Advocacy | Product Safety & Labelling | Quebec

Revision to the Consumer Protection Act Durability and repairability of goods

December 19, 2019

RCC was asked by the Quebec government to comment on the legislative initiative of the independent MNA for Chomedey Mr. Guy Ouellette. Mr. Ouellette’s private members Bill 197 was first drafted by students from Sherbrooke University. The government subsequently mandated the OPC (Consumer Protection Office) to assess the feasibility and applicability of such legislation. The consultation document can be viewed here (French only).

The draft legislation from Mr. Ouellette is made up of three main areas of measures: the disclosure of the expected lifespan of an appliance, the obligation to ensure the repairability of an appliance throughout its advertised lifespan and the obligation to disclose information about planned obsolescence (when this is the case) of an appliance.

1. Durability of household appliances

“While the minimum period of operation of a good is information that is likely to have a significant impact on the consumer’s decision to acquire it, particularly in cases where the price of the good is high, this information is rarely provided.” (Extract from the consultation documents)

We have informed the Office that the application of measures such as the display of the probable lifespan of appliances or the establishment of a provincial certification system over the lifespan of appliances could have unexpected consequences. Particularly regarding the adequacy of a client’s need versus his/her budget. A stove intended to be installed in a second home will be much less used and therefore, its lifespan will be extended and this despite the lifespan provided by the manufacturer or the government.

But the most harmful and, above all, the most unexpected consequence of these measures would be to discard thousands of appliances still fully functional. Indeed, and after checking with certain insurers, it is more than likely that, like water heaters, appliances that have exceeded their expected life will be the subject of a replacement request by insurers in order to maintain residential insurance coverage at a minimum.

In addition, and despite the vagueness surrounding the concept of normal use, section 38 of the Consumer Protection Act provides that goods which are the subject of a contract must be such that they can be used to normal usage for a reasonable period of time, which would now be defined by the minimum operating period established in accordance with the provisions described here.

2. Repairability of goods

“The first paragraph of article 39 of the LPC stipulates that if a property which is the subject of a contract is likely to require maintenance work, spare parts and repair services must be available during a reasonable period after the formation of the contract.   This obligation relating to the availability of parts and repair services is limited to goods which are likely to require maintenance work. Furthermore, this obligation does not expressly provide that spare parts and repair services must be available at a reasonable price. Finally, it does not provide that the repair manual and the tools necessary for the repair, where they exist, must also be available. ” (Extract from the consultation documents)

Although these measures are aimed more at manufacturers than at retailers, the fact remains that retailers will still have to post a list of nearby workshops repairing and maintaining appliances. As for the guarantee of availability of parts, there is a strong possibility that in case of importation of appliances by a retailer, the latter will be held responsible for keeping an inventory of spare parts.

In addition, the display obligation itself is not an issue in itself, although the labels affixed on appliances are starting to be very dense in information.

3. Planned obsolescence

“Manufacturers would be using certain techniques that aim to shorten the life or potential use of a good in order to increase the replacement rate.   Several countries around the world, predominantly in Europe, are currently studying the possibility of recognizing the practice of “planned obsolescence” as an offense in their legislation in order to counter this phenomenon.   To date, only France has raised such a ban on this practice as a criminal offense in its legislation since 2015.   French law defines the practice of planned obsolescence as being the use of techniques by which the person responsible for placing a product on the market aims to deliberately shorten its lifespan to increase the replacement rate.   It provides for substantial monetary sanctions and a prison sentence of up to 2 years.“

Here we must refocus on the objective pursued and above all on the capacity of the Quebec State to enforce such legislation. As explained earlier, the manufacturers of devices targeted by this measure are often neither from Quebec nor Canada.

It is obvious that if such a practice occurs, retailers are not informed of it. It would thus be deeply unfair to put the responsibility of a manufacturer’s practice on the backs of retailers.

In addition, we question the feasibility for a consumer to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that his appliance is the victim of planned obsolescence. It is a legal and technical burden that neither the consumer nor the retailer can bear.

In our opinion, it would be more useful to carry out information and education campaigns for consumers.

We participated in this consultation and we put forward the point of view of retailers while raising several questions on the unexpected effects of these measures, particularly in terms of residential insurance.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact:, Jean-Francois Belleau, Director, Government Relations  at [email protected] or 514-316-7659

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