Planned obsolescence

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Planned obsolescence (also: planned wear and tear , product aging ) is a marketing strategy in which the obsolescence of a product ( obsolescence ) is planned and conceptually provided for by the manufacturer. Their aim is to secure the turnover that a producer loses because a very durable product does not have to be bought again so quickly by the same customer or is traded as used goods on a market in which the producer is not involved.

The term "planned obsolescence" originated in the United States in the 1930s . Its meaning has changed several times since then, and even today there is still no consensus in economics about what exactly is meant by it.

to form

There are three main manifestations of planned obsolescence:

  • Marketing of carelessly and cheaply made products that wear out quickly and are difficult to maintain or repair (qualitative obsolescence)
  • Marketing of products with rapidly changing properties, in which each new edition has an appeal that is fashionable and up-to-date (psychological obsolescence)
  • Marketing of products with rapidly changing properties, where each new edition brings functional or technical improvements (functional / technological obsolescence)

Keyword or actually existing phenomenon?

In the German-speaking area, the first-mentioned case, qualitative obsolescence, occupies the broadest area in public discourse, with escalation in practice in particular attracting attention, such as in the case of products whose manufacture know-how and patents are deliberately ignored. An extreme form of qualitative obsolescence, which has only been shown in a few examples, but has achieved a large media presence since 2010, are manipulations by the manufacturer on the product, which lead to the product being unusable and irreparable after a predetermined period or a predetermined frequency of use becomes; The marketing of such modified products is now subject to compensation and criminal law in many countries .

Since there are only extremely few cases to date in which manufacturers of short-lived products could be proven intent , and other relevant suspected cases have not withstood a more detailed examination, it is also disputed whether a planned obsolescence, which goes beyond the usual quality deficiency, as a marketing strategy at all is practiced to a significant extent.

Planned obsolescence as the state decreed premature abandonment of goods

The concept of "planned obsolescence" (English. Planned obsolescence ) goes to the real estate agent Bernard London returned to publish in a 1932 essay Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence his idea has tried to popularize, the Great Depression , in the United States since 1929 found that a massive intervention in the market could heal in a simple way: He proposed that both capital and consumer goods should only be sold with a temporary permit and then destroyed. Unlike many of today's users of the word, London did not understand “planned obsolescence” as a modification of the product itself.

Planned obsolescence as a desired rapid aging of goods

The Chevrolet Superior (here the model from 1925) was one of the first car series in which a new model appeared every year.
The Trabant , which VEB Sachsenring ( GDR ) has produced for almost forty years without significant technological changes , is occasionally cited as an example of an economic system's attempt to completely rule out planned obsolescence .

Example of the American automotive industry

The term "planned obsolescence" took on a new meaning after the American automotive industry introduced the concept of model years in the 1920s, an invention commonly attributed to then President of General Motors , Alfred P. Sloan . The problem Sloan was trying to solve for the company was the growing used car trade. One of the first annual models was the 1923 model of the Chevrolet Superior series . Chevrolet was the leading American car brand as early as 1927.

As recently as the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the term “planned obsolescence” appeared almost exclusively in the context of the automotive industry in the United States. After the Great Depression, automakers had started bringing new models onto the market every year; The aim was to put consumers under psychological pressure to regularly replace their actually fully functional vehicles with the latest model. This practice also did not include any specific modification of the goods to reduce their shelf life:

“… Is formally planned obsolescence, which has become characteristic of many traditional industrial systems as a mechanism for stimulating high levels of manufacture. The high turnover is promoted by relatively low durability goods as well as by style and fashion-consciousness, especially in consumer goods. Planned obsolescence and high turnover-rate designs imply high cost for maintenance and repair since these items are not designed for ready maintenance or inexpensive repair. The cost and inconvenience of maintenance and repair stimulates high turnover, and it encourages more shoddy goods. This, in turn, stimulates corporate dependence on high-volume outputs. "

“… Is formally planned obsolescence that has become characteristic of many traditional industrial systems as a mechanism for stimulating high levels of production. The high turnover is promoted by goods with a relatively short shelf life and by style and fashion trends, especially in consumer goods. Planned obsolescence and high sales rates cause high maintenance and repair costs because these items are not designed for easy maintenance or inexpensive repair. The high cost and difficulty of repairs encourage high sales and low quality goods. This, in turn, increases the company's dependency on large-scale production. "

- Joseph F. Coates : Technological Change and Future Growth: Issues and Opportunities

To the same extent as the automobile industry in the 20th century, the textile industry , in order to survive, was dependent on high turnover rates and rapid psychological obsolescence of its products.

