India should introduce Repairability Index like France
This year Indians are going to buy over 760 million mobile handsets. Assuming that the life of a mobile phone is 3 years, I am assuming that mobile phones are being upgraded every year! Imagine what happens to the 700 million handsets bought in 2020. Around 225 million handsets are being replaced in India every year. An industry news carried out states that more than 5 million mobile phones have piled up for repair and servicing in India during the first phase of the lockdown enforced to control the spread of the coronavirus in 2020. This itself shows the gap in the handsets which could be avoided replacement due to the fact some of these handsets cannot be repaired. This is particularly in high end handsets. Look at the opportunity cost of replacement of handsets just because these handsets are not repairable. Moreover, this would be applicable to other consumer electronic products. Consumer electronic products take a serious environmental toll, and one of the best ways to mitigate that is to use them for as long as possible before replacing them. But it’s hard to know how long a new gadget will last if you’re unsure how easy it will be to fix. Consumers need additional information regarding the repairability of the product as an additional information to aid in their purchasing decisions. France was the first country in the world to introduce a Repairability Index on 1 January 2021. It is hoped that the momentum of this law will gain EU-wide recognition and move on to other large, well developed markets like US, Japan and China and maybe India.
Why should India not introduce its own Repairability Index?
What is France’s Repairability Index?
Since January 1st 2021, France is the first country in Europe to have implemented a repairability index on 5 categories of electronic devices. The goal is to inform consumers about the repairability of a product. a grade out of 10 will be added to the labels of washing machines, laptops, smartphones, TVs and lawn mowers. the repairability index that is defined by the French government. According to their ruling, all new smartphone sold in French must display the repairability index in the stores and website. The repairability index has a score from 0 to 10 and is defined by 5 criteria which has equal weight. Each criteria has 20 points and all adds up to 100 points which will be divided into 10 for the final score. The five criteria is
- Documentation – Available documentation from the manufacturer.
- Ease of disassembly – The ease of disassembly of the smartphone.
- Spare parts availability – The availability of spare parts from the manufacturer. How easy to get them.
- Spare parts price – The relationship between price of most expensive spare part item and price of original product. The bigger the differences, the better the score.
- Specific Criterion The quality of information given by the manufacturer such as the information of the update, the ability to reset software and free remote assistance.
While France won’t be enforcing use of the index with fines until next year, some companies have already begun releasing scores for their products.
According to experts, the repairability index represents part of France’s effort to combat planned obsolescence, the intentional creation of products with a finite lifespan that need to be replaced frequently, and transition to a more circular economy where waste is minimized. But it also has global implications. Repair advocates say that the index will serve as a litmus test for other nations weighing similar regulations, help consumers make better choices, and hopefully incentivize companies to manufacture more repairable devices. Eventually, France intends to expand the score to other classes of consumer products. By 2024, the repair index will transition to a “durability index” that not only tells customers how repairable a product is but also describes its overall robustness.
According to the experts, The French Repairability Index has its limitations as they were developed through an intensive stakeholder process that involved input from manufacturers as well as consumer advocacy organizations. For instance laptop and smartphone makers can get a “free point” by providing consumers with information about different types of software updates, such as security updates or system upgrades — information that may not have anything to do with how fixable the device is.
The Case for Repairability Index for India
I believe that the case for a Repairability Index for India is an open-shut case. High-end consumer electronics such as Apple iPhones have become more difficult to fix due to a combination of design choices and software locks that often require proprietary tools to get repair from their authorized service centers. These have given discretionary powers to Apple to charge for the repairs or disallow the repairs providing arbitrary reasons, requiring consumers to forcefully replace their older version of devices to newer ones. Moreover, there is no warranty provided for the repairs or replacement of the parts during repairs offered
A blog on how this Repairability Index would impact Apple states:
Apple is known for touting its green credentials. They are using renewables for their operations and has been carbon neutral for years and aims to be carbon neutral in its entire supply chain by 2030. It uses less packaging to reduce carbon footprint. It has remove chargers and headphones from their iPhone offering (much to the chargin’ of their competitors) as an environmental initiative. It has so much renewable energy that it contracts out their excess energy as Apple Energy. Apple recourage users to recycle their iPhones and demos their recycling robots. They wanted all their materials in their devices to be from recycle material instead of mined from the earth.
That being said, Apple green credentials is not without flaws or critics. Its devices has been criticized as hard to repair. Apple is against the right to repair movement under the guise that the devices are more and more complicated. There has been reports that changing the camera modules in the iPhone 12 made the camera inoperable. The cost of repairing item is significantly higher than other manufacturers since you have to register to be a specialist from Apple. Even then, you might not be able to procure the parts necessary for the repair as shown for other Macs. And their iPhones require specialist tools as they use pentalobe screws which is a non-common tool.
This new repairability label will encourage Apple to rethink their position on repairability. Just like how energy efficiency labels encourage manufacturer to make more efficient devices, Apple will be compelled to make easier to repair phones.
Also see my post on Linkedin Rip Bad Apple! | LinkedIn on getting the repairs or replacement of their faulty products which echoes the same issues.
How can India take the lead here?
India needs to learn from the experience from France’s implementation of the Repairability Index and plug the loopholes in the process of creating its own index. As India embarks on the aggressive Make in India, it would serve well to also introduce the Repairability and Durability Index of the products manufactured in India to ensure that the Made in India products are accepted globally by the consumers and not fall in the trap the image of cheap Chinese manufactured products have attained globally of their poor quality perception.
It’s the right time to think about the Repairability and Durability of Made in India consumer electronics products given the direction EU is moving!