US Legal Frameworks: A Path to Product Longevity?

Philip White, Aaron Fellmeth, Dallin Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Legal actions to increase product lifespans and reduce environmental damage have been explored for many regions around the world. However, little research has focused on the ways that the extant legal system affects product lifespans and product repair in the US market. Our research reviewed the network of statutes and standards on the Federal level and sampled laws from some of the fifty States, noting unique qualities of the US legal system. Literature implied the longstanding acceptance of planned obsolescence and its justification as a profitable business practice. We reviewed the scope of the well-established product warranties in US commerce, noting substantive limitations as well as their untapped potential to support of longer product lifespans. Lawyers who counsel firms that sell consumer products in the US market were surveyed, and the survey results corroborated several initial findings. While the client firms all sold some products with express warranties, most of their products relied on implied warranties, and the respondents unanimously agreed that mandatory regulations would most effectively motivate their firms to develop and sell products with longer lifespans and greater capacity for repair. We suggest a path to product longevity—mandating the labeling of all hardgoods with accurate estimates of average product lifespan and capacity to be repaired. If properly structured, the framework could push industry, government, and product owners to all accept more obligation for the materials and products that we use, while stimulating competition based on product repairability and longevity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere210016
JournalJournal of Sustainability Research
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • planned obsolescence
  • product lifespan
  • product regulation
  • repairability
  • warranty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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