Australian Productivity Commission to look into right to repair

Inquiry to look into barriers and anti-competitive practices in repair markets, as well as the impact of digital rights management on third parties and consumers.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Computer repair professional
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has requested the Productivity Commission to examine the state of consumer's ability to repair faulty goods at reasonable prices.

The need for the inquiry was cited due to the Competition and Consumer Act not capturing right to repair issues, and thereby only allowing "limited rights or protections" to repair, the inquiry's terms of reference state.

"In many cases, suppliers do not impose any such restrictions on consumers with respect to the repair of products they supply. Instead, consumers or third parties are prevented from being able to repair the products due to a lack of access to necessary tools, parts or diagnostic software," the terms said.

"As such, premature product obsolescence and a lack of competition in repair markets remain. The expense of repair and product design accelerate the transfer of consumer goods into waste."

The Commission has a year to produce a final report after considering the legislative arrangements surrounding the right to repair and whether any regulation prevents consumers from seeking repairs; whether there are barriers to competition in repairs as well as "facilitating legal access to embedded software in consumer and other goods"; and the impacts of digital rights management on third parties and consumers and how intellectual property laws interact with repairs.

It is also expected the Commission will look at whether current arrangements prevent "premature or planned product obsolescence" and the creation of e-waste and whether a right to repair would reduce e-waste. It will also take a broader look at whether removing control from how products are repaired would impact vendors.

An issues paper is due to be released in November, with submissions due in January 2021, and a draft report to appear the following June.

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