and is generally well managed, but it is growing faster than most other forms of waste.

Solution: To enable repair and reuse of discarded products, current and future product stewardship schemes should count repaired and reused e-waste products towards annual targets. GPS trackers should also be used to better monitor Australia’s e-waste.

We want to hear from you

Read our draft report, write a submission or leave a brief comment by 23 July 2021.

  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright, Opportunity for further comment, Terms of reference, Contents, Acknowledgments and Abbreviations
  • Overview - including key points
  • Draft recommendations, findings and information requests
  • Chapter 1 About this inquiry
  • Chapter 2 The Australian repair sector
  • Chapter 3 Repair rights in consumer law
  • Chapter 4 Competition in repair markets
  • Chapter 5 Intellectual property protections and repair
  • Chapter 6 Product design and obsolescence
  • Chapter 7 Managing e-waste
  • Appendix A Public consultation
  • Appendix B Competition theory in aftermarkets
  • References

Printed copies

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

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