Forced Bundling and Planned Obsolescence

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March 10, 2020
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Forced Bundling and Planned Obsolescence

As more smart home appliances become available, we anticipate arbitrary technical barriers that make the devices beyond a certain period of time.

A decade ago, companies that sold printers made tweaks to their technology to prevent generic ink cartridges from being used. That same technique is starting to be used in connected home appliances and devices.

A few years ago, General Electric started requiring consumers to replace water filters in its refrigerators with new versions that included RFID chips. If you didn’t buy one of theirs, which is substantially more expensive than other brands of filters, you didn’t get water.

As more smart home appliances become available, we anticipate arbitrary technical barriers that make the devices beyond a certain period of time.

That leads to a thorny question: Could we be causing future environmental damage by forcibly bricking our devices every few years?

For example, if a company retires an operating system for its smart refrigerator, should consumers still have the right to at least use the refrigerator in its traditional function for temperature-controlled storage? If not they’d have to throw it away, creating unnecessary and potentially harmful waste.