“We’re trying to make things simpler,” Mr Lindwall said.
The report proposed that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission develop guidance on the reasonable life expectancy of key household items.
This could lead to a new labelling scheme similar to one that operates in France, where companies must disclose how long spare parts will be available, and “repairability” rating labels appear on electronic products.
Consumer group Choice welcomed the report’s recommendation that consumer groups be given new powers to lodge super complaints with regulators.
“Allowing consumer groups to make ‘super complaints’ is long overdue in Australia,” said Erin Turner, the group’s director of campaigns and communications. “A super complaint system would allow designated consumer organisations to take systemic failures to consumer regulators across the country and require these regulators to respond quickly.“
The commission’s final report to the federal government on the issue of repairs is due in October, following collection of extra evidence through submissions and public hearings next month.
Assistant federal Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the government had requested the report because consumers faced challenges fixing products because of a lack of access to necessary tools, parts or diagnostic software.
“The government will consider its response in the context of the final report,” he said.
He said the government had already introduced legislation to establish a mandatory scheme for sharing motor vehicle service and repair information.
“This will level the playing field for independent repairers, create a more competitive market, and bring down the cost of owning a car,” he said.
John Hillel, co-ordinator of the St Kilda Repair Cafe in Melbourne’s inner south, supports any proposal that makes it easier for people to fix household items instead of throwing them away.
Mr Hillel is among a small team of skilled volunteers who meet at St Kilda’s EcoCentre each month and help locals fix broken toasters, lamps, radios, wheelchairs, clothes and toys.
“Throw-away culture has meant it is cheaper to buy a new product than to get something repaired,” he said. “Manufacturers have made it harder for people to repair by making item-specific parts and putting them together in ways that can’t be dismantled by using glue instead of screws.”
Mr Hillel, a retired academic and member of the Jewish Climate Network, said he was often staggered by people’s ignorance when it came to repairing household items.
“I can spend 30 seconds and send a customer home very happy because I have been able to bend a prong,” he said. “I come from a different culture and era and when I was younger if something broke you repaired it.”
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