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Washing machine rules could help clean up watch parts dispute

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The government is set to force manufacturers of fridges, washing machines, dishwashers and televisions to provide spare parts for up to a decade as part of a legally binding “right to repair” framework.

The aim of the legislation, which will be introduced this summer, is to prevent manufacturers building in premature obsolescence into their appliances.

Manufacturers have been told to make spare parts available for a minimum of between seven and ten years as part of drive to reduce the 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste that the UK generates every year.

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They will also be required to make it easy to remove and replace parts using commonly available tools.

Watching this development with interest is watch parts wholesaler Cousins, which is several years into a lawsuit with Swatch Group designed to force them to open up distribution of parts to independent service and repair centres.

Swatch Group currently limits distribution to authorised service centres, which Cousins says is harming customers through higher prices, less choice and longer waiting times for watches to be repaired.

The legal dispute is in its final stages, with a ruling expected this summer.

The new rules governing the supply of spare parts for white electrical goods are already in force for the motoring industry, which allows a vibrant industry of independent garages to thrive alongside the authorised dealer networks in this country.

Cousins argues that the same should be true of the watch servicing and repair industry, and hopes to break the monopoly of the major groups.

If it wins its case against Swatch Group, a legal precedent would be set that is likely to trigger changes across the industry and draw Rolex SA, LVMH and Richemont into the discussion.

The direction of travel in the watch industry is in the opposite direction.

Manufacturers want a cradle to grave direct relationship with their customers so that they buy from authorised dealers or — better still from the brands’ perspective — from their directly owned and operated boutiques and ecommerce sites; they want trade-ins to come in through their authorised channels and resold as certified pre-owned watches once they have been through their own service centres.

Every premium watch sold can therefore generate profits for the brands for decades. This, they argue, is the sort of premium service customers of luxury Swiss watchmakers deserve.

That may be so, but it is hard to argue that giving customers choice, and injecting competition into an increasingly closed market, can only be a good thing.

The government appears to agree when it comes to electricals, and the concept could catch on.

1 COMMENT

  1. This would be a very welcome trend in allowing independent watchmakers the ability to properly service the watches of their customers. Spare parts must be available to everyone!

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