Concerned that manufacturers of cars, mobiles and other consumer goods monopolize the repair and spare parts market, the government plans to require them to share with customers details of products needed for repair by themselves or by third parties.
The Department of Consumer Affairs said in a statement on Thursday that it had set up a committee – chaired by Nidhi Khare, additional secretary – to develop a comprehensive “right to repair” framework.
Typically, manufacturers retain sole control over replacement parts, including their design, and the government believes that this type of monopoly over repair processes undermines the customer’s “right to choose.”
Additionally, the warranty cards for several products state that having them repaired from an outfit not recognized by the manufacturers would result in the loss of warranty benefits for customers.
The rationale for the “right to repair” is that when customers purchase a product, it is inherent that they must own it “so that consumers can repair and modify the product easily and at a reasonable cost, without be captive to the whims of builders for repairs,” the statement said.
The goal of the proposed framework will be to empower consumers, harmonize trade between original equipment manufacturers and third-party buyers and sellers, and reduce e-waste.
On July 13, the committee held its first meeting where key areas for the “right to repair” were identified. Sectors including agricultural equipment, mobile phones/tablets, consumer durables and automobiles/automotive equipment have been listed.
“Relevant issues highlighted at the meeting include companies avoiding the publication of manuals that can help users easily perform repairs,” the statement said. Manufacturers have exclusive control over replacement parts, regarding the type of design they use for screws and other items. The monopoly on repair processes violates the customer’s “right to choose”, he said.
Additionally, the ministry noted that digital warranty cards ensure that by obtaining a product from “unrecognized” equipment, the customer loses the right to claim warranty.
“During deliberations, it was felt that technology companies should provide full knowledge and access to manuals, schematics and software updates and to which the software license should not limit the transparency of the product for sale”, a- he declared.
In addition, the parts and tools necessary for the maintenance of the devices, including diagnostic tools, must be made available to third parties, including individuals, so that the product can be repaired in the event of minor problems.
“Fortunately, in our country, there is a vibrant repair services and third-party repair industry, including those that cannibalize products to provide spare parts for the circular economy,” the statement said.
According to the statement, once rolled out in India, the framework will become a “game changer” for product sustainability and serve as a catalyst for job creation through Aatmanirbhar Bharat by allowing third-party repairs.
The committee includes Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Justice Paramjeet Singh Dhaliwal, former Judge of Punjab and High Court of Haryana, former Chairman of the State Consumer Dispute Settlement Commission of Punjab , Vice Chancellor GS Bajpai of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Professor Ashok Patil, Chair of Consumer Law and Practice.
Representatives of various stakeholders such as ICEA, SIAM, consumer activists and consumer organizations are also members.
The committee held its first meeting on July 13, 2022 during which important sectors for the right to repair were identified. Sectors identified include agricultural equipment, mobile phones/tablets, consumer durables and automobiles/automotive equipment.
“Manufacturers encourage a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’. This is a system in which the design of any gadget is such that it only lasts for a certain period of time and after that particular period of time it must be compulsorily replaced. When contracts fail to cede full control to the buyer – owners’ legal rights are harmed,” he said.
During the meeting, members discussed international best practices and measures taken by other countries and how they could be included in the Indian scenario.
The right to repair has been recognized in many countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has ordered manufacturers to remedy unfair anti-competitive practices and asked them to ensure that consumers can make repairs, either themselves or through a third-party agency.
The department pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the concept of the LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) movement in India last month. This includes the concept of reusing and recycling various consumer products.
“A product that cannot be repaired or that falls into planned obsolescence, i.e. designing a product with an artificially limited lifespan, not only becomes electronic waste but also forces consumers to buy new products for lack of repair to reuse it.
“Thus, restricting product repair forces consumers to make a deliberate choice to purchase a new model of that product,” the department said.
However, the department pointed out that it has been observed that the right to repair is severely restricted, and not only is there a considerable delay in repair, but sometimes the products are repaired at an exorbitant price.