Written by : Kevin Arton and Ryan Jovan Susanto
How often do you find yourself upgrading your electronic devices? Is it when a new model comes out, or are you the type of person to replace it when your device starts lagging and breaking down? Do we as consumers have the “right-to-repair” our electronic devices? In these modern times where gadgets and electronic devices are always evolving, it seems that people are always buying the newest version of our devices every time there's a new product, instead of fixing it if there's a problem with their devices.
Every year, millions of electrical and electronic devices are discarded as products break down or become obsolete and are thrown away. These discarded devices are considered e-waste and are a threat to the environment and human health if they are not treated, disposed of, and recycled appropriately. If e-waste is managed poorly, it can release around 1000 different chemical substances, including hazardous neurotoxicants like lead, into the environment. Additionally, for the impact on people, the International Labour Organization ("ILO") has reported that 16.5 million children were engaged in the industrial sector, with waste processing being a significant sub-sector in 2020.
The “right-to-repair” is a legal concept that the owner of a piece of equipment should be allowed and able to repair it on their own, rather than having to rely on the equipment’s manufacturer to fix it or being forced to purchase a replacement. This is specifically directed to objects involving electronics or machinery that the general consumer cannot reasonably repair on their own even with considerable effort at times. Often the reason for such difficulties may have been the implementation of intentional artificial barriers, such as restricting the availability of spare parts and the documentation needed to conduct repairs. Conversely, the movement championing the “right-to-repair” demands the provision of such parts, tools, and information necessary to be provided. Although the movement began in the early 2000s in the USA, companies have resisted citing safety concerns, the risk to trade secrets, and the additional cost incurred to manufacturers.
Surprisingly, Apple, a major tech giant that was once a strong adversary of the right-to-repair movement, has now opted to support consumer-friendly legislation, specifically California's Senate Bill 244. This legislation follows other bills that have been enacted in 2023 including Colorado’s H1011, Minnesota’s H2680 S2744, and New York’s A1285 S1320 as well as many more that are still being deliberated in their respective states. A continent away, the EU Parliament voted nearly unanimously in favor of “Common rules promoting the repair of goods” on the 21st of November 2023. This decision was made in line with their New Consumer Agenda and Circular Economy Action Plan ("CEAP"), as a part of the European Green Deal. The recently changed attitude of Apple paired with the surge in legislative efforts following public opinion may mark a turning point for this issue as other brands will be subject to the very same regulations and other governments may follow suit in enacting similar policies.
What about Indonesia? How feasible or effective has our regulatory framework been in protecting consumers’ rights to repair electronic devices? According to Article 25 of Act Number 8 of the Year 1999, The Consumer Protection Law or Undang-Undang Perlindungan Konsumen (“UUPK”) in Indonesia, businesses who produce goods that can be used for at least 1 (one) year are obligated to provide spare parts and/or after-sales facilities, and fulfill guarantees or warranties based on the agreed contract. Moreover, Legal Experts interpret this article to have two points implicitly. Firstly, the binding nature of the sale as a contract post-execution, and secondly, the necessity in the obligation of the provision for spare parts or after-sales facilities does not depend on whether or not it is stated in the contract. They assert that consumers maintain the right to claim compensation or sue business actors should this obligation be neglected, even if it is not provisioned for by their contract explicitly (Miru & Yodo, 2015). However, other legal experts point out that the law does not expressly stipulate the “right-to-repair” as a consumer right in Indonesia, and that the consumer protection law in Indonesia is not in the consumers’ favor, since it still allows manufacturers to impose measures preventing consumers from independently completing repairs (FAQI et al., 2022).
The on-the-ground reality in Indonesia is that consumers are harmed as the Consumer Protection Law enacted severely lacks the provisions to properly regulate the industry or protect consumers. This has resulted in a situation that contradicts its intended purpose of providing legal certainty to consumers. In practical terms, it leaves consumers exposed to various unsavory practices, making it difficult for them to repair their products. This circumstance could, at best, be seen as strongly encouraging consumers to purchase new devices and, at worst, coercing them into doing so when faced with critical issues (FAQI et al., 2022).
An increasing number of consumers falling prey due to unfair predatory practices can also greatly impact the environment as it produces more and more electronic waste. Known for its toxicity and challenge in processing, electronic waste poses a major problem, with Jakarta alone discarding 75 tons daily, as reported by Kompas. While there are European models of a circular economy and local grassroots initiatives to recycle hazardous electronic waste, prevention is preferable to deal with rather than the consequences.
When comparing Indonesia's legislation with that of other countries, particularly the USA, it becomes evident that the latter has adopted a more comprehensive and progressive interpretation of the right-to-repair. An analysis of the USA’s many state bills includes common elements such as mandating producers to provide consumers with the means to independently diagnose, maintain, or repair their products, either on their own or with a non-associated repair provider. These laws also incorporate provisions to safeguard manufacturers' interests, addressing concerns like protection of trade secrets, intellectual property, and limited liability under specific circumstances such as a faulty repair in exchange for providing necessary parts and documentation.
While the adoption of such policies may raise concerns about potential additional costs being passed on to consumers, this falls outside the scope of this article. In-depth economic and market research is crucial to determine whether the expenses associated with producing, storing, and distributing facilities that support the right to repair will be reflected in higher pricing for consumers and, if so, to what extent. Nonetheless, this does not negate the fact that consumers, including Indonesians, should still have the right to enjoy the legal protections granted to them.
In conclusion, there is homework left for the Indonesian government to investigate into the right to repair and its enforcement so that it may form its legal response to the matter at hand. We should take into account, of course, that concessions will be asked for from the side of the Companies with more verbose and extensive language to avoid the current shortcomings of the Consumer Protection Law. Care should be given to respect the interests of both producers and consumers, communications and deliberations should be done with associations and unions in the industry to reach an agreement that will be both equitable and executed in good faith. Further research may be conducted on what adjustments must be made to the legislature before drafting to better fit Indonesia’s unique customs/practices and market conditions which are vastly different from the USA’s.
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