9 Dec 2021

Consumer NZ to test products for sustainability and repairability

11:39 am on 9 December 2021

Consumer New Zealand says it's making the biggest change to its product testing process in more than 50 years of existence - by only recommending appliances that last.

Aged repairman in uniform working, examining broken microwave in the kitchen using flashlight. Repair service concept. Selective focus.

Photo: 123RF

Having always limited its testing to the performance of products straight out of the box, Consumer has introduced a lifetime scoring system in response to manufacturers building products that don't last and can't be repaired.

Product test manager Paul Smith told Morning Report landfills are overflowing with such products - which is becoming unsustainable.

"It's come off the back of consumers telling us for quite a while now that they're getting a little bit tired of things that aren't lasting and they can't get them repaired and that's what we're seeing in our testing."

Smith said while there wasn't a huge difference between the performance of brand new products, the lasting power of certain products is what is causing concern.

He said the sustainability of a product is now the most important consideration for many consumers.

"A lot of the things that are failing are things that should be able to be repaired so there's one thing there around can you get the parts and can you get someone to do the repair then there's the big failures that make it not economic to repair and actually that's the end of life."

Consumer was now taking a two measure approach to testing a product's sustainability - whether a product is likely to be faulty and whether it is able to be repaired.

Smith said a lot of items on the cheaper-end of the spectrum are ending up in the landfill despite being recyclable.

"We're not very good at recycling and they're very difficult to recycle ... but if you're making something difficult to repair it means it's very hard to take the parts apart which means if you're trying to recycle it's difficult to separate all the materials.

"We think we're recycling a lot of them but they just end up being dumped and the best thing we can do as a consumers is to find something we're going to keep in use for a lot longer," he said.

Consumer NZ found testing products for durability was expensive and time-consuming so it decided to instead rely on decades of reliability surveying.

Working directly with consumers allowed it to identify trends of product failure at a brand level which are then used to inform its product testing and advice for consumers.

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