Social discourse

The idea of ​​planned obsolescence was already present in the consciousness of consumers early on. So let Arthur Miller in his play Death of a Salesman sue his title character in 1949:

“Once in my life I would like to own something outright before it's broken! I'm always in a race with the junkyard! I just finished paying for the car and it's on its last legs. They time those things. They time them so when you finally paid for them, they're used up! "

“Once in a lifetime I want to have something right before it breaks. It's always a race against the junkyard for me. I've only just finished paying for the car and the last hole is already there. You do it on purpose. They time it so that it is worn out as soon as you have paid the last installment! "

- Arthur Miller : Death of a Salesman

Alexander Mackendrick's feature film The Man in the White Suit was shown in Great Britain in 1951, about a young chemist who, with his invention of a tear-resistant and dirt-resistant synthetic fiber, reaps anything but thanks in the industry.

Sylvia Porter

In 1958, the American journalist and finance columnist Sylvia Porter made an important contribution to the social discourse on planned obsolescence with a highly regarded article Your Money's Worth . The reason for this was the drop in sales of automobiles and household appliances since 1955, which some commentators, including Walter P. Margulies and J. Gordon Lippincott, attributed to growing disaffection among consumers with aggressive marketing. The designer Walter D. Teague noticed that hundreds of thousands of American customers had begun to buy inexpensive small import cars (especially German Volkswagens ) that hardly changed from year to year, and criticized that the "improvements" in American vehicles, that are offered to consumers year after year are simply adding more useless embellishments. The strategy was prominently defended, however, by Brooks Stevens , who argued , among other things, that outdated models are still being used and that consumers are by no means being duped. But Stevens also suggested the negatively connoted term "planned obsolescence" by "planned product improvement" ( Planned Product Improvement replace).

In 1960 the journalist Vance Packard followed with his bestseller The Waste Makers . Packard criticized American consumerism , which is at the expense of the environment, money and spirituality. Since 1955 circulated in the United States, the concept of " throwaway society " ( throw-away society ), which in the German with the rise of consumer-critical in many parts of New Left won dissemination, so in the late 1960s.

Consumer protection for durable goods emerged in the United States in the 1960s. At the federal level it was codified in 1975 with the Magnuson – Moss Warranty Act .

Scientific discourse

Obsolescence Controversy (Germany, 1976/1977)

In Germany in the 1970s, in addition to clothing fashion , the susceptibility of car bodies and exhaust systems to corrosion and the deliberate failure to improve durability through factory-made cavity preservation were examples of planned obsolescence.

A scientific dispute arose after the Aachen economist Burkhardt Röper published a study Is there planned wear in 1976 , in which he came to the conclusion that planned, deliberate product wear does not exist in practice and is also not enforceable against consumers. The Würzburg sociologist Karl-Heinz Hillmann accused Röper in 1977 that he had drawn wrong conclusions from his observations and that his study proved thoroughly planned wear and tear. In the same year Röper reacted again by defending his point of view. In 1980, Hans Raffée and Klaus Peter Wiedmann attempted to clarify this . Gerhard Bodenstein and Hans Leuer joined Röper in 1981 and denied that there was a special sales strategy in Germany, "planned obsolescence" or even just a decline in the quality of goods: "We still have a lot of" good "and" bad " Consumer goods produced, depending on how the productive forces and the competition for the solvent demand allow it. "

Extension and differentiation of the term

In the United States, Jeremy Bulow , an economist at Stanford University , presented his paper An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence in 1986 , in which he analyzed, among other things, the relationship between planned obsolescence and economic form. While monopolists definitely benefit from planned obsolescence, it is only worthwhile for oligopolists under certain conditions, namely when they coordinate with one another. If they do not sell some of their products but rather rent them out, product longevity will even become a market advantage for them. Bulow was also the first to point out that planned obsolescence is more than just a short product shelf life. In particular, he wanted to know how often a supplier brings new products to market and how compatible they are with older product versions. Later authors, including Michael Waldman, Jay Pil Choi, Arthur Fishman, Rafael Rob and Praveen Kumar, followed him in it.

