Gov't Tackles E-Waste, Discounts Smartphone Repairs

John Lister's picture

A national government is offering $219 to help people get computers and mobile phones repaired. The program in Austria is designed to help individuals and the environment.

The "Repair Bonus" program is available for all electrical appliances, though it's most effective for people with expensive devices such as technology products. Smartphones are the most popular item being repaired.

Under the program, the government will pay 50 percent of the repair, with its contribution capped at €200 (US$219). This limit applies to individual devices and there's no limit on how many devices a person can get repaired under the program.

Device owners must download a voucher before commissioning the repair, and must pay the full cost to the repairer up front. They'll the get the government contribution back within a month.

Fraud Allegations

Originally customers only had to pay 50 percent up front and the repairer would claim the remaining money from the government. That rule was rethought after reports that around seven percent of claims were fraudulent.

Repairers interviewed by the BBC say the program makes a difference as it often brings the device owner's costs down low enough that they decide it's worth getting the repair rather than buying new.

One said that as a rule of thumb, people are only willing to spend 20 to 30 percent of the replacement cost on repairs. That's partly because there's a risk the repair may not extend the lifespan of the product significantly enough to be worth the expense. (Source:

Environmental Benefits

The program has thrown up some problems. In some cases it's proven too popular, with a lack of skilled repairers to work on some products; however, it appears to have produced an incentive for people to train as technicians. The other big hitch is that many products simply aren't repairable, sometimes by design.

As well as the financial benefits for device owners and the boost to repair businesses, the program aims to cut down on waste, particularly electrical items that are difficult to recycle.

The government has allocated €130 million to the program, which will run until 2026 or when the funding is exhausted if that's earlier. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a sensible use of government money? Would you like to see a similar program where you live? How do you decide when to repair devices and when to replace them?

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Chief's picture

When government subsidizes, fewer care about the actual cost.
When the consumer foots the entire bill, the consumer will pay better attention to quality and the entire pipeline will become more robust.

With government meddling, the system will rot.

ehowland's picture

Hopefully not, the 50% subsidy might move the needle and increase people to not toss stuff so quick in this B S Disposable "one use" world. My fear is the apple store (etc.) will just raise repair costs 200% so even with a 50% subsidy it is still not worth it financially to repair stuff...

gdday_6551's picture

If companies do not cooperate with spare parts the project is doomed.

ehowland's picture

Totally agree.