Smartphones, cars, washing machines – it feels like such products are breaking down faster and faster. The justice minister wants to intervene – but seems to be falling on deaf ears in the coalition for the time being.
The washing machine breaks down – and a look at the receipt shows: Warranty just expired. Consumers should experience such annoying situations less frequently in the future.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht advocates longer warranty periods. "Consumers are entitled to expect high-quality products to be usable in the long term", said the SPD politician. With her demands, Lambrecht goes well beyond what has been envisaged so far by the black-red federal government.
Two-year warranty is not always sufficient
Currently, a standard warranty period of two years applies in Germany – if the purchased product breaks within the first six months, it is automatically assumed that it was already defective at the time of purchase; later, the buyer has to prove this. The Ministry of Justice has presented a draft law according to which this period should be extended to one year.
Consumer protectors and also Lambrecht is however not enough. Two-year warranties are not appropriate for cars or high-priced electrical appliances, for example, the minister said. Instead, she says, the period should be based on the expected life of the products.
A longer warranty could give manufacturers an economic incentive to develop particularly durable and easily repairable products, Lambrecht expects. "This would counteract a throwaway mentality and strengthen a modern, sustainable recycling economy."
Longer warranty and better quality
Consumer protectionists have a similar view. "Longer warranty periods naturally increase the pressure on industry to really produce quality", said the head of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv), Klaus Muller. There is a widespread desire in society, he said, to contribute to sustainability through consumption.
"First, because we see the amount of waste we produce. Secondly, because it is simply a cost burden when things I have bought break too quickly." Also who buys its electrical appliances used, knows then: "The thing is not defective after one and a half, two years". At least washing machines would have lasted much longer in the past, according to his impression, said Muller.
Lifespan of washing machine: From twelve to 17 years
According to a study by the oko-Institut for the vzbv, 3.7 billion euros could be saved per year if washing machines, televisions, notebooks and smartphones alone were used longer. For washing machines, for example, a service life of 17 years is assumed (instead of an average of 12 years), or ten years for notebooks (instead of five years).
"That would be an incredible economic stimulus program and at the same time save four million tons of climate-damaging greenhouse gases", stressed the Verbraucherschutzer.
Are products with longer warranty more expensive?
Muller does not accept the counter-argument that products with a longer warranty have to be sold more expensively. An expert opinion shows that electrical appliances in EU countries with longer warranty periods are no more expensive than in Germany. A longer warranty period also includes the right to repair, which has already been decided at EU level.
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Lambrecht also plans to make updates mandatory for sellers of digital products. Smartphones or tablets should still be usable without problems and safely long after purchase. However, for the time being it does not provide for legally regulated time periods. Muller suggested that the obligation to update should also be based on the service life of the products.