How can US law support longer product lifespans?

White, Philip B.; Robinson, Dallin

FG Transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in der Elektronik

This research sought to identify the parts of the legal system in the United States directly influence the lifespans and capacity for repair of manufactured consumer hardgoods. For this, we sorted through the network of statutes and regulations on the federal level and in the fifty states, noting unique characteristics of the US legal system from an international perspective. We also identified the actors that make US statutes and standards. Our secondary research reviewed the statutes, standards and correlated economic and legal literature, and our primary research surveyed lawyers who provide counsel to manufacturers that sell consumer products in the United States. That research revealed the longstanding acceptance of planned obsolescence in mainstream economic theory and a wellestablished range of product warranties. The work brought into focus the powerful role that product warranties take in US commerce that can be leveraged to support longer product lifespans and greater product repair. In the near-term, consumer-friendly state legislatures are the most probable part of the government that would create new regulations on product lifespans. More proactive antitrust enforcement could also reduce collusion between competing companies to lower product lifespans.