News ID: 113081
Published: 0300 GMT March 04, 2015

Lifespan of consumer electronics getting shorter

Lifespan of consumer electronics getting shorter

Investigation of built-in obsolescence for German environment agency finds percentage of products sold to replace defective ones has increased remarkably, reports ENDS Europe.

European consumers are upgrading to larger TV sizes, even though more than 60 percent of replaced televisions were still functioning in 2012.

Electronic product lifespans are getting shorter, an investigation of built-in obsolescence for the German environment agency has indicated, Guardian reported.

But consumers’ desire to replace products such as flat-screen TVs with newer model is also a major factor in what the research identified as increasingly wasteful consumption of electronic goods.

The environment agency asked Oko-Institut researchers to examine consumers’ reasons for replacing electrical and electronic appliances with a view to establishing whether manufacturers are purposefully shortening product lifespans to prop up sales, a phenomenon known as built-in obsolescence.

The researchers did not draw a firm conclusion on built-in obsolescence but noted that the proportion of all units sold to replace a defective appliance grew from 3.5 percent in 2004 to 8.3 percent in 2012, in what they deemed a “remarkable” increase.

And the share of large household appliances that had to be replaced within the first five years of use grew from 7 percent of total replacements in 2004 to 13 percent in 2013. This too was largely due to an increase in the proportion of recently purchased appliances replaced following a defect, which may point to an obsolescence problem.

However, consumer preference is also playing a role. A third of all replacement purchases for products such as refrigerators and washing machines were motivated by a desire for a better unit while the old one was still functioning.

Consumers are also increasingly keen to swap their flat screen televisions for better versions with larger screens and better picture quality, even though more than 60 percent of replaced televisions were still functioning in 2012.

Policymakers are increasingly concerned about inefficient use of resources in resource-poor Europe, and about the environmental impact of this. The EU is looking to regulate product resource efficiency by including new standards such as durability and repair ability in requirements under the Ecodesign Directive, a law that is currently focused on energy efficiency for the most part.

For laptops, the desire to upgrade a functioning device seems to have lessened over the study period, the researchers said. They could not point to clear evidence that laptops now break sooner than before, but they noted that a quarter of recent replacements were due to a defect.

The study is the first phase of a larger research project by the German environment agency aimed at identifying ways of increasing product lifespans.


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