Star rating system sought for products' expected lifespan

The next appliance or electronic device you buy could come with a rating based on how long it’s expected to last – if recommendations by the Productivity Commission are implemented.

Most people would be aware of the energy ratings on new appliances. Those ratings measure power consumption with six stars being the best.

But now, the Productivity Commission is calling for appliances and electronics to carry ratings that indicate how long the item is expected to last.

The recommendation was one of many put forward in the commission’s report on consumers’ ‘right to repair‘, or their right to maintain and update any goods purchased.

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The commission found that consumers regularly face barriers imposed by the manufacturer when seeking to repair goods.

Such difficulties force people to discard repairable goods and buy new ones, costing the consumer more money and creating more waste.

The report recommends a government pilot program to create a labelling system that shows how long popular products are expected to last.

“For certain products, such as white goods and consumer electronics, many consumers are likely to value information about product durability (such as the average number of years before fault under normal use) or repairability (such as the availability of spare parts) when making purchasing decisions,” the report states.

This would encourage customers to buy longer-lasting items, or at least be more aware of the limitations of a product before buying.

Read: How Apple makes it impossible to get a cheap and easy phone repair

The recommendation was welcomed by consumer advocacy group CHOICE.

“A durability label will give people the information they need at the time they need it most – when they are buying a product,” says Erin Turner, director of campaigns at CHOICE.

“When we asked consumers what would help them access repairs, 88 per cent of people called for a star rating system to indicate how long a product should last.

“A durability label will make it easier for people to know how long their product can be repaired and how long their consumer rights apply.”

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Ms Turner says that along with making consumers more aware of the durability of products, a rating system for product lifespan would make manufacturers more accountable for what they produce.

“It will also drive businesses to make longer lasting products,” she says.

“We’ve seen improvements to the energy and water efficiency of products through mandatory labelling schemes addressing those issues and we expect the same for the durability of products.”

The Productivity Commission report also recommended a compulsory addition to warranty documents clearly outlining the consumer guarantees automatically afforded under Australian consumer law.

They found many warranties offered by manufacturers included repair clauses that violated Australian consumer protections and could not be enforced.

“Many consumers are also not aware that consumer guarantees under the Australian consumer law cannot be displaced by terms in warranties, and the guarantees are not extinguished if consumers have previously used non-authorised repair services or spare parts (as long as those services have not caused any damage to the product),” the report states.

Would a rating system encourage you to buy longer-lasting products? Have you ever had a bad experience trying to get repairs done? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer