Newdelhi:14/7/22:In a bid to emphasize on LiFE (Lifestyle for the Environment) movement through sustainable consumption, the Department of Consumer Affairs has taken a significant step for developing an overall framework for the Right to Repair.
The aim of developing a framework on right to repair in India is to empower consumers and product buyers in the local market, harmonize trade between the original equipment manufacturers and the third-party buyers and sellers, emphasize on developing sustainable consumption of products and reduction in e-waste. Once it is rolled out in India, it will become a game-changer both for the sustainability of the products and as well as serve as a catalyst for employment generation through Aatmanirbhar Bharat by allowing third-party repairs.
The Department in this regard, has set up a committee which shall be chaired by Smt. Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. The committee includes Shri Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary DoCA, Justice Paramjeet Singh Dhaliwal, former Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Former President of State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Punjab, Prof. (Dr.) G.S. Bajpai Vice-Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Prof. Shri Ashok Patil, Chair of Consumer Law and Practice and representatives from various stakeholders like ICEA, SIAM, Consumer Activists & Consumer Organizations as members.
The committee held its first meeting on 13th July 2022 wherein important sectors for the right to repair were identified. The sectors identified include Farming Equipment, Mobile Phones/ Tablets, Consumer Durables, and Automobiles/Automobile Equipment.
The pertinent issues highlighted during the meeting include companies avoiding the publication of manuals that can help users make repairs easily. Manufacturers have proprietary control over spare parts (regarding the kind of design they use for screws and others). Monopoly on repair processes infringes the customer’s “right to choose”. Digital warranty cards, for instance, ensure that by getting a product from a “non-recognized” outfit, a customer loses the right to claim a warranty. Controversy Surrounding Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Technological Protection Measure (TPM), DRM is a great relief for copyright holders. Manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence. This is a system whereby the design of any gadget is such that it lasts a particular time only and after that particular period it has to be mandatorily replaced. When contracts fail to cede full control to the buyer-the legal right of owners are damaged.
During the deliberations, it was felt that the tech companies should provide complete knowledge and access to manuals, schematics, and software updates and to the software license shouldn’t limit the transparency of the product in sale. The parts and tools to service devices, including diagnostic tools should be made available to third parties, including individuals so that the product can be repaired if there are minor glitches. Fortunately, in our country, there exists a vibrant repair service sector and third-party repairs, including those who cannibalize the products for providing spare parts for the circular economy.
Further, the international best practices, steps that have been taken by other countries, and how the same could be included in the Indian scenario were also discussed in the meeting. The right to repair has been recognized in many countries across the globe, including the U.S.A, U.K, and European Union. In USA, the Federal Trade Commission has directed manufacturers to remedy unfair anti-competitive practices and asked them to make sure that consumers can make repairs, either themselves or by a third-party agency.
Recently, the U.K has also passed a law that includes all the electronic appliance manufacturers to provide the consumers with spare parts for getting the repair done either by themselves or by the local repair shops. In Australia, repair cafes are a remarkable feature of the Australian system. These are free meeting places where volunteer repairmen gather to share their repairing skills. Further, the European Union passed legislation that required manufacturers to supply parts of products to professional repairmen for a time of 10 years.
Last month, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the concept of LiFE movement (Lifestyle for Environment) in India. This includes the concept of reusing and recycling various consumer products. Repair is a critical function of all forms of re-use and even for the sustainable life of the products. A product that cannot be repaired or falls under planned obsolescence i.e. designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, not only becomes e-waste but also forces the consumers to buy new products for want of any repair to reuse it. Thus, restricting the repair of products forces consumers to deliberately make a choice to purchase a new model of that product.
The LiFE movement calls for mindful and deliberate utilization of products. The rationale behind the “Right to Repair” is that when we buy a product, it is inherent that we must own it completely for which the consumers should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at a reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of manufacturers for repairs. However, over a period of time it has been observed that the Right to Repair is getting severely restricted, and not only there is a considerable delay in repair but at times the products are repaired at an exorbitantly high price and the consumer who has once bought the product is hardly given any choice. Often the spare parts are not available, which causes consumers great distress and harassment.