South Africa Needs a ‘Right to Repair’ for Electronics Urgently

While the automotive industry has made strides on repair rights, South African consumers are being left behind when it comes to fixable electronics and appliances. The lack of legislation requiring manufacturers to design repairable products is leading to rampant wastage and unnecessary costs, according to sustainability advocates.

South Africa Needs a 'Right to Repair' for Electronics Urgently
South Africa Needs a ‘Right to Repair’ for Electronics Urgently

“In South Africa, where regulations regarding the repairability of electronic devices are virtually non-existent, urgent action is needed,” stated Patricia Schröder of Circular Energy, a non-profit focused on circular manufacturing ecosystems.

The Costs of Unfixable Tech As it stands, South African consumers have little recourse when devices like phones, laptops or home appliances malfunction after their warranty periods. Manufacturers can claim repairability issues and simply advise buying replacements.

“The whole machine ends up as waste in a landfill, with you as a consumer being burdened with buying a new product,” Schröder explained. This disposable mindset is environmentally disastrous and economically punishing, especially for lower-income households.

Schröder argues current practices are driven by “planned obsolescence cycles” that fuel unsustainable consumerism rather than reuse and repair.

European Union Action to Mandate Repairability

Europe’s Repair Rights Model While South Africa falls behind, the European Union has taken action to mandate repairability. In April 2023, the EU adopted a “right-to-repair” directive requiring manufacturers to provide timely, affordable repair options and spare parts for products like smartphones and household appliances.

The rules aim to incentivize consumers to repair rather than replace goods. Repaired items get extended warranty coverage, and manufacturers must enable third-party repair services for common household tech past warranty periods.

Without such legislation in South Africa, concerned advocates say the poor disproportionately bear the costs of an unfixable electronics ecosystem.

“Currently, South Africans have no choice but to ‘pay and throw away’,” Schröder stated. “We need to stand together to get the right to repair signed into law. It would be an economic and environmental gamechanger.”,

Repair Movement’s Growth

The Repair Movement’s Growth While regulatory efforts stall, a growing repair culture, and online communities have championed fixable product design and repair education. Platforms like iFixit provide manuals, tools, and parts to empower DIY repair of popular devices.

South Africa’s own Right to Repair Campaign pushed for new automotive guidelines in 2021, opening up vehicle service data and standards to third-parties. Now, they and others are pushing for similar energy in the broader tech space.

For an emerging market heavily impacted by e-waste buildup, a robust “right to repair” could provide major environmental and economic relief. As global giants like the EU enshrine repairability into law, the pressure grows for South Africa to follow suit before the unfixable technology crisis spirals further.



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