with R.U.S.Z managing director Sepp Eisenriegler
on repair bonuses and quality assurance for reputable repair services, training of repair specialists in R.U.S.Z as well as the necessary eco-social transformation and its unnecessary free riders
As announced the Vienna repair voucher is about to go into its next round from September. At the same, the federal government is working on a nationwide repair voucher, which is to apply from January 2022. As a representative of R.U.S.Z and the Vienna repair network (RepaNet), you were involved in the conception of the Vienna repair bonus and are also in contact with Minister Gewessler regarding the quality criteria for the nationwide Repair Bonus. Can you give us an update on that? What did you do to ensure the quality of the subsidized repairs?
The nationwide repair bonus will be introduced in the first quarter of 2022, but not necessarily in January. The BMK (Federal ministry for Environment) announced that it would be modeled the successful Vienna repair voucher project. The latter is a thoroughly innovative and courageous concept:
- Innovative, because anyone may use it - not only people registered in Vienna - which saves on Administrative costs. Also innovative, because all repairs - not only those of electronic appliances - offered by the contractual partners in the Vienna Repair Network are covered.
- Courageous, because in the sense of the quality management the Repair Network Vienna excludes the black sheep among the "repair service providers". These are - as has been shown in 4 hidden camera TV reports - three quarters of all providers randomly selected by the editors!
During my inaugural visit, Minister Gewessler declared her support for nationwide repair funding and cleverly negotiated the missing budget for this into the aid from the EU Recovery Fund. Only repairs for electrical appliances are funded and quality control has not been guaranteed so far. So it could well be that many dishonest providers are also rewarded for ripping off customers and talk them into buying a new device, instead of providing a serious repair service.
It is therefore of fundamental importance that the customers of reputable repair service providers benefit from the 130 million euro fund. One way to achieve this would be to subject all providers organised in reparaturfuehrer.at to strict quality control. Preliminary talks with the operator of this web-platform (Abfallberatung Tirol Mitte, ATM) in the context of a RepaNet meeting have shown that they would be quite willing to do so. Of course, appropriate funding is needed...
What exactly makes a reputable independent repair company and how is this reflected, for example, in the criteria for admission to the Vienna Repair Network? What were the considerations behind this and what do consumers get out of it?
An independent repair shop that wants to live up to its name must be willing and able to repair. Unfortunately, this is not self-evident, as the hidden camera TV reports have shown. It must also be aware of its role in the great transformation to a circular economy: repair is the supreme discipline of the circular economy because extending the useful life of products conserves non-regenerative raw materials and thus - more than 50% of all environmental pollution in the life of e-appliances already takes place in production and distribution - makes an important, individual contribution to climate protection.
The admission criteria for businesses in the Vienna Repair Network are also quality criteria, which are intended to exclude the black sheep who in reality do not want to repair but only want to sell:
- The member company guarantees that at least 50% of the jobs (excluding administrative jobs) in its company are repair jobs. This guarantees that the repair service and not the sale of new goods is the main focus of the repair company.
- The member repairer confirms that they are a universal repairer. This means that the brand restriction may not be less than 3 brands. This guarantees that the repairer works on a wide range of brands.
- The member company charges a maximum of € 45,- (incl. VAT) for the preparation of cost estimates for repairs in the workshop. In the case of on-site repairs, higher prices may be charged for the preparation of an estimate. The company will inform you in advance about the price for the preparation of an estimate including travel costs. On request, the company shall provide detailed information in the estimate on all items to be charged (e.g. travel costs, hourly rates, material, always including VAT).
- The member company deducts the amount charged for the estimate from the invoice amount after a repair. This regulation only applies to workshop repairs, not to on-site repairs.
- The member company guarantees a full repair without exceeding the cost estimate. If it turns out in the course of the repair that the estimated costs cannot be met, the customer may withdraw from the repair order. In this case, the customer only pays the costs for the preparation of the cost estimate. This provides the security that the costs shown in the cost estimate will not be exceeded.
- The member company agrees to participate in the quality assurance measures of the repair network such as : Participation in further training ; distribution of the (? KundInnenkarte ?) to assess the performance of the repair service ; cooperative collaboration in cases of complaints and with the project management, etc. This shows the willingness of the companies to guarantee quality.
- The member company guarantees compliance with all legal regulations relevant to the company.
- The member company agrees, that if it is not able to carry out the requested repair, to direct customers to a competent repair company of the network or the repair network hotline. Through this cooperation between the companies, consumers are optimally supported in solving repair problems.
- In well-founded cases, deviations from individual criteria are possible, but these must be approved by the advisory board of the repair network.
Consumers who repair belong to a growing minority whose status symbols are not the latest iPhone or the biggest SUV. They do not accept the destruction of resources through increasingly short-lived products and want to make their individual contribution to climate protection.
Repair stores need skilled workers. R.U.S.Z. is now working together with unemployment and career development services (BFI and AMS) to counteract the shortage of repair technicians. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Despite years of searching, we have been unable to find trained repair technicians for 23 years. Until now, we have helped ourselves with apprenticeship training and work training for unemployed mechatronics technicians. Through our new eco-social franchising system, we have found the bottleneck of personnel recruitment confirmed for all interested parties. Therefore we have - together with the BFI - submitted the pilot project "Future Profession Repair Technician" to the AMS Vienna and after the negotiations so far we can expect the commissioning. At the end of September, we will start with the qualification of 10 people, who will be trained as repair and service technicians for half a year with a strong practical focus.
In a six-month training course, the trainees will acquire knowledge in the fields of electronics, electrical engineering and mechatronics and gain practical experience in the repair and maintenance of household appliances at the R.U.S.Z. The pilot project will start at the end of September. If successful, this further training opportunity is to be offered regularly nationwide (after consultation with the WKO, with whom we are also in contact in this regard) - ideally as an opportunity for specialization in mechatronics apprenticeship training.
Climate protection, circular economy and the demand for durable and repair-friendly products seem to be on everyone's lips at the moment, but especially in advertising. Household appliances are increasingly being advertised as durable, a very large online mail-order company is talking about circular economy when it only means recycling, which it is legally obligated to do, and the biggest drivers of the consumer craze are advertising supposed CO2 savings. Critical voices speak of greenwashing and selling indulgences. And then a chancellor comes along and warns of a climate protection-driven Stone Age. As a pioneer of the circular economy, how do you feel about this ambivalent development, and what advice do you have for people who want to support and help shape the necessary eco-social transformation?
Well, that there are free riders was to be expected. We are still in a phase of great transformation, which allows PR and marketing measures to be set without fact-based content. I remember the most successful PR campaign ever to sell new home appliances. The message 10 years ago was, "If you want to save the planet and save money in the process, you need to trade in all your household appliances for the new most energy efficient ones!" As a result, millions of washing machines & co. were exchanged, often without need. We have known for 4 years that this has brought nothing but the destruction of resources and a quadrupling of the ecological footprint: Everyone who fell for the advertising messages at that time and in the last 10 years could save up to 1.80 EURO. Per year! That's why I'm talking about the "energy efficiency lie", which can also be read in my 2016 book "Konsumtrottel".
What we really need is first a socially acceptable CO2 price and then a genuine ecological tax reform. Resource- and climate-friendly behavior must pay off; market and state failures are stone age, just like today's 5,000 advertising messages per day that turn us into consumer fools.
Consumers are well advised to get used to new forms of sustainable consumption. As with the product service we have been offering for 4 years: I don't have to take ownership of everything I supposedly need. Renting instead of buying, in addition to the new EU regulatory policy, would force manufacturers to bring durable and repair-friendly designed products to the market.