Qualitative obsolescence

In 1990, Heribert Meffert introduced the distinction between qualitative obsolescence on the one hand and functional / technical obsolescence on the other in Germany. According to Meffert, qualitative obsolescence occurs “when products are consciously (sic!) Manufactured with a shorter lifespan than would be possible and economically justifiable according to available knowledge” .

A typical case of qualitative obsolescence is the deliberate failure to use knowledge and patents, as has been demonstrated, for example, with exhaust systems. In the case of exhaust systems, which for a long time were many times less durable than the vehicle itself, it could be clearly demonstrated that corrosion-resistant equipment would only have caused very little additional costs.

Functional / technical obsolescence

Functional / technical obsolescence is given by Meffert, "if a product which has not been created at the end of his physical life, is replaced by a new one that better fulfills its functions due to technical changes (and maybe even cheaper)." . In contrast to qualitative obsolescence, technological obsolescence is largely endorsed in the literature due to its innovative impact. A strategically acting actor is often not even identifiable here; Rather, the technical progress results from the dynamic interaction of several market players. In the commercial sector, reliability indicators are often used to assess technical obsolescence .

If the supplier only suggests the innovation but does not redeem it, the consumer is deceived and not functional / technical, but psychological obsolescence.

Postponed obsolescence

There is also a gray area when technological developments, in order to generate constant demand, are only integrated into production design with a delay (“knowledge of drawers”, “stockpiling”, “blocking”). Manuel Zalles-Reiber speaks of postponed or consumer -contrary obsolescence . Another strategic means that some companies choose to postpone technical progress are blocking patents (also: "fencing"), with which a patent applicant specifically disturbs his competitors in the further development of their technology.

Psychological obsolescence

Packard introduced the term psychological obsolescence in 1960 to describe the virtual obsolescence of products that are still usable but are no longer perceived by their users as attractive due to the change in cultural taste . Examples that are mentioned again and again in this context are clothing and shoe fashion. The trends are created and followed in an interplay between manufacturers and consumers. Zalles-Reiber differentiated the term in 1997, distinguishing between three forms of psychological obsolescence:

  • Aesthetic-cultural obsolescence means marketing goods to which fashionable changes are made at regular intervals .
  • In the case of social obsolescence , a product loses its prestige utility after it has appeared in the successor model .
  • In the case of ecological obsolescence , an older product loses value for its owner because the successor model (because it was manufactured in a more environmentally friendly manner or because its use is more environmentally friendly) has less impact on the environment .
Planned obsolescence as a hold-up

Thorsten Bagschik described the planned obsolescence in 1998 as the starting point for a hold-up in which the buyer is one-sidedly dependent on the seller.

Planned obsolescence as manipulation of the product for a controlled reduction in shelf life

The documentary Buy for the Garbage Dump

In 2010, Cosima Dannoritzer's documentary Buy for the Garbage Dump was shown in many European cinemas. It received numerous prizes and finally reached a broad German television audience in 2011 via the TV channels Arte and Phoenix . Using examples such as the Phoebus cartel, an Epson inkjet printer and an Apple battery, the author directed the attention of her viewers to a form of planned obsolescence that had hardly been mentioned in the discourse on this topic up until then: manufacturer interventions on the product that were targeted should lead to a reduction in shelf life.

Concrete suspected cases of product manipulation


The longevity of incandescent lamps (in the photo the famous Centennial Light Bulb ) comes at the expense of the luminous efficacy if the power consumption is to be low.

Among the few cases in which manufacturers have actually been able to detect manipulations to reduce the shelf life in a controlled manner, that of the Phoebus cartel is the best known; the members of this cartel, which had come together under the leadership of General Electric , had agreed in 1925 to limit the life of incandescent lamps . The industry standard of service life, which in 1924 was 2,500 hours, had dropped to 1,000 hours by 1940. The cartel was dissolved in 1941 and General Electric was finally convicted in 1953.

The taz , which boasted in 2008 that it had uncovered the “conspiracy”, saw the effects of the Phoebus cartel at work around the world until the founding of the People's Republic of China : “It would take until communism was won before Chinese factories began to produce lightbulbs that conserve resources that burned 5,000 hours. ” In Shelby , Ohio, however, the Shelby Electric Company had manufactured extremely long-life incandescent lamps ( Centennial Light ) as early as the 1890s . As a light bulb still burning today (2020) in Ipswich , England shows, there were also companies at the time of the Phoebus cartel (here: early 1930s) that marketed extremely durable products.

