Manufacturers Declaring Elevators Obsolete: How Ethical It Is?

Manufacturers Declaring Elevators Obsolete: How Ethical It Is?

Elevator users are impacted substantially and it raises ethical and financial concerns

Rajnikant LadUpdated: Thursday, March 21, 2024, 08:51 PM IST
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Planned obsolescence remains a regular issue in the world of consumer products. While it may be a successful sales strategy for manufacturers, it raises ethical and financial concerns for the users. The elevator industry is also suffering from this issue. During my elevator audit assignments, I came across such a situation at a number of sites and thought I must bring these issues to the knowledge of manufacturers and government authorities.

I am not against this change but I am against the process or methodology. We need to think and work out better ways to have a smooth change or replacement.

Elevators have a useful life of 15-20 years. Beyond that also it can be used if the equipment condition permits. The company declares that their controller's design is obsolete and one needs to change the controller with a new upgraded control.

But it is not the controller only; they ask for changes of wiring, cables, signal system, car operating panel, landing panel and indicators also to make them compatible with the new controller.

Nowadays flat belts are being used extensively for the elevators, forcing users to change the drive motors and pulleys to make them compatible. Even the door operators are upgraded frequently and force users to get it replaced.

It is a known fact that almost all the societies face reserve funds issues. Spending a big amount to update the system, with a short notice, is an issue for them. In fact, more than 50% of installations are maintained by the unorganised sector or freelancers only because of the huge cost difference.

The suppliers are also smart enough and provide a remote locking system in the controller so that they can switch off the system whenever they want, especially when their contract is not renewed or any payment is not made.

Declaring a product or technology obsolete is the right of the manufacturer. But it needs some guidelines to withdraw the product or services keeping the interest of users in mind. Is it open for anyone to withdraw or declare a product or service as an obsolete one on its own? Can't say about legality but certainly it is unethical.

One needs to think and implement a well-informed, time bound phaseout of the product or services to the users so that they can plan their alternate arrangement or require additional finance. The manufacturer or supplier must mention the useful life of their product and possible obsolescence period at the initial sales stage.

At the same time, the consumer or purchaser must also enquire about the life of the product and technology. Even while entering into a services contract, it is necessary to get assured about the useful life and availability of spares.

The Consumer Protection Act does not characterise planned obsolescence as an unfair trade practice. However, the users' forum or consumer activists must take this issue with the right authority and help the unorganised or individuals in addressing this issue.

(The writer is an elevator auditor, founder of the Elevator Safety Forum India, plus an active member of the National Safety Council and Society for Reliability and Safety)

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