CHOICE membership

Can we fix it? Building a meaningful right to repair for Australia

I agree, and for that reason I consider that part of out British culture to be to our detriment.

Given the opportunity, we express how tough we’re doing it, despite living in the richest country in the world, and that makes us willing to drive an extra 10km in order to save 15 cents on the purchase price. This tendency of ours has worked well for those who are able to take advantage of it, such as Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings.

I feel that it would be extremely helpful if Choice were to include a standardised measure of repairabilty into review rankings. :thinking:

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Good ideas are often taken on board when they are sufficiently objective. Would you have a go at defining what that measure is and how it could be scored in a ‘standardised’ manner?

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It may be worth looking to other examples.
At least one of the Consumer based Technology magazines includes ‘tear down’ reviews of selected new products. Mostly mobile phones and tablet devices. Because of how they are constructed, high replacement value and often high cost to fix. Repairability is a guide to the quality of construction, as well the practicality (parts cost x time x difficulty).

At the end of the tear down, is the device able to be reassembled or of other than scrap value? Choice has a policy for how it manages disposal of tested products.

Would a practical assessment require the support of experienced service persons to assist, and what would become of the pile of parts?

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Hm. Yes.

Thinking out loud:

Part cost - Maybe an indication of the size of the price of a (likely to be common) replacement part relative to the purchase price of the entire asset.
eg. Washing machine drive belt = $55 for a $850 washing machine = 0.0647 (or 6.47%)
Time = Estimate of 0.5 hours for service technician
Difficulty: Not sure how to quantify this. Maybe some measure of how specialised (ie. non-standard) a tool kit would need to be in order to carry out the repair? Or perhaps this should be a separate metric.

That “tear down”-type review sounds useful, but I’m not familiar with it.

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Would it best to keep the scope simple?

Could products be categorised:
A) not likely to be economic to repair as the parts + skilled labour exceed nn% of the cost to replace.
This is likely every low cost item that operates directly on our house hold mains voltage. Regulations restrict who can repair. The same likely applies to any equipment that has an approval for connection to a fixed communications network or in-house cabling. Might include others that are designed and assembled in such away disassembly to repair is not possible?

B) unable to be repairable because of design and manufacture, although high enough in replacement cost to justify repair if the design was modified.

C) repairable requiring further assessment. What might be clear examples of products that fall into this category?

D) repairability is not important providing the warranty is reasonable and the product has a relatively short technology/fashion life. Mobile phones may be one such example. Sure to cause some debate, however my observation of the younger ones is they can’t wait to upgrade every couple of years.

A suspicion is many consumer items fall into A, B or D

In many ways It may be better to ask for a longer assured and reasonable lifetime warranty period. Hence better quality products or better repairability by the manufacturer.

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I agree we need better information. We’ve just been told that due to where we live(seaside) our modem, TV, washing machine and who knows what else will mostly need replacement every 2-3 years because of the salty air. Surely there are ways to prevent this happening as Australia is surrounded by sea water!!!

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“Our home is girt by sea.”
Certainly appropriate.
We were taught at school at no point in the UK is anyone more than 70 miles (approx 110km) from the sea. New Zealand is very much the same with places one can stand on a mountain top and see from one side to the other. Many of SE Asia’s great cities are built on the sea, on water ways, and in the wet humid tropics. Singapore in particular. How does Australia compare?

It sounds challenging, living that close to the sea.
We’ve lived in several coastal and near seaside properties, including Newcastle, Wollongong and tropical north Qld. We’ve experienced issues with items that our external IE out doors, but those indoors have not failed early. Our lived experience is not quite the same.We’ve never lived directly on the beach front or in the surf zone, other than holidays. It’s a sea change many of us dream of?

Note:
For atmospheric corrosion risk in Australia (Corrosivity in Australia as defined in AS/NZS 2312.2 and described in AS 4312) sites are rated from C1-C5 and CX.
C1 is the least (EG arid inland) and CX the worst (EG Surf beach rocky shoreline, Newcastle, North Bondi).

The risks determined can be due to salt/sea air or industrial activity. The majority of Australia’s residential properties and major cities are areas assessed as C2 or C3. IE Low to medium corrosion risk ISO9223. A laundry is given as a typical example of C3.

High corrosive C4 environments may be found from 200m up to 1km from calm coastal shore lines. Very high corrosive C5 environments are typically found within 200m of the coast line where exposure to salt spray can occur. The specifics of locations vary greatly with climate region, geography, prevailing winds and shoreline activity.