One problem with long-life incandescent lamps is their poor light output . The thicker - and therefore more durable - the filament , the less light is emitted, but the more heat. A long-life incandescent lamp, which is comparable to a short-lived product in terms of light output, consumes many times more energy. For the consumer, the profitability of a lamp does not depend solely on its durability, but also on the cost of purchase and electricity. A solution to the underlying physical problem only came about after the introduction of halogen incandescent lamps (prototype developed in 1953/1957 by Elmer Fridrich and Emmitt Wiley).

Nylon stockings

Original nylon stockings from Dupont from the 1940s

Another case that has been cited again and again as an example of planned obsolescence is the nylon stockings that the American company Dupont brought onto the market in May 1940 and which, in their documentary, testified about the Dannoritzer without any evidence that they were practically indestructible. Also without evidence, the film then states that the company's chemists were later instructed to modify the material of the stockings in such a way that it became sensitive to ultraviolet radiation . This presentation was then widely disseminated without any recognizable examination.

As Andreas Hirstein showed in 2012, there is still no chemical investigation with which such a modification of the material could be proven; Thomas Bechtold, professor at the Institute for Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics in Dornbirn , judges that UV radiation has no relevance for the durability of nylon stockings .

Inkjet printer

In her documentary, Dannoritzer also reported on a notoriously short-lived inkjet printer from Epson , the Stylus C42UX. Investigating the causes of those involved in the film revealed that this printer is equipped with a residual ink sponge ( diaper , waste ink pad ) for cleaning the print head , which in the cheaply manufactured device does not contain a sensor, but only a droplet counter. As soon as the printer “believes” after a certain number of printhead cleanings that the sponge is full and there is a risk of ink leaking, it stops working. Dannoritzer classified this type of backup as a case of planned obsolescence.

Elsewhere in the documentary there is talk of an EPROM that allows the printer to stop operating after a specified number of printing processes. However, Dannoritzer did not specify which manufacturers and which models had such programming.

Companies such as Canon , Hewlett Packard , Brother and Epson generate the majority of their sales today not with printers, but with printer cartridges. Many buyers spend more money on cartridges in the first year of use than they paid for the device itself. The devices are therefore made cheap.

Printer cartridges

In the case of printer cartridges , consumer advocates have discovered that, firstly, when they are new they are not completely filled and, secondly, when they are “empty” they still contain ink, up to more than 33% of the original capacity.

On September 18, 2017, a lawsuit was first filed in France on the basis of the newly created “Loi Hamon” . The consumer organization HOP ( Halt à l'obsolescence programmée , German stop of the planned obsolescence ) accused the company Epson of marketing manipulated printer cartridges. On November 24, 2017, the Nanterre public prosecutor opened its preliminary investigation. Was entrusted with the investigation work that the Ministry of Economy Subordinate consumer protection agency DGCCRF ( Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression of fraudes , German about General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control ). In February 2020, the investigation was still ongoing.

When assessing the profitability of printer cartridges, however, it must be taken into account that only Canon printer cartridges have a sensor that measures the actual filling status. With Epson cartridges, on the other hand, the fill level is only estimated based on the number of printed pages stored on a chip built into the cartridge. Since the printhead - unlike some other products - is not located directly on the cartridge, but in a different place, Epson printers risk drying out of residual ink in the printhead and thus clogging, overheating and melting if they are not used for a long time. In this case, the ink serves not only as printing ink, but also as a coolant; To ensure that it is always possible to clean the printhead, the cartridge must be replaced before it is completely empty.

Apple products

The first iPod (iPod Classic, 1st generation, 2001) measured 10.2 × 6.2 × 2 cm. The manufacturer did not intend to open it, for example to replace the battery.

Another case that Dannoritzer cited in her documentary Buy for the Dump is the iPod, introduced by Apple in 2001 . Buyers of the device had complained early on that the performance of the built-in battery was not up to what the company had advertised. After Apple did not respond to customer complaints , a class action lawsuit followed in the United States in 2003 , which resulted in a settlement. Although the battery z. For example, when the iPod shuffle was just as expensive as the device itself, Dannoritzer argued after her source, Casey Neistat , that the fact of planned obsolescence was already fulfilled with the fixed installation of a short-lived battery.


