White goods and car manufacturers will now have to provide additional product details so that consumers can repair their cars, laptops, cell phones and other gadgets themselves or with a third-party vendor not registered with the company. Often, after purchasing a laptop, cell phone, car or any other gadget, an individual depends on the company for after-sales and repair services. In addition, the warranty of the products is constantly threatened if they are repaired by third-party suppliers not recognized by the company.
Such tactics are used by manufacturers to monopolize the market, maintain exclusive control over spare parts and manipulate consumers. Manufacturers are required to be transparent with customers about product details, including repair options. However, these company practices not only lead to customers paying an exorbitant amount for repair, but also limit customers’ “right to choose.”
To provide relief to customers, the government has proposed the “Right to Repair Framework” to empower consumers and harmonize trade between original equipment manufacturers and third-party sellers. The framework also aims to reduce digital waste.
The proposed framework obliges car and gadget makers to share necessary product details with customers and third parties.
What does the right to repair framework say?
Chaired by Deputy Secretary Nidhi Khare, a committee is being set up within the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to develop a framework for the right to repair. The committee, which also includes various industry players such as representatives from the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), held its first meeting on July 13.
“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 – the owners’ legal right is harmed,” the committee said at its first meeting.
According to a statement from the Department of Consumer Affairs, “the rationale for the ‘right to repair’ is that when a customer purchases a product, it is inherent that they must own it entirely” for which consumers should be able to repair and modify the produced with ease and at reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of builders for repairs.”
“Relevant issues highlighted at the meeting include companies avoiding the publication of manuals that can help users easily carry out repairs. Manufacturers have exclusive control over spare 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,” the statement added.
The proposed framework is formulated with the aim of creating jobs for third-party vendors under the flagship program Atmanirbhar Bharat of the Government of India. The government also aims to ensure product sustainability through the proposed framework.
Which sectors are included in the framework?
Sectors that will fall under the proposed framework include agricultural equipment, mobile phones, tablets, consumer durables and automotive equipment.
Other countries with a similar framework
During the meeting, the committee discussed best practices that have been adopted by other countries with a similar framework. The right to repair has already been recognized in the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. For example, in the United States, the tightening of the surveillance of big technology companies, the watchdog of the Federal Trade Commission, has asked manufacturers to remedy anti-competitive practices and to make available to customers and third-party agencies the necessary information concerning the repair of the products.