LG Electronics calls for Australia to develop a right to repair framework

The National Farmers' Federation wants to take it further and see a right to repair be formalised as legislation.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

LG Electronics has outlined that an Australian right to repair framework should be developed so there are clear and consistent policies that not only protect consumer safety, but also enable manufacturers to remain competitive.

As part of its initial submission in response to the right to repair issues paper developed by the Australian Productivity Commission, LG Electronics said the framework should include product policies based on "harmonised and lifecycle approaches, which appreciates that repair, should not jeopardise consumer safety, and advocates for measurable standards and their development".

"A Right to Repair framework in Australia should place the safety of customers at the forefront of the proposal and include safeguards to ensure only qualified and competent person(s) are able to provide repair services for consumer goods and provide these services at competitive prices," LG wrote in its submission [PDF].

"A unified approach by government, states, and territories, coupled with coregulatory consultation and development will be critical to deliver support, surveillance, and a reporting matrix which supports a right to repair framework."

But before any regulatory proposals are introduced, LG stated that further analysis and data would need to be completed beforehand.

The Australian arm of the South Korean tech giant also recommended that all community safety and manufacturers' product technical data be protected in order to reduce the risk of potential counterfeit production and product safety.

Similar calls have been made by the National Farmers' Federation (NFF). It has requested for a right to repair to be formalised as legislation or embedded within existing legislative frameworks, such as the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

"The right to repair should serve a single purpose: to make illegal any barriers which prevent the owner of a product making repairs to that product themself or using a contractor of their choice, where these barriers are not necessary to protect the legitimate commercial interests of the manufacturer or supplier," the NFF said in its submission [PDF].

Alongside this, the NFF believes the consumer guarantee under the ACL should be included to all purchased farm machinery to help address some common barriers faced by farmers when attempting to have agricultural machinery repaired.

These challenges include manufacturers voiding warranty if repairs are carried out by farmers themselves or an independent repairer, and manufacturers restricting the supplier of genuine parts, technical information, and diagnostic software tools to authorised dealers.

Meanwhile, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) focused on arguing the point of needing to include embedded software under Australia's right to repair as part of its submission [PDF]. The organisation explained that excluding embedded software results in consumers, who are current users of these systems, being restricted to repair essential machinery.

"ACS would therefore ask the Productivity Commission to consider the broader impact of vendors restricting access to embedded software and cloud-based services, with attention paid to competition aspects, maintenance needs, and security issue," the ACS said.

The ACS went on to also highlight that excluding embedded software from falling under the right to repair has the potential to create security ramifications.

"Regardless of whether a product was designed to become obsolete or has been superseded by technological changes or advances, the need to update software is essential on smart devices to address security weaknesses and changing operational needs," the ACS noted. "The inability to update, or patch, software due to vendor restrictions can pose threats to household and industrial users due of the risks posed by potential security weaknesses."

The right to repair issues paper was released in December, after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg requested the Productivity Commission to examine the state of consumers' 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.

The deadline for initial submissions was 1 February. The Productivity Commission is now expected to deliver a draft report on the issue sometime in June.

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