As the example of the power-down control in older iPhones shows - Apple had granted in 2017 to have carried out such a manipulation to everyday use the devices even in the now old nichtwechselbaren Lithium Ion - batteries to ensure - between manipulations product preservation and such artificial Product aging is an occasional gray area. In the US, a lawsuit was initiated against Apple that ended in a settlement in March 2020; Apple agreed to pay the injured party a total of up to $ 500 million. In France, the company had to pay 25 million euros after a court ruling. In Italy, a court fined Apple and Samsung in the same context of 10 million euros.

Social discourse and studies in German-speaking countries

Product manipulation as a "systemic problem"

In their documentary, Dannoritzer et al. a. Giles Slade, the author of the 2006 non-fiction book Made to Break :

“There was a paradigm shift among engineers. The old school still saw it as their job to make a product that never broke. The new school was driven by the market and interested in products that were as perishable as possible. "

- Giles Slade, quoted in: Buy for the dump

After the film was released, the shift in meaning of the term planned obsolescence towards targeted product manipulation was adopted by other non-fiction authors. This was followed by press reports, including an article in the computer magazine c't in 2012 , the author of which claimed, without submitting any evidence, that a significant part of all electronic devices today have a “hidden expiry date”. In the same year, the taz , also without proof, described the controlled rendering of electronic devices by the manufacturer as a "systemic problem". One of the most visible representatives of the new general suspicion against the manufacturing industry is the business graduate Stefan Schridde, who founded an association and a website and from Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen together with Christian Kreiß for an expert opinion for the planned obsolescence in Germany.

A generalized criticism of the manufacturer, which today suspects product manipulation practically everywhere, was countered by the journalist Andreas Hirstein in November 2012 with an article in the NZZ am Sonntag . The "planned obsolescence in the sense of a targeted product self-destruction to stimulate consumption" he described as a modern legend . He argued that manufacturers had to strike a balance between service life and price on the one hand and customers' willingness to pay on the other.

Manipulations by the manufacturer to reduce the shelf life of the product in a controlled manner are sometimes metaphorically referred to as “predetermined breaking points”. However, predetermined breaking points , as they are actually built into some products, serve exclusively either the safety of the user or the functionality or protection of the product (e.g. predetermined breaking points in the airbag cover ).

Schridde-Kreiß report (2013)

Since 2013, the alleged diversion of manufacturer-side product manipulation has also preoccupied German politics. After innovation was in the foreground in the minutes and printed matter of a commission of inquiry "Growth, Prosperity, Quality of Life" that met in June 2012 and terms such as "planned obsolescence" and "product deterioration" did not occur at all, the Bundestag faction of Alliance 90 / A little later, the Greens commissioned an expert opinion on this subject, which appeared in March 2013.

The authors of the report were Stefan Schridde, Christian Kreiß and the doctoral student Janis Winzer. By planned obsolescence, they initially understand “planned, premature wear and tear of products that could actually last much longer” , but a few pages later they expand their definition to include cases of “deliberate or approvingly accepted obsolescence” . They postulate that many everyday products today have a much shorter shelf life than “before”, but they do not provide any evidence for this thesis, nor do they define the time frame in which this deterioration should have occurred.

The core of their report is then a list of 22 weaknesses or suspicions that could be identified in an exploratory investigation of a wide range of products, including mainly electrical and electronic devices, but also shoes, textiles and office chairs. Was observed here z. B. material fatigue , hidden weak points, construction errors and inaccessibility of the inside of the device for maintenance and repair. The authors do not give the name and manufacturer of the product complained about, nor how typical the observation is for the respective product class. In none of the 22 cases is evidence provided that the products are not just cheap and carelessly manufactured, but also defects that have been deliberately planned by the manufacturer. In the following section, Further methods and forms of planned obsolescence , evidence and quantification are consistently dispensed with.

Without disclosing where these figures come from, the authors assume that in German households 12–24% of all expenditure is for planned obsolescent products; From this they then calculate that consumers in Germany would save a total of 101 billion euros per year by preventing planned obsolescence.

