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Academics probe built-in obsolescence of fridges, notebooks

March 6, 2015

Academics probe built-in obsolescence of fridges, notebooks

Researchers at the Öko-Institut and the University of Bonn found that consumers were replacing their fridges, flatscreen TVs and notebooks more and more frequently. But how much of that is down to "built-in obsolescence" is still unclear.

“Today, more electrical and electronic devices are being replaced even if they are still functioning,” said Rainer Griesshammer, a member of the Öko-Institut’s Executive Board.

In many cases, technological advances are the trigger, Griesshammer said. “We see this happening a lot with televisions,” he noted, pointing to consumer’s cravings for cutting-edge technology.

But he also remarked that an increasing share of white goods – fridges, washing machines and dryers – were being replaced within five years of their purchase “because of a technical defect”.

Various reasons
So do manufacturers deliberately shorten the lifespan of their products? To find out, the researchers collected statistics on various types of household goods, consumer electronics and IT products, for the period 2004-2012.

But the answer for the time being is unclear, the academics admitted.

“The shortening of appliance first-use duration has varied reasons,” said Maria Krautzberger, president of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which commissioned the study.

For flatscreen TVs, more than 60% were being replaced because consumers wanted an upgrade, while a quarter (25%) of purchases were made to replace a faulty product.

Read more at EurActiv.com.

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