Planned Obsolescence: A Tactic Used by Manufacturers Which Makes You Buy More

You must have heard your grandparents saying that products and other several household items were more reliable and had longer working span back in their childhood days compared to the products and appliances available now and this thought of theirs may not be wrong.

One tactic that have occurred in the industries and has greatly been used by manufactures is a term we like to call as “planned obsolescence”.

The term planned obsolescence is a business strategy used by manufacturers to make users fall into a trap of buying their products more frequently simply just by reducing the life span of devices in order to sell more and earn more.

The products and devices last for a shorter time now compared to before and this is because manufacturers as a part of their planned obsolescence strategy compromise the quality of materials to make products cheaper and more accessible for consumers and because of this the products last for a short span of time. This is a clever tactic used by technology giants to make consumers buy their products more often.

But how did planned obsolescence came into existence?

All this started back in the 1920s when light bulbs were manufactured with a span to reach up to 2500 hours. Considering how long the light bulb could work this became a threat to the monopolists of the market because longer working light bulbs meant lesser sales of new ones. So in 1924, a secret meeting was held in Geneva which was joined by the top executives in the light bulb industry namely Phillips, International General Electrics, Tokyo Electric, OSRAM and AEI who together formed the “Phoebus Cartel” where they all agreed to bring down the life span of bulbs to 1000 hours in order to increase their selling numbers and anyone who exceeded this limit was fined as well.

The term “planned obsolescence” was hence introduced by Phoebus Cartel and though the company closed down in the 1930s the tactic is still used in the modern world to generate more sales, IoT gadgets, home appliances, cars and smartphones devices are a few good examples of that.

The word planned obsolescence is not a term alone but is broken down into two other main categories that are technological obsolescence and psychological obsolescence.

Technological obsolescence is a part of planned obsolescence where producers shorten the life span of products by using components that are made of low quality materials in the main areas which automatically decreases the life span of the products.

While the term psychological obsolescence simply means marketing new products in such a way that makes users feel old fashioned and inferior for using the out dated ones of the same brand. This tactic is generously being used by Apple for the longest time where they introduce their new iPhone models every other year and people are then keen on buying the latest iPhones to keep up with the society despite their old ones working just fine.

Apart from this Apple also has been claimed to be a part of planned obsolescence for the longest time where lawsuits have been filed against the company twice first in 2003 where it was proven that the Apple’s iPods non-replaceable battery work only 18 months more after the purchase and in 2017 when one of the Apple updates caused the iOS apps to load longer on a bit older iPhone devices and even turn off altogether. In the response, Apple claimed that they did this in order to protect the battery but their statement was turned down saying that this would not happen if Apple gave users the ease of getting their batteries changed.

Despite this tactic in business being very useful for marketers for their sales is in fact very harmful for the world. Firstly, the environmental impacts are rather serious where 40 percent of the annual demand for steel in the globe is used to replace products that were not able to make a splash. We've seen a lot of debates on whether planned obsolescence of appliances and gadgets is problematic from a sustainability perspective, as newer technologies and upgrades are arguably more efficient when it comes to consuming more energy, such air conditioning units and fridges. However, apart from these environmental factors, poor quality and short-lived products can also worsen consumer debt levels and reduce consumer welfare.

However, the end of planned obsolescence is almost near because lawmakers in the European Union countries and dozens of US States are trying their best to get rid of this sinister business practice by introducing a set of rules (such as right to repair) that will bound companies and tech giants to disclose the data of their inventions and products so that they can be repaired locally, rather than spending hefty sum of money to get the slightly modified version of the same gadget.

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