On June 27, 2013, the Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parliamentary group in the German Bundestag applied for the Federal Government to work to extend the lifespan of products and improve their ability to be repaired, collected, reused and recycled. The application was supported by the SPD and the Left , but failed due to the dissenting votes from the CDU / CSU and FDP, which followed the recommendations of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Consumers .

HTV-Life certification mark (since 2013)

At the electronica trade fair in Munich in November 2012 , the Bensheim-based company Semiconductor-Test & Vertriebs-GmbH (HTV) presented its seal of approval against planned obsolescence. As an independent test house, HTV has been testing electronic components since 1986. In an interview with , the company's head of technology reported in 2013 that the testers from HTV very often find weak points in electronic devices that they classify as planned obsolescence, including, for example, the use of particularly heat-sensitive components (e.g. electrolytic capacitors ) in the immediate vicinity of heat sources.

Since May 2013 HTV has been awarding an HTV-Life test mark to identify products for which “planned breaking points that limit the service life” could be excluded. Only products that are submitted by the manufacturer are tested, together with an affidavit that no manipulations that limit the shelf life have been carried out. The test mark is awarded if the examination does not reveal any signs of planned obsolescence. On the part of the manufacturers, many of whom have a good reputation even without a certification mark, the demand has so far been low. To date, only four companies have had products marked with the test mark (as of 2020).

Stiftung Warentest (2013)

In an exploratory test series by Stiftung Warentest , the results of which were published in August 2013, product defects could be detected, but no intentionally built-in weak points. The foundation had tested washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and LED lamps, among other things. In this study, it was also observed that more expensive devices, although not without exception, tend to be better made and have a longer shelf life than cheaper ones.

Legislative initiatives of the left parliamentary group (2013, 2016)

On June 6, 2013, the left-wing parliamentary group in the German Bundestag applied for the federal government to be asked to submit a draft law that stipulates a minimum useful life for technical products and places the burden of proof on the manufacturer for an event that does not allow the minimum useful life to be reached. The application was rejected by the other parties, with the SPD and the Greens abstaining, following a recommendation by the Environment Committee . On December 15, 2016, the left-wing parliamentary group submitted another motion with a similar content, but failed again because of the votes of the opposition, which this time followed a recommendation by the Environment Committee.

Study by Öko-Institut and Uni Bonn (2016)

Following the aforementioned discourses, the Federal Environment Agency commissioned an exploratory study from the Freiburg Eco-Institute and the University of Bonn in which household appliances, flat-screen TVs and computers were tested. The results were presented in February 2016: In the case of the "classic" examples of obsolescence from the media and online forums, which are repeatedly used, there can be no question of planned obsolescence "in the sense of malicious design manipulation". The authors also explicitly referred to the previous social discourse:

“In recent years, media coverage has presented the topic of“ planned obsolescence ”in a very emotional way, dividing society into two independent poles, namely manufacturers and industry as“ perpetrators ”and consumers as“ victims ”of obsolescence. The present study has shown that the obsolescence appearance of products is not that one-dimensional. Manufacturers and consumers interact with each other in a constantly changing environment and mutually influence product development and consumption patterns. [...] The facts of the planned obsolescence in terms of design manipulation or the deliberate installation of weak points were not confirmed by the analyzes in the study [...] "

- Influence of the useful life of products on their environmental impact , p. 31

The proportion of electrical appliances that had to be replaced due to a defect in private households increased from 2.5 percent in 2004 to 8.3 percent in 2013. Most of the devices would be replaced, however, because consumers would prefer to use a different device that they thought was better. A targeted shortening of the service life of electrical appliances was not detectable in the study; However, the authors admit that the ever shorter innovation cycles of recent years could also have a negative impact on product quality. Under these circumstances, devices would no longer be tested comprehensively, but only tested for known weak points in production. "Ideally, the aim is to ensure that the technical product lifespan corresponds to the product useful life [...] The core principle is to design products in such a way that they last as long as necessary and not as long as possible." If, on the other hand, products were designed to last as long as possible, so the use of resources in production would increase; this would be “ecologically counterproductive” if the devices were then disposed of early by consumers. The authors of the study criticized the lack of transparency for consumers in this respect, but also emphasized the responsibility of the buyer to use the consumer goods for as long as possible and to select devices that could be repaired in the long term independently of the manufacturer's workshops.

