Rather than supporting the status quo model of leasing that infantilises and confounds consumers with terms and conditions that bundle service contracts together and require any attempt to remedy a problem be conducted by authorised dealers, Europe is putting together a charter that awards companies who reduce waste and don’t sell people a ball and chain along with a car or a coffee-maker, stipulating an accepted, universal definition of built-in obsolescence, the ability to (while maintaining safety standards) upgrade and make modifications, untangling replaceable components like operating software, lightbulbs and batteries and encouraging general durability.
In the EU, Europeans’ strong preference for “durable, high-quality products that can be repaired and upgraded” has led to a proposal to require goods sold in Europe to be designed for improvement and maintenance, on the lines of the inspiring and enduring Maker’s Bill of Rights.
It’s a theme as the EU Parliament makes an effort to combat crapification by among other things, pushing for longer product lives and greater ease in product repair.
While this appears to be only a first step, if this initiative gets traction, it could lead to EU manufacturers gaining advantage over their US competitors.
US automakers fighting fuel economy standards resulted in their own long-term disadvantage, as foreign automakers got better at making vehicles that performed well from a driving and safety perspective while being more parsimonious in fuel usage.
77 per cent of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones, according to a 2014 Eurobarometer survey, but they ultimately have to replace or discard them because they are discouraged by the cost of repairs and the level of service provided.