The programmed obsolescence of debate since years

Photo: Fred Dufour Agence France-Presse
Apple has admitted before the Christmas slow down voluntarily their old iPhone models.

Paris — Of the bottom of nylon to mobile phones passing by the printers, obsolescence so-called “programmed” for certain products, now at the origin of an investigation of French justice, is subject to debate for years.


The expression “planned obsolescence” sees the light of day in 1932, in the midst of the economic crisis in the United States : the real estate developer Bernard London defends an obsolescence imposed by law for consumer goods in order to boost industry and growth. Today, some manufacturers are believed to accelerate the renewal of their products by planning to prematurely end-of-life or organizing any defect in the quality of some components. Which would lead to waste and accumulation of waste. But some experts argue that no scientific data proves the existence of such industrial strategies.


In a report published in June in France, the Agency for environment and mastery of energy, without ruling on the existence of planned obsolescence in itself, focuses instead on ” the obsolescence perceived “. It finds that “obsolescence is chosen, and not suffered “consumers” say they are opposed to the planned obsolescence, but replace their cell phones still in working condition, without that it poses moral problem “.


In Germany, a study conducted by the University of Bonn in 2013 in partnership with the federal Agency for the environment over a dozen household appliances (televisions, electric kettles, vacuum cleaners) has not been able to prove of the ” strategy of vulnerability deliberate “.


Investigations and sanctions


The european Parliament has asked the european Commission to legislate specifically on planned obsolescence, through the vote in mid-July in plenary session a non-binding resolution. France is an exception : it punishes theoretically since the summer of 2015 ” the programmed obsolescence “, i.e. ” the set of techniques by which a director on the market aims to reduce deliberately the life of a product in order to increase the replacement rate “.


The investigation in Nanterre against Epson is the first of its kind since the reform. It follows a complaint from the association of Hop, the same one that also attacks Apple in court. The practice of” planned obsolescence ” is punishable by a sentence of two years imprisonment and 300 000 euros fine, this sum may be increased to 5% of the average annual turnover.


In Germany, on the contrary, the popular daily Bild noted in October that the critical French against Epson would not likely make people in a country that ” lack of laws and awareness about “.


With the exception of France, the suspicion of planned obsolescence gives less often with responses to legislative initiatives of associations. Thus the project of “Repair Cafe” launched in 2009 in the netherlands to encourage consumers to repair rather than throw away, which has spread in many countries.

Examples of objects shown in the finger

Some ink jet printers have been criticized for their chips, which would limit the operation from a certain number of impressions, and would encourage the user to replace cartridges that still contain ink. On Thursday, the prosecutor of Nanterre (paris region) has announced the opening for the first time in France, a preliminary investigation for “planned obsolescence” and “deception” for the japanese manufacturer Epson.

Apple : Apple has admitted before the Christmas slow down voluntarily their old iPhone models in order ” to extend [their] life “. This confession earned him a criminal prosecution in the United States and Israel, and the filing of a complaint with the prosecutor of the Republic in Paris by the association to Stop the planned obsolescence (Hop). The american giant is regularly attacked by consumers ‘ associations and environmental advocates for its products deemed too difficult to disassemble and repair. In 2005, Apple had agreed to pay up to $ 100 million to settle lawsuits brought by users of the sansa music iPod who felt aggrieved over the life of the battery.

Nylon stockings : in order to reduce the resistance of the bottom put on the market in the 1940’s, much less fragile than the old models in silk, the american manufacturer Dupont de Nemours would have changed the original formula of nylon stockings.

Incandescent light bulbs : in 1925, the “Cartel Phoebus” with the main bulb manufacturers in the world would somehow be imposed that the life span of the tungsten filament does not exceed 1000 hours.