Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 421–449 | Cite as

Inadequate Life?Evidence of Consumer Attitudes to Product Obsolescence

  • Tim CooperEmail author


Public interest in the durability of household appliances may be traced back 40 years to criticism of planned obsolescence raised by an emerging consumer movement. A recent revival of interest in product life spans has taken place in the context of increasing waste generation and debate prompted by proposed producer responsibility legislation, but data on the age of discarded products and consumer attitudes to product life spans have been lacking. This paper draws upon recent data from research into discarded household appliances in the UK to enhance a theoretical model of product obsolescence and explore some implications for marketing and public policy. A survey of over 800 households provided quantitative data on consumer attitudes and behaviour relating to appliance life spans and a subsequent series of focus groups enriched this data with personal narratives. Respondents were evenly divided on whether or not appliance life spans are adequate. Variations in behaviour demonstrated how users may influence appliance life spans. Overall, the results suggest that consumers have an important role in reversing the trend toward increased appliance waste but currently face economic disincentives and lack adequate product information.


Focus Group Marketing Public Policy Life Span Economic Policy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Sustainable ConsumptionSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

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