It is amazing that companies have got away with planned obsolescence for years. There cannot be a single consumer who agrees with the idea of building in a lifespan into a product so he or she is forced to go out and spend more money buying the same product again and again. Despite consumer anger over planned obsolescence, or as it also called in built obsolescence, little seems to have changed.
There are a number of categories that planned obsolescence can be broken down into. First there is technical obsolescence where the parts of a product are designed to break (outside of the warranty period). To reinforce the effectiveness of technical obsolescence companies make spare parts excessively expensive and after a while just stop making spare parts so you are forced into buying the latest model.
Then there is a new type of obsolescence called systemic obsolescence. This is particularly relevant to computer hardware and software. The makers of new computers and software shy away from making their products ‘backwards compatible’ so consumers have no choice but to pay to ‘upgrade’. Although Microsoft has promised to support Windows XP to 2014 you can’t help feeling that they are forever bringing out new versions of Windows (instead of just giving free updates) either because they are incompetent or they are milking the extra buck to be had in systemic obsolescence.
Style obsolescence is all about creating fads like Cabbage Patch Kids, Pet Rocks and Ninja Turtles. These are big sellers that are not designed to last. The products are pushed for a few months and then the line is discontinued. The obvious master of style obsolescence is fashion. Every season fashion houses and high street shops are looking to make last year’s fashions look ‘uncool’ in the hope that we will go out and spend our hard earned money regaining our ‘coolness’.
The final type of obsolescence is notification obsolescence. This is where your filter or your razor blade or your printer cartridge informs you that it is time to buy a new one. And yet it is often possible to re-fill your ink cartridge with a re-fill kit and it is often possible to clean your razor blade with an old toothbrush and re-use it.
What can be done? Well in UK law planned obsolescence, especially the type that falls just outside of the warranty period, can be construed as a breach of consumer rights. People have successfully brought lawsuits under this article of UK law. Secondly with systemic obsolescence as it relates to computers often you can find a free patch or update that some clever soul has devised and is offering free of charge. And finally, there is recycling and upcycling to try and re-use defunct items in creative and useful ways. Environmentalism is all about sustainability and resource management. Finding ways to manufacture products without planned obsolescence and finding ways to cheaply fix products that do break down is one of the great challenges of sustainable design. And it is the consumers’ duty to support products that embody the values of permanence and sustainability to send out a clear message to big corporations that the good old days of planned obsolescence being OK are well and truly behind us.
Page Title: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence
Site Title: www.wikipedia.org