Luxury home electronics are growing in popularity along with the increase in disposable income. Lack of spare parts and consumer reluctance to have faulty electrical and electronic products repaired are rife as luxury home electronics gain popularity, the World Electronic Waste Expo in Frankfurt said.
At the event, Steffen Vangerow, founder of a German company of the same name that extends the useful life of various electronic products, made a strong appeal for the “right to repair”. “My grandfather pretty much fixed everything – how times have changed,” he told delegates at a roundtable on repair.
“Did you know that every person in Germany creates around 20 kg of electronic waste per year? Can you even remember the last product you fixed? A soft whisper filled the room, an answer that is not surprising, concedes Vengerow. “There are hardly any spare parts these days, or their prices are excessive. Repair is simply no longer attractive.
“Inspired by my dad and grandfather, you can tell I’m a third-generation repair fanatic,” he adds with a laugh. “What I do know is the equipment is pretty cheap these days because of the big sales. Having your washing machine repaired, for example, can cost up to 170 euros. A recent consumer survey found that 65% of people don’t want to invest that much money; they prefer to buy a new one.
Using this logic, Vangerow argues that one in three vacuum cleaners are thrown away. But the faults could easily be fixed by changing the components in a store or sending them back to the producer by the consumer. “The reality is, this is not happening on a large scale. People think it’s too complicated, and the industry doesn’t want to encourage repairs because it doesn’t make them extra money.
Meanwhile, a locked-down lifestyle during the coronavirus pandemic has seen sales of sophisticated coffee machines and autonomous mobile cleaning robots soar to new heights. The global vacuum cleaner industry topped 10 billion euros last year and is expected to reach nearly 11 billion euros by the end of this year. Sales of coffee machines have exceeded 6 billion euros and are heading towards 8.5 billion euros by 2027.
“From what I know, 70% of repair company want to expand their operations and repair more but don’t have enough employees, ”says Vangerow, noting that craftsmen need a four to six-year apprenticeship to be able to repair everyday household appliances. ‘It’s ridiculous. I mean, are we doctors? If so, please pay us that much! ‘
Another big issue he identifies is the negative attitude towards repair from big brands like Apple. “You are only allowed to take apart and repair devices if you work for Apple, using proprietary tools. Last week, however, the company suddenly changed its mind. The questions are: Have they just lied to us all these years? Are they really going to support tech geeks around the world? Or is this change of mind just a publicity stunt? “
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