New inquiry will examine consumer's right to repair

FIX IT: Karen and Danny Ellis work on repairing a coffee machine at the launch of the first Ballarat Repair Cafe event in July last year. Picture: Kate Healy
FIX IT: Karen and Danny Ellis work on repairing a coffee machine at the launch of the first Ballarat Repair Cafe event in July last year. Picture: Kate Healy

Volunteer group Repair Cafe Ballarat has welcomed the federal government's announcement of an inquiry into the right to repair.

Right to repair is a consumer's ability to repair faulty goods or access repair services at a competitive price.

The Central Highlands of Victoria-based Repair Cafe Ballarat volunteer coordinator Sue Jakob said it was time to address barriers to repair.

"The biggest drivers behind Repair Cafe are reducing waste and attempting to overcome planned obsolescence," she said.

"Things are more available so it is easier and cheaper to throw things away and buy something new. I think there is a lot of frustration in the community around that."

Repair Cafe Ballarat launched in July 2019 as a free monthly event where skilled volunteer repairers offered their time to help members of the community fix their broken items.

We want to be able to fix anything without interference from corporations, multinationals or bureaucrats and that is not the case at the moment.

Karen Ellis, Mend It Australia

Volunteer repairers saved ninety eight items, weighing 245kg, from landfill through repairs across six Repair Cafe Ballarat events in 2019.

Ms Jakob said another important aspect of Repair Cafe was teaching repair skills.

"It is not just about repairing, but passing on confidence and knowledge for people to be able to fix things themselves," she said.

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Melton residents Karen and Danny Ellis, the couple behind Mend It Australia, said they were 'stoked' about the Productivity Commission inquiry into the right to repair.

They have advocated daily on social media for the right to repair for three years.

"Danny and I believe we have a fundamental right to repair," Ms Ellis said.

"We want to be able to fix anything without interference from corporations, multinationals or bureaucrats and that is not the case at the moment."

Ms Ellis said the inquiry would be particularly important to review consumer's ability to fix tech items.

Repair Cafe Ballarat volunteers Norm Christie and Phil Seddon with visitor Rita Ripani in September 2019.

Repair Cafe Ballarat volunteers Norm Christie and Phil Seddon with visitor Rita Ripani in September 2019.

"We buy it, we believe we own it. The legislation is not up to speed and these corporations have a monopoly," she said.

"In relation to repair cafes, if they last into the tech era in time it will affect them as to what they can and can't fix."

Ms Ellis said Mend It Australia would be making a submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry.

She said they would include comments on the inconsistencies in who is allowed to fix household electrical appliances across Australia and the monopoly of big corporations on tech repair.

"Manufacturers of cars and tech companies like Apple are saying they own the property rights of that tech and you can only come to us to get your cars fixed or you can only go to an Apple shop to get your phones fixed," Ms Ellis said.

"Where this is a local issue is you may want local mobile phone shops or mechanics to have your business or you want to be able to fix it yourself.

"Under right to repair legislation, it is about being able to choose who can fix your car or fix your phone and not be at the mercy or the monopoly of big corporations.

"We hate the thought of us become helpless and succumbing to just accepting we can't fix it, only Apple can.

"It doesn't get people to explore options to fix it themselves, have a friend look at it or for repair cafes to have any relevance going forward into the future. We will be totally at the mercy of these corporations."

The Productivity Commission will examine mechanisms that support consumer rights, promote competition in the repair market and encourage product design requirements to extend product life and reduce e-waste.

Initial submissions to the inquiry are due by January 2021, the commission will prepare a draft report by June and will present the final report to the government in October.

This story New inquiry will examine consumer's right to repair first appeared on The Courier.