83% household consumers surveyed want upfront ‘End of Life Service Date’ disclosure made mandatory for all high value serviceable products like automobiles, whitegoods and gadgets
- ● 47% household consumers surveyed have one or more high value products but no spare parts/ accessories support from brands
- ● 77% of consumers surveyed want brands to provide service/spare parts support for at least 5 years for high value products currently in use
- ● “End of Life Service Date” to be the date till which full spares, services and accessories support is available regardless of warranty term
December 21, 2022, New Delhi: One of the most regular consumer complaints received consistently over the last 5 years by LocalCircles has been that of timely availability of spare parts and accessories for high value products like automobiles, gadgets and whitegoods. Imagine an expensive car being in a not usable state, waiting for a spare part for 45 days or a 3-year-old smartphone model, outside of warranty where a consumer cannot find a replacement for their cracked screen. Then there are examples where a service technician suggests a consumer to replace their 4-year-old refrigerator because the company does not have a replacement for a broken vegetable drawer. Thousands of such instances have been cited on LocalCircles from consumers across the country. The aftersales support level is average in large cities like Delhi and Mumbai and if you go to smaller towns, the situation is far worse. So while, ecommerce platforms will enable shipment of a branded refrigerator to a tier 3 town for a consumer order, chances are the same consumer will struggle to get spares and service from the brand and in the end be forced to get a local technician to do a jugaad fix. However, for spare parts they will have to rely on the brand. The only other alternative to this is to bring the whitegood or gadget or automobile to a service center in a bigger city for the needed repairs.
Not only does the current aftersales model create a poor consumer experience, it also leads to increased waste generation. In cases of gadgets like smartphones, people simply wait and then buy a new one when they can, contributing to India’s e-waste. In 2018-19, an estimated 7.71 lakh tonnes of e-waste was produced by India, which rose to 10.14 lakh tonnes in 2019-20, an increase of about 31%, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). While some companies in India pursue an “end of life” policy under which they undertake safe recycling/ disposal of non-functional appliances and gadgets, some others provide buy back policy under which a consumer can trade in an older automobile, gadget like smartphone, tablet or laptop or white goods like refrigerator, washing machine, etc., and avail a discount for a new purchase. However, this approach only leads to increased generation of e-waste. The need of the hour really is for brands to have better after sales service and spares networks so high value products can be repaired and reused cost effectively.
The new e-waste rules, together with government plans to formulate a “right to repair” policy should be a step forward. Announcing plans to have a right to repair policy, the consumer affairs ministry in July 2022 had expressed that it will ensure that the consumers and service providers have easy access to repair and maintenance information, including software and hardware. While this is a good step in the right direction, the service and support infrastructure and adequate spare parts and accessories inventory will have to be established.
To understand the magnitude of the issue, LocalCircles conducted a nationwide study which received over 32,000 responses from household consumers located in 309 districts of India. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 25% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
47% household consumers surveyed have one or more non-functional or partially functional products where they are unable to get support from the brand on spare parts/accessories
Given the desire of many consumers to get their non-functional gadgets, white goods, automobiles, etc., back in working order, LocalCircles sought consumers’ views on what more do they seek in the proposed “right to repair” policy and the newly formulated e-waste rules, particularly “end-of life” service rules. The first survey question sought to know “How many products of high value (automobile, gadget, whitegood) have you had/ still have in partially functional or unusable status) over the last 3 years that you have been unable to get original spare parts/ accessories support from the brand?” Nearly 11,000 consumers responded to this query of which 40% had faced no such problem and 13% had no clear response. Of the remaining 47% who have one or more products that cannot be used or fully used due to lack of spare parts and accessories support: 3% stated they have had problems 10 or more times, 6% had faced this issue 6-9 times, 13% between 3-5 times and the largest group of 25% had been unable to get spare parts/ accessories support from the brand at least 1-2 times in the last three years. This is significant and indicates that 1 in 2 households surveyed are facing the challenge of lack of effective after sales support by brands.
83% of respondents want “End of Life Service Date” display/declaration to be made mandatory for all high value serviceable products
One of the key asks from some consumers has regularly been for the Government to make it mandatory for all high value serviceable products to have a declared “End of Life Service Date” on the same lines as a “Best Before Date” or “Expiry Date” on human consumption or food products, medicines, etc. According to people, this information, made available upfront will enable them to make better decisions on what product they should purchase. A refrigerator brand that costs a few thousands more and has an “End of Life Service Date” of 10 years versus another brand that is slightly cheaper and has an “End of Life Service Date” of only 5 years. The refrigerator brand with the 10 year “End of Life Service Date” will have to ensure availability of spares, accessories and servicing for 10 years, though post warranty period, the consumer will pay for them.
To understand the collective consumer view, the survey asked consumers “Should the Government make it mandatory for every brand to declare on product packaging an ‘End of Life Service Date’ for all high value serviceable products”. Out of 10,819 responses to the query, an overwhelming 83% stated “yes, absolutely” while 17% were not confident “if it will provide much value”.
54% household consumers surveyed want the end-of-life service support for existing products to be mandatory for 7 years from manufacturing date, 23% want it for atleast 5 years
The final survey question focused on understanding how should the “End of Life Service Date” work for existing products that are there in use by many households. It asked respondents, “For existing high value products already in use by the consumer potentially needing spares and accessories, how should the “end of life service date” rule work”. Out of 10,834 respondents, the majority or 54% wanted the “end of life service support to be mandatory for 7 years from manufacturing date”, 23% wanted it atleast for 5 years, while 3% wanted it for 3 years. While 3% of those surveyed offered no opinion on the issues, 17% felt “it should not be implemented for products already in use by the consumers”. On an aggregate basis, 77% household consumers surveyed are in favour of brands providing such support for atleast a 5 year period from the manufacturing date.
In summary, the study finds that 1 in 2 households in the country has 1 or more high value serviceable products like automobiles, gadgets or whitegoods that they are not able to use or only able to use partially as they need spares or accessories support from the brand and are unable to get the same. The study also shows that there is a deep-seated consumer need to have an “End of Life Service Date” displayed or declared upfront to the consumer on such products so they can make better buying decisions. 83% of household consumers voted in favour of such a date being disclosed on a mandatory basis. When asked about what should happen with the products already in use, 77% household consumers said that it should be made mandatory for all brands to provide spares and service support for atleast a 5 year period.
LocalCircles will escalate the findings of this study to the different stakeholders in the Government including the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Indian Standards, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology so the necessary policy amendments can be made.
The survey received over 32,000 responses from household consumers located in 309 districts of India. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 25% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.