Wieser study (Austria, 2016)

Harald Wieser, who carried out an obsolescence study for the Chamber of Labor and Employees , points out that the focus on “fraudulently built-in predetermined breaking points” does not do justice to the topic. For example, companies would rather actively promote obsolescence through “advertising and rapid generational changes despite minimal technical progress”. Overall, the problem is an "interplay between industry and consumers". Mistrust about the lifespan of products leads to a reduced willingness to invest more money in a higher quality product. On the other hand, the low demand for long-lasting products encourages manufacturers in their view that consumers are only looking for the latest.

Recent developments

In its current party program, the AfD also calls for "long-lasting products instead of planned obsolescence".

Consumer protection


In Germany, the guarantee is regulated by law in Section 365 of the German Civil Code. Manufacturers and sellers can also offer a guarantee on a voluntary contractual basis .


Since 2015, deliberately shortening the lifespan of products has been a criminal offense in France, which can be punished with up to two years in prison and a fine of 300,000 euros. The fine can be higher, up to 5 percent of the company's annual sales. The legal basis is the “Loi Hamon” , which came into force on March 17, 2014 , a law named after its initiator, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Benoît Hamon .

United States

Unlike in Germany, retailers in the United States are legally obliged to give their customers a product guarantee. Based on the Magnuson – Moss Warranty Act , which came into effect in 1975 , any new item that costs more than a few US dollars is covered by a warranty when it is sold. Every announcement of a certain minimum shelf life ( express warranty ) - including advertising - is legally binding for the retailer. It is not uncommon for certain products to be granted a lifetime warranty , which is valid for as long as the original buyer owns the goods. In all other cases, what is in the small print applies. The vast majority of products come with a one-year factory warranty, with a distinction being made between full and limited warranty; The latter only relates to certain parts, the replacement of which may incur additional costs for the buyer.

Since owning a car is a question of economic survival for many Americans, the warranty in this area is particularly strictly regulated. So come new cars across the country with a factory warranty of at least 3 years.


Newspaper and magazine articles for a general reading audience

  • Andreas Hirstein: Modern fairy tales of consumer criticism . In: NZZ am Sonntag . November 18, 2012 ( online ).
  • Hendrik Lasch: Throwing away for growth . In: Öko-Test . No. 10 , 2012, p. 20–30 ( online [PDF]).
  • Roland Knauer: Durability is not a given . In: Der Tagesspiegel . December 24, 2012 ( online ).
  • Mario Sedlak: Planned Obsolescence. A persistent myth . In: Telepolis . June 24, 2014 ( online ).


  • Cosima Dannoritzer, Jürgen Reuß: Buy for the garbage dump: The principle of planned obsolescence . orange-press, Freiburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-936086-66-9 .
  • Christian Kreiß : Planned wear and tear: How industry drives us to consume more and more and faster - and how we can defend ourselves against it . Europa Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-944305-51-6 .
  • Vance Packard: The Big Waste . Fischer Bücherei, 1964 (German edition of "The Waste Makers", 1960).
  • Erik Poppe, Jörg Longmuß [Ed.]: Planned obsolescence. Behind the scenes of product development . transcript, Bielefeld 2019, ISBN 978-3-8376-5004-4 ( Online Open Access ).
  • Giles Slade: Made to Break. Technology and Obsolescence in America . Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 2006, ISBN 978-0-674-02572-1 .

Scientific overview literature

  • Tobias Brönneke, Andrea Wechsler [Ed.]: Obsolescence Interdisciplinary - Premature wear and tear from the perspective of science and practice . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2015, ISBN 978-3-8487-2003-3 .

Economic literature

  • Jeremy Bulow: An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence . In: Quarterly Journal of Economics . tape 101 , no. 4 , 198, pp. 729-749 , JSTOR : 1884176 .

Legal literature

  • Christian Hess: Planned obsolescence: Legal admissibility in the life cycle planning of technical consumer goods. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2018, ISBN 978-3-8487-4689-7 (Zugl .: Mannheim, Univ., Diss., 2017).
  • Timo Hohmuth: botch? No thanks?! Legal aspects for dealing with the phenomenon of "planned obsolescence" . In: Journal for innovation and technology law . No. 2 , 2014, p. 74-85 .
  • Clemens Latzel, Philipp Sausmikat: Obsolescence - commercial law framework for the useful life of products. In: Journal of Business Law (ZIP). No. 30, 2016, pp. 1420–1428. Online: Abstract .
  • Malte Welters: Obsolescence in civil law: In particular, the duty of the manufacturer of long-lasting technical systems to supply spare parts . Kovač, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-8300-6156-4 (also dissertation at the University of Augsburg 2011).

