The Productivity Commission has found that it should be easier for Australians to get their smartphones repaired or replaced.
The report, released on June 11, 2021, assesses the “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.”
As part of the report, the commission reviewed more than 300 submissions and comments and found that the issue seems most prevalent in mobile phone, tablet and agricultural machinery repairs.
According to the findings, the most common issues in smartphones related to smashed screens or batteries needing replacements.
But Australians have found these simple issues harder to resolve as major companies like Samsung and Apple usually make it near-impossible to fix these devices yourself, or get a non-authorised repair without voiding your warranty.
“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,” the report says.
As it currently stands, your options if and when your phone breaks depend on the make, model and age of the device. For example, brand new models are usually near-impossible to have repaired by anyone other than the manufacturer.
A similar problem occurs when the device is too old, with many third-party manufacturers being unable to help you once manufacturers stop making the parts needed for older models.
Although the report noted that Australian consumers already have considerable rights under consumer law, it found that this 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.”
Interestingly, the report also called out warranty seals (the stickers that break if your device has been tampered with), recommending that the tactic be outlawed in Australia as it has been in a majority of products in the US.
The commission wants Australians to have a better, more thorough understand of exactly what their consumer rights are when it comes to repairs.
“One of the things that we want to do is to have a much greater understanding of what your rights are under the consumer laws and to better enforce them,” Commissioner Paul Lindwall said.
“The ACCC would advise on what is a reasonable durability for different product types.”
The Productivity Commission is urging people and organisations to make written submissions to the draft report. Submissions are due by Friday July 23, 2021. A final report to government is due in October.
You can read the full report on the Productivity Commission website here.