Tuesday, December 1, 2020



The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to support the right of consumers to repair their own phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices, without going through the companies that produced them.

The recent EU survey found that 77% of EU citizens would rather repair a device than replace, and 79% thought that manufacturers should be legally obligated to facilitate the repair of devices or the replacement of parts.

MEPs call on the Commission "to grant consumers a right to repair by making repairs more appealing, systematic, and cost-efficient, whether by extending guarantees, providing guarantees for replaced parts, or better access to information on repair and maintenance."

This is exactly what we have been preaching for years: the right to repair is a fundamental consumer right and access to spare parts and technical information should be unrestricted.

A washing machine, a tractor, your personal computer and mobile phone, your automobile - as well as your watch - are not throw-away goods. Manufacturers limiting access to spare parts are doing that for two reasons only: to force you to buy a new product or to maintain a monopoly on repairs.

Ironically, the only reason that Swiss watch manufacturers are able to perpetuate and prolong the restriction on the supply of spare parts to consumers and watchmakers is because of - watch owners themselves. You, the watch owner, are sold a lie that only the Swiss megabrand service centre can repair your precious watch and no one else. Because your watch is expensive and has sentimental value, and because you don't want it to be repaired by a 'sub-quality repairman', you are willing to surrender your rights and pay more.

The biggest opponent of the 'right to repair' movement in Europe is Apple. The biggest opponents to the change in Media laws in Australia are Netflix, Google, and Facebook. Swiss watch megabrands are no different. There is something perverse with those corporations; the bigger they become, and with more
market share acquired, there is less will to share the profit and more determination to squash the competition.

Watch repairing is not rocket science. There are many skilful Australian watchmakers who have been servicing complex watches for decades and who can do an excellent job on your watch – if only Swiss brands would allow them access to spare parts.

Yesterday, I got a delivery of Seiko spare parts. Casing seals, spring bars, bezels, clicks, crystals, and rubber straps.

My order was processed same day, with next day delivery. All original parts, neatly labelled. Compared to the same Swiss parts – cheap as chips. Opening a spare parts account was a matter of a single email to Seiko's headquarters, and the fact that I am a professional watchmaker was sufficient to have access to the spare parts granted. I was not required to sit for an exam to prove my expertise; I was not required to invest tens of thousands of dollars in Seiko equipment, nor to have a showroom or service desk of any size, type or shape. Nor to sign an agreement that I would charge a certain amount for a certain service. Why? Because Seiko knows so well that if I fail to provide decent and professional customer service to you, then I will go out of business – and that’s how capitalism works.

If Seiko can do it, why can’t the Swiss? 

My only hope is that the European Parliament will continue to fight mega-corporations in the future. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should follow the path – and do what the Australian Government has commissioned it to do: to protect your consumer rights and my business rights and obligations, and to prevent illegal anti-competitive behaviour.

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