Telco association denies planned device obsolescence is a trade tactic

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association also believes Australian Consumer Law is sufficient for dealing with right to repair issues.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has jumped to the defence of its members to point out that they do not engage in planned obsolescence as a strategy.

Members of the industry group include Singtel-Optus, TPG, Telstra, Motorola, Samsung, Ericsson, and ZTE, among others.

"This is evidenced by the longevity of mobile handsets in the market and supported by the ability of consumers to update the software on older handsets without having to replace the hardware," AMTA said in its submission [PDF] in response to the Productivity Commission's right to repair issues paper.

"While many consumers choose to purchase the latest handset as soon as it is released; many others retain their mobile phones for much longer, with the average consumer retaining a device for 30 months before passing it on, selling it or finally, recycling it."

AMTA also acknowledged that while repairs can increase mobile phone products' lifespan, it believes the mobile phone repair market is already "well established" and no further regulatory frameworks are required.

"In our view the ACL [Australian Consumer Law] provides a robust regulatory framework that protects the consumer's right to have a mobile phone repaired where appropriate and that further regulation is not required above and beyond the ACL," it said.

"All mobile phones sold in Australia are covered by a standard two-year manufacturer's warranty, which will cover the device for any operational failure except for any accidental damage."

The industry group continued to say that consumers that do seek to repair mobile phones and devices have access to a large repair network that include preferred original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and independent repairers, but it does remain "concerned with the safety risks associated with user-led repair attempts".

"The repair sector, like the broader mobile industry, is strongly competitive and consumers have access to a wide choice when it comes to repairing their mobile device as evidenced by the fact that 38% of Australians have repaired their mobile," AMTA said.

AMTA also manages the country-wide MobileMuster mobile phone recycling program and says it believes that repair services are not contributing to an increase in waste in the industry, highlighting that last year alone 84.7 tonnes of mobile phone components were recycled through the program.

"The usefulness of a mobile can be extended and preserved through software upgrades and repair," it said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has warned in its submission [PDF] that right to repair should not be confused with consumer guarantees or suppliers' warranty conditions under ACL.

It also suggested that the Productivity Commission should focus on identifying and addressing any gaps with most commonly repaired items; recongise that there are already several "leading" third-party parts suppliers and repair entities providing this service and the impact to their business model; and the availability of long base warranties and extended warranty that manufacturers offer.

Further, the AIIA requested for the Productivity Commission to also investigate excluding from product repair mandate requirements that could be detrimental to product and consumer safety, and business-to-business products from right to repair when service contracts and extended warranty exists.

"Where it may be feasible to economically repair a product, the AIIA agrees that impediments to fair competition, where they exist, should be minimised, and has offered several suggestions in that area," it said.

"However, any right to repair should not negate a supplier's right to alternatively exchange or refund a faulty product and should not impose burdens on suppliers where it is uneconomical to repair a product, given the age and expected lifecycle of the product."

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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