Products to show ‘durability and repairability’ rating

In the latest move against the problem of “programmed obsolescence”, white goods and technology products are set to have a new sticker on their packaging, indicating how long their estimated “life” will be.

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Planned obsolescence is the controversial practice of products deliberately being made to break after a short time, to encourage consumers to buy again, and has been a hotly-contested topic in recent years.

Now, from 2020, manufacturers will reportedly have the choice to add a sticker identifying the durability of the product, and its repairability, on a scale of 1 to 10.

The initiative will be voluntary, at least initially, and has been proposed by Brune Poirson, secretary of State for ecological transition.

The new stickers will appear alongside the products’ energy rating, with the intention being to allow consumers to see - at a glance - how economically- and ecologically-friendly a product is, as well as the how robust it is, and how easy it will be to fix should it break down unexpectedly.

The plan also intends to create QR codes (stickers that can be read instantly with a specific smartphone app), allowing consumers to compare labels, to see how much the product in question - including its manufacturing process - impacts the environment.

Alongside this, the government is also seeking to put in place a network of electronic device repair workshops, that would offer repair packages from a low initial price.

This is to address the problem of people who never consider that fixing their electronic device could be an option in the event of it breaking. For example, the average smartphone weighing around 300g requires an average of 70kg of natural resources to be made; and yet, when a phone breaks, in over 60% of cases, many consumers reportedly never even try to repair it, but simply buy a new one.

France has been a strong voice in the fight against programmed obsolescence in recent years, with notable moves including campaigns against the printing firm Epson, which stood accused of building its printers and cartridges to “deliberately fail”.

This new plan to introduce extra stickers on products has been welcomed by pressure groups.

Me Emile Meunier, lawyer for HOP (Halte à l'Obsolescence Programmée - Stop Programmed Obsolescence), said: “The intention here should be praised, because consumers will now be able to know how durable and repairable their products are,” speaking to Le Figaro.

However, the ticket proposal will still be voluntary, which, Meunier says, means that “only businesses that already behave virtuously” are likely to use the new sticker plan, and other, perhaps less scrupulous companies, would be unlikely to adopt the system.

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