Government will move on right to repair legislation - David Parker

Businesses may soon be legally bound to ensure Kiwis can repair old devices and appliances instead of replacing them, Environment Minister David Parker has indicated.

"I met with Consumer NZ this week, and it is something that they're very keen on doing, and I'm interested in [right to repair]. We will be considering that as part of our review of waste management legislation," he told Newshub Nation.

While there is no detail on proposed legislation yet, the 'right to repair' generally refers to legal  protections which force companies to maintain supply of parts for older products and allows customers to choose who provides their repairs.  

The minister may have received some extra motivation to push for change from a recent struggle with his own appliances.

"I'm personally frustrated. I have a fridge that broke down recently and I couldn't get a part and when I eventually tracked down I couldn't get someone to repair it," he said.

"After five weeks of running a chilly bin in the fridge, I gave up, chucked out what was a perfectly good fridge. It was such a waste." 

In New Zealand, Section 12 of the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 does provide some protection by ensuring repairs, replacements or refunds when goods are faulty, as well as setting minimum guarantees for all products and services.

However companies are able to exploit a loophole elsewhere in the act, under Section 42,  which states: "Section 12 does not apply where reasonable action is taken to notify the consumer who first acquires the goods… that the manufacturer does not undertake repair facilities and parts will be available for those goods."  

Essentially this means that the Act's protections do not apply if customers are told there are no parts or repair facilities available at point of purchase.

Right to repair movements have gathered steam internationally as planned obsolescence - intentionally allowing products to become unusable within a set timeframe - has become standard across many industries. 

David Parker on Newshub Nation.
David Parker on Newshub Nation. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

More accessible repairs could also address the growing problem of cast-off electronics filling up landfills, with Kiwis producing on average 80,000 tonnes of 'e-waste' per year.  

Any changes would have particular impact on tech giants like Apple. A screen repair for an iPhone 12 out of warranty currently costs $595 if undertaken through the Apple store. 

In 2018 the Australian Federal Court fined Apple AU$9 million for breaking consumer law making devices with screens repaired with third-party products unusable by displaying an error message. 

Australia's Productivity Commission is currently investigating the costs and benefits of the right to repair and will report back to the Government in October this year. 

As to when and if he can get it done here, Parker says wait and see.

"I'm definitely interested but it is Cabinet's decision, not mine."

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