Planned obsolescence: who is to blame?

The planned obsolescence is to determine the end of a product life. After a period of use determined by the manufacturer, the product stops working correctly or is damaged, so you have to buy another new one to replace it. Whether it is due to technological advances, induced by advertising and marketing or to reduce the useful life of products and thus sell more, it is a phenomenon traditionally the industry was to blame. But … just the industry? 

A shared responsibility

Certainly, companies are not interested in selling durable products: fashion is ephemeral, mobile batteries are depleting faster, electronic components are left without spare parts, often the expiration dates are not real, we suffer constant updates of the software…

We as consumers complain, yet we prefer to constantly renew and choose new products. Actually, nobody forces us to buy, we can ignore the advertisements, denounce the bad practices of some companies, we can influence other consumers with our comments on the internet, etc. And in spite of everything, we still want the latest.

With this attitude, with this almost compulsive buying behavior, we give companies reasons to launch new versions with barely small differences to the previous ones; it is as if we put the date of expiration or obsolescence to the products …

 What can we do as consumers?

The solution is not going to come from the industry, immersed in a spiral of selling more and more. The solution dependes on consumers. We must take the initiative and ask ourselves what we can do to help limit the planned obsolescence. Among other actions, we can:

  • Do not guide us by trends or fashions, escape the “fast-fashion”
  • Know exactly what we need and not let ourselves be driven by the impulse to buy
  • Buy local products (Km 0), and/or try to know where they come from
  • Require higher quality and avoid products of poor quality of use and disposal
  • Acquiring products from socially responsible companies
  • Request information about the materials of manufacture
  • Recycle, reduce and reuse


Not everything is so bad

Despite what has been said so far, it would be too simplistic to simply condemn planned obsolescence. From a macroeconomic perspective, if companies renew their products faster, growth is enhanced, jobs are fostered and innovation is promoted to improve product quality, benefiting both industry and consumers.

It is a fact that progress is the main cause of the better quality of life of today’s society. Nevertheless, this same progress entails serious threats to the environment (global warming, toxic spills …). To balance progress and planet conservation, both consumers and companies must really become aware of the need to recycle, use less polluting materials, boost renewable energies, optimize energy consumption, etc. And, of course, changing our buying behavior by fostering attitudes as described above.


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