Department of Consumer Affairs sets up panel on Right to Repair

BL New Delhi Bureau | | Updated on: Jul 14, 2022
Monopoly on repair processes infringes the customer’s ‘right to choose’

Monopoly on repair processes infringes the customer’s ‘right to choose’ | Photo Credit: Traitov

Key sectors identified include mobile phones, consumer durables, automobiles, farm equipment

In a bid to develop an overall framework for the Right to Repair, the Department of Consumer Affairs has set up a committee chaired by Additional Secretary Nidhi Khatri. 

The committee includes Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary DoCA; Justice Paramjeet Singh Dhaliwal; G.S. Bajpai, Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala; Ashok Patil, Chair of Consumer Law and Practice; and representatives from stakeholders including ICEA, SIAM, consumer activists and consumer organisations as members, it added. 

Empowering consumers, product buyers

“The aim of developing a framework on right to repair in India is to empower consumers and product buyers in the local market, harmonise trade between original equipment manufacturers and third-party buyers and sellers, emphasise on developing sustainable consumption of products and reduction in e-waste,” the DoCA said. 

The government expects the framework to serve as a catalyst for sustainability and employment generation through Aatmanirbhar Bharat, by allowing third-party repairs.

The key sectors identified for this framework include Farming Equipment, Mobile Phones/ Tablets, Consumer Durables and Automobiles & Automobile Equipment.

“Manufacturers have proprietary control over spare parts (regarding the kind of design they use for screws and other). 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-recognised” outfit, a customer loses the right to claim a warranty,” the committee noted in its first meeting on Wednesday. 

The committee also believes that manufacturers encourage 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 is damaged,” the statement added. 

“During the deliberations, it was felt that tech companies should provide complete knowledge and access to manuals, schematics, and software updates, and to which the software licence 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 cannibalise the products for providing spare parts for the circular economy,” it added. 

The right to repair has been recognised in many countries, including the US, the UK and the European Union. In the US, 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 through a third-party agency.

Published on July 14, 2022
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