Consumer groups join up in EU-funded project to stop products failing too early

Waste generation of electrical and electronic equipment has soared in the past decades. In the EU, discarded fridges, computers, printers and coffee machines are one of the fastest growing waste streams, rising by 3-5% per year. It is not only putting a strain on the environment but also on consumers’ budgets.

A consortium of consumer groups, researchers and repair companies has just kicked off a project to fight products which fail too early, a phenomenon also known as ‘premature obsolescence’. The 4-year partnership - funded by the EU’s biggest research programme Horizon 2020 - is a concrete example of the EU’s intention to set up a circular economy.

The project, named PROMPT (which stands for “Premature Obsolescence multi-stakeholder product testing programme”), wants products to be designed to last. To do so, partners are setting up an independent testing programme to assess the lifetime of consumer products. The consortium will also explore how the testing method can be used to improve product design, consumer information, technical standards and legislation, and encourage companies to manufacture longer-lasting products.

Since consumer feedback is crucial to make products last longer, information about early failing products will be collected in several European countries. The tool to collect feedback will be inspired by the ‘Trop vite usé’/‘Te rap kapot’ platform developed by Belgian consumer group Test Achats/Test Aankoop.

Furthermore, consumer behaviour will be studied in order to understand how they can be incentivised to keep products for longer, go for repair and accept second-hand items.

Project partners are:

  • National consumer organisations: Consumentenbond (Netherlands), OCU (Spain), Stiftung Warentest (Germany), Test Achats/Test Aankoop (Belgium), UFC-Que Choisir (France);
  • Umbrella consumer groups: ANEC, BEUC, International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT);
  • Research institutes: Delft University of Technology (Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering), Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration;
  • Repair enterprises: RUSZ (Vienna-based social enterprise specialised in repairing white goods) and iFixit (online repair manual for everything).

ENDS