Harrison Zuritsky, Business Editor
December 6, 2022
Many of the products that we purchase are designed to fail. Planned obsolescence, a strategy of companies to sell products that require replacing, is ingrained into nearly all of our technology products: ink cartridges, textbooks, short-lasting lightbulbs, cars, and more. Companies can get away with making their products defective just years after release since they are of high quality at release.
Take iPhones, for example. Apple designs its iPhone to be as difficult as possible to repair, forcing customers to either pay a specialist or Apple a large sum of money to do the repairs. If the customer refuses to pay, they can buy the phone that Apple releases each year. Further evidence of planned obsolescence is that Apple implemented a feature to lower the speeds of phones as the battery degrades to maximize usage—but most people do not know about this until Apple was sued and revealed their deceptive tactic.
A few months ago, I dealt with these cruel tactics myself. One morning, FaceID did not work, and I needed to download their software update since it “could fix the bug”. However, it did not, so I went to the Apple store after receiving messages to go there to get it fixed. There, I was told by an Apple sales representative that he would either need over $100 to get it working or that I would need to get a new phone. Apple profits from this trap that they set, stealing money out of their customers’ pockets—and, if this was not bad enough, dumping more toxic electrical waste, harming our communities and the planet.
There are no legal actions taken against these industries because these companies are major parts of our economy—and history reveals why this is the case. In 1932, Bernard London first coined the term planned obsolescence with his essay “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence”. London exposed how they could end the Great Depression with planned obsolescence, stimulating economic growth by deliberately ensuring that the current version of a product will become out of date or useless within a known time period.
This logic still holds true today: restrictions on planned obsolescence would lead to higher costs, slowing companies down and changing prices higher. With inflation and shortages, the general public is more worried about not raising prices (even though in the long run they would benefit), and this reform would raise costs since products would bring in less profit for companies.
However, what is economically beneficial is not always ethical or sustainable, and I wish I could change history by outlawing planned obsolescence. Take the environmental perspective: once an Apple product is determined useless, it is thrown away and sent to waste plants. Most of Apple's technology is built with toxic metals, but Apple does not recycle the toxic metals in its products. With planned obsolescence, a staggering amount of these products are being sent to waste plants, harming the environment. By banning planned obsolescence, we would prioritize the planet over Apple’s profits, ultimately helping people everywhere.
About the Contributor
Harrison is the Chief Editor of the Canadian Youth Journal for Investing. In addition to the journal, he is also on the national exec team at CYIS and a Business Editor at the Harriton Banter.
For inquiries regarding publication please contact Harrison at: email@example.com