A survey by Chamber of Labour Vienna and University of Vienna on the consumer behaviour of the Austrian population shows: consumers want to use their household appliances longer and they want the option to have them repaired rather than having to throw them away. Hence, for AK it is clear: appliances must have a longer life expectancy, information on durability must be provided and warranty must be extended.
In order to separate economic growth from resource utilisation, the EU Commission published a new Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020. The Austrian circular economy strategy is also currently being prepared. Ambitious targets are needed in respect of consumer policy measures to strengthen the circular economy, as the current study by AK und University of Vienna on consumer behaviour shows with regard to large household appliances, for which 600 consumers were questioned across Austria.
With regard to household appliances such as refrigerator, dishwasher or oven, consumers cared about a long-life expectancy and energy efficient appliances and preferred repair over disposal. The interviewees wanted household appliances to have a long service life of between 13 years for a tumble dryer and 17 years for an oven.
In general interviewees showed a high level of willingness to repair household appliances. Two thirds stated that they would repair washing machine and dishwasher rather than throwing them away; 60 percent confirmed this for oven or tumble dryer. Interviewees also attached great importance to energy efficiency: more than half paid attention to this when buying a tumble dryer, freezer, refrigerator or washing machine. In most cases, appliances were replaced when they developed a fault. In comparison, interviewees often replaced hoover, oven or freezer at an earlier stage – hence, bought a new appliance although the old one was still working. The most common reasons for not repairing appliances were that a repair is considered as no longer worth it because of high repair costs, but also because of the age of the appliance.
The interviewees supported measures, which would lead to a long life expectancy and service life. These include more transparent information for consumers, such as the introduction of a quality seal, providing information on the life expectancy of appliances. No fewer than 85 percent would support this introduction as well as legally mandatory (manufacturer) warranties of five or even ten years or a guarantee that spare parts will be available for ten years. Hence, from the AK’s point of view it is clear: consumers attach importance to a more careful handling of resources, which means that the right framework conditions are required.
From AK´s point of view, this results in four concrete demands:
- Extending the life expectancy: greater liability of manufacturers shall be an incentive to make their products more durable from the outset.
- Clear information for consumers: a mandatory product passport shall make the decision in favour of durable and reparable products easier.
- Extending the warranty: depending on the product group and the life expectancy, the warranty shall be extended, in case of household appliances for example to five years or more.
- Better conditions for repairability: a legal basis is needed to ensure that spare parts are available for a long period and that repairs are both financially attractive and affordable. The Commission has announced that measures on enshrining the “Right to Repair” will be presented before the end of 2021.
AK Vienna und University of Vienna: Consumption Monitor (german only)