Today, the EESC is releasing a study, entitled "The influence of Lifespan Labelling on Consumers", which clearly demonstrates the effect of lifetime labelling on consumer purchasing behaviour. And it's very clear: products labelled as long-lasting, such as suitcases and printers, would see a huge boost in sales, by 128 % and 70% respectively. Smartphones are markedly affected, with an increase of 41% on sales for products indicating a longer lifespan. Interestingly, the importance of the product lifetime to consumers increases in proportion to the amount consumers are prepared to spend.
Europeans have clearly demonstrated their opposition to planned obsolescence. Consumers are generally in favour of products that are guaranteed to last longer. The study "The Influence of Lifespan Labelling on Consumers", carried out in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, and the Netherlands, involving nearly 3 000 participants, has analysed how simply displaying the lifespan of products – as well as the ways in which this information is displayed – influences consumers' buying intentions.
90% of the study participants said that they would be prepared to pay more for a dishwasher that would last two years longer. On average, they said they would be prepared to pay EUR 102 more for that guarantee on a dishwasher priced between EUR 300 and 500. The results also showed that the amount consumers were prepared to pay for a longer-lasting product varied in line with the GDP of the country in which they lived.
The study shows that the French participants are the most sensitive to the lifetime information displayed on products (+118% increase in sales with lifetime information), while Belgian and Dutch (+45%), Czech (+39%) and Spanish participants (+32%) are less so.
The study tells us that labelling types matter. The ranking from A to G (along the lines of the energy consumption model) is the most effective format and can increase sales by 84% - when on display.
The study also highlights the social dimension of programmed obsolescence, with people on low incomes being more likely to fall victim to planned obsolescence, as they often have to purchase cheaper products that are more unreliable.
80% of the participants think that the producers have a very high responsibility for the lifetime of a product, peaking at 95% and 91% of the respondents in Czech Republic and France, and 81.8% in Belgium and the Netherlands and 75.1% in Spain.
This concurs with the position of the EESC, expressed in 2013 in its opinion "Towards more sustainable consumption: industrial product lifetimes and restoring trust through consumer information". Indeed, clear labelling of a product’s guaranteed minimum lifespan helps to improve consumers' confidence in businesses and ultimately to move from a wasteful society to one that is sustainable. The EESC advocates obliging manufacturers to bear the recycling costs of products lasting less than five years.
"What this first European study shows beyond any doubt is that the issue of planned obsolescence is not so much due to obsolescence being planned as it is due to consumers not having enough information about products’ lifespan. Putting consumers at the centre of things by improving the information they have about the products they buy is important in terms of the economy, society and the environment, as well as being a key catalyst for restoring business confidence," said Thierry Libaert, rapporteur for the EESC opinion.
"The time has come for interoperability between all industrial and digital stakeholders, enabling the relationship between producers, distributors and consumers to be as beneficial as possible. An economic strategy based on knowledge, dialogue and action will enable local and innovative jobs to be created in Europe," noted Jean-Pierre Haber, co-rapporteur for the EESC opinion.
"The display of lifetime information of products has a significant influence on consumers' purchasing intentions. Certain labels are more effective than others. The best match would be full information about the absolute lifetime and an easily-understandable, probably visual, illustration of it on a label", said Mathieu Jahnich, CEO of Sircome and study manager.
The EESC calls on the European Commission to draft EU-wide legislation on planned obsolescence, recommends that industry establish voluntary certification schemes and urges Europeans to mobilise and campaign for change.
For more information, please contact:
Caroline Alibert-Deprez, EESC Press Officer
Tel: +32 2 546 9406 / mobile: +32 475 75 32 02