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It doesn’t sound very true. My grandparents’ TV worked for decades, despite being made before all of those lovely advances in technology.

Yes, I agree that simpler is better - easier to use, and probably more accurate.

We might differ on one point: My main interest is not saving the consumer effort, time, or money. In light of the fact that our ultra-durable (plastic) rubbish was found a couple of years ago at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and that is has been accumulating at the top of Mount Everest since the 1950s, and we see footage whenever we want of other animal species dying due to the exclusion of nutrition by their digestive systems being full of our rubbish, and that polymer particles have been found in human digestive systems and found to be toxic, I think our little planet is now full of our rubbish, and we can afford to slow down the rate at which we add to it.

That explains why I send my 2015 Samsung SM-G920I to Samsung for repair each time the battery swells (I’m in the process of doing this for the 3rd time), and why I don’t buy pedestal fans from Bunnings.

It’s why many of us would agree with that approach.
It’s also an interesting example.

  • Firstly because the battery swells (3 times in 6years), which suggests a product defect?
  • Secondly as after 2-3 years, some a little longer the mobile phone makers stop updating the OS leaving devices more vulnerable to hacking. Samsung 4 years?
  • Thirdly there are recycling pathways for mobile devices.

Is it worth considering there is a carbon and resource foot print in each battery replacement? Lithium batteries make a significant draw on resources, plus packaging, shipping, repair shop and labour. After the second replacement, recycling and a new device might be just as kind if not better for the environment. Especially if the replacement does not suffer the same battery defect.

Per my suggestion to consider a mandate for longer minimum warranty - perhaps 5 years for a mobile device. Would Samsung let such a defect arise, or tolerate repairing it twice for free? Also a way to encourage manufacturers to reduce the potential for waste going to the bottom of the oceans and reduce GHG emissions.

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I’ve had two smart phones, and unfortunately the swelling battery seems to be a feature. My Alcatel backup dumb phone also has a lithium battery, but it hasn’t swelled (after about 2 years). Maybe the higher current draw, or the long hours connected to the charger has something to do with the smart phone battery swelling.

I agree that it’s diabolical that this undeveloped (yet promising) battery technology is prematurely mainstream. I consider the 2-year lifespan during which a catastrophic failure occurs to be a product defect, but now we are used to that product defect, and expect it.

I filled the battery pack with high-performance cells in my car (for a car, lithium ion batteries are the only ones with enough energy density and power density to be practical at the moment), and it caught fire while gently charging one night, incinerating the car and everything in its vicinity, so I’ve replaced those cells with different lithium cells, as well as repairing the extensive fire damage.

In my judgement, it is extremely unlikely that a later model phone would “not suffer the same battery defect”, because the battery technology hasn’t changed. It’s just that the replacement battery would also have a new phone attached to it.

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Forcing manufacturers in our little market to wear what will essentially amount to increased costs - through repair or increased quality/durability of components - will almost certainly result in increased cost to the consumer. Not suggesting it’s a barrier but rather an issue that needs to be managed if this is the approach to be taken.

The solution needs to be one of soft science consumer behavioural change as well as hard science ‘cost’. Products in most cases come with a warranty, it would be interesting to know what drives a manufacturer to offer a product with a particular warranty ie why did Ford offer 3 and then 5 years, while Hyundai offered 7? Why not 2, then 4, and 6? And what level of repair cost will consumers wear outside warranty, and why? If it’s possible for manufacturers to manage consumer expectations using value triggers it’s probably important to target those same triggers. There will be cost, marketing and competition angles exploited by manufacturers that maybe @ErinTurner could enlighten us on as it’s probably a similar approach that’s required to change expectations around repair.

The silence displayed by Ford over whether repairs would be covered for Mustang aircon evaporators (expensive) and oil coolers (new engine) out of warranty despite there being global evidence of defects, despite their acknowledgement that a problem existed, was insulting. However, Ford continued to sell many more Mustangs so why try harder? Maybe something is broken with the consumer model.

The data to educate people about reliability and repair exists but it’s not publicly available so maybe the first step is not to force manufacturers to make better products but force them to simply publish figures for something like eg ‘cost of units sold vs cost of repair parts supplied’ given that manufacturers will be the source for both and labour etc provided by independent techs won’t factor in the equation. A statistician or analyst would be necessary to ensure that such a measure is sound and not open to misreporting and distortion, noting that there are many variables and the issue could disappear down a mineshaft of discussion (including with manufacturers) so in this case perhaps less is more ie a few meaningful and rock solid ‘measures’ is a good start.

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Are you saying it is an issue with both the Samsung and which other product. We simply top our phones up when they drop below 50% charge. And never leave them on charge longer than needed.

I’m on my second iPhone smart phone. The first lasted from 2011 till 2017-18. The second is still going strong in 2021. No battery swelling.

For backup as we are regional and travel (pre Covid) I use an outdated Sony from 2015, still with original battery and Telstra.

The wise one in our family had a Samsung followed by a Huawei over a similar time, recently moving to an iPhone.

Do you have any more recent/current examples of this, EG manufacturer and model details?

None of our phones from 4 different manufacturers have had battery problems or swelling. Lithium battery technology is very sound and mature based on that experience. 4-5 years would seem possible these days without a need to replace the battery in a quality smart phone.

Are you able to explain how you did this? Lithium batteries are very expensive compared to standard lead acid car batteries. They also require chargers matched to the cell characteristics, and balancing on a regular basis for multi cell packs.

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Worth clicking through to understand how insidious making it impossible to repair a product is becoming.

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I would not have expected anything better from Apple.

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Apple was good. The company’s products were very capable, and of higher-than-usual quality. - but only while the company was “the underdog”. I set up and administered a network of iMacs and PCs, working from an Apple server, from 1999 to 2003.

Apple went bad in about 2005 (coincidentally, about the same time as Google), when it was no longer the underdog. The company’s products started to be sold with certain features disabled, which could simply be enabled for your convenience upon payment of a reasonable upgrade fee. :wink: I suspect that the irrepairability strategy started about the same time. :roll_eyes:

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I think manufacturers should be required to put repair manuals online for free after a model is discontinued or the warranty period runs out. I am willing to attempt my own repairs and had successes. Here’s some:
An HP laser printer failed, I couldn’t get to square 1 taking it apart. I finally located a manual online on a Zimbabwe web site. It was a matter of pushing two screwdrivers in two slots in the feet to unclip the feet, then the whole thing came apart. I was able to order a part from HP, the postage was more than the part, printer worked for many more years.
Our F&P dishwasher failed, I contemplated fixing it but wasn’t sure which part to replace and the total cost of the parts was around $400. Decided to get a technician who replaced a few of the parts and charged $450. Next time it failed I located an online manual, and saw a non working same model on Gumtree for free. With it as a doner I was able to repair for nothing, still going 2 years later.
Our PVR failed, replaced a diode with one with a higher rating ($2), still going.
Two of those repairs were made possible because I could get the manuals. I’ve picked up a TV on the roadside, all that was wrong was a blown fuse.
We should have a right to repair what we own and access to information to do it.

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This is a good idea…the only shortfall is that more often today, when a product discontinues, OEM spares for the product also dry up and one has to try and find a good quality non-OEM spare part instead. Knowing is the non-OEM spare part is a quality product is like gambling, some may win but many more will lose.

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Hm. It might be because I live in the tropics.

Are you saying it is an issue with both the Samsung and which other product.

My earlier smart phone was a Samsung GT-I9100T (“Galaxy S2”), which happily had a removable battery. I ended up with 3 after-market batteries and 2 OEM batteries, and used to swap batteries once or twice every day.

Every other rechargeable device with lithium batteries has also failed due to battery swelling or fluid leakage, including hair clippers etc, except for some netbook computers I bought in 2008, which had early lower-yielding 18650 cells (probably the same as the ones used by Tesla for its first car - the Roadster).

Are you able to explain how you did this? Lithium batteries are very expensive compared to standard lead acid car batteries.

I made room for the batteries by removing the petrol engine, and filled the entire engine bay with batteries. Lithium batteries are cheaper than SLA batteries per kWh of energy; nevertheless the batteries cost more than $20,000 each time :sob:.

They also require chargers matched to the cell characteristics, and balancing on a regular basis for multi cell packs.

Yes, I used Brusa NLG513 chargers, and Batrium BMS to manage the state-of-charge of each of the 96 cells. I am using an Orion BMS this time (for the 86 different cells), purely for the sake of changing what I can, since the cause of the fire remains a mystery.

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A few years ago Asko advised me to try to source a failed control board from a used appliance business. They had zero stock world-wide, nor did any after-market parts houses have one. The washer was 12 years old - designed for 20 as their advertising went.

I would rather have the opportunity to repair it at my risk than be stonewalled. It could have needed the board or just a $2 part on the board, assuming the owner is capable of reading schematics and doing the requisite repair.

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