Web links

Commons : Planned Obsolescence  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Emmerich Nyikos: Capital as a process: to the historical tendency of the capital system . Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-59807-8 , pp. 458 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  2. Tim Hindle: Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus , Economist Books 2008, p. 147
  3. a b Thorsten Bagschik: Surrender of Complex Consumer Goods . Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 978-3-8244-6887-4 , pp. 98 ( limited preview in the Google book search - dissertation, TU Freiberg, 1998).
  4. ^ Bernard London: Ending the Depression Through Plannes Obsolescence. ( Full text PDF).
  5. a b Thorsten Bagschik: Surrender of Complex Consumer Goods . Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 978-3-8244-6887-4 , pp. 99 ( limited preview in the Google book search - dissertation, TU Freiberg, 1998).
  6. Annual model change was the result of affluence, technology, advertising. In: Automotive News. September 14, 2008, accessed June 2, 2020 .
  7. ^ Roger L. Rosentreter: Michigan: A History of Explorers, Entrepreneurs, and Everyday People . University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2014, ISBN 978-0-472-07190-6 , pp. 231 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  8. ^ Establish a Department of Consumers . Government Printing Office, Washington 1960, pp. 116 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  9. ^ Role of Giant Corporations: Hearings before the subcommittee on monopoly of the select committee on small business. Part 1: Automobile Industry . US Government Printing Office, Washington 1969, p. 532 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  10. ^ Bertram Myron Gross: Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America . South End Press, New York 1980, ISBN 978-0-89608-149-9 , pp. 225 f . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  11. ^ Joseph F. Coates: Technological Change and Future Growth: Issues and Opportunities . In: US Economic Growth From 1976 to 1986: Prospects, Problems, and Patterns. Studies prepared for the Use of the Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States . tape 8 . US Government Printing Office, Washington 1976, p. 33–61, here: p. 42 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  12. ^ RD Agarwal: Organization and Management . Tata McGraw-Hill, New Delhi et al. a. 2007, ISBN 0-07-451506-3 , pp. 361 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  13. ^ Sylvia Porter: Your Money's Worth . In: Washington Evening Star . April 16, 1958 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  14. Walter D. Teague: 'Planned Obsolescence' - Is it Fair? - No! In: The Rotarian . February 1960, p. 13, 57 f . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  15. Brooks Stevens: 'Planned Obsolescence' - Is it Fair? - Yes! In: The Rotarian . February 1960, p. 12, 56–59 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  16. ^ A b Vance Packard: The Waste Makers . David McKay, New York 1960, ISBN 978-1-935439-37-0 .
  17. ^ The Waste Makers. Accessed June 2, 2020 (publisher's website).
  18. How We Created A Throwaway Society. Retrieved June 2, 2020 .
  19. ^ Hans-Rudolf Peters: environmental protection policy . In: Sigurd Klatt, Manfred Willms (Ed.): Structural change and macroeconomic control . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1975, ISBN 3-428-03286-1 , pp. 129 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  20. Warranties . In: Robert W. Kolb (Ed.): The SAGE Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society . 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, California, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4833-8152-7 , pp. 3594 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  21. ^ Warranty Laws and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  22. Dieter Kleine: The position of the consumer in the market economy. A critique of the thesis of consumer sovereignty. (PDF) 1974, SS 130 , accessed on June 4, 2020 .
  23. Burkhardt Röper, Rolf Marfeld: Is there any planned wear and tear? Investigations into the obsolescence thesis . In: Writings of the Commission for Economic and Social Change . tape 137 . Schwartz, Göttingen 1976, ISBN 3-509-00953-3 .
  24. Karl-Heinz Hillmann: Planned Obsolescence. Comments on Burkhardt Röper: "Is there any planned wear and tear?" In: Zeitschrift für Konsumentpolitik . tape 1 , 1977, pp. 48-61 .
  25. Burkhardt Röper: Is there any planned wear and tear? A response to Hillmann's criticism in ZVP, 1, 1977/1 . In: Journal of Consumer Policy . tape 1 , 1977, pp. 185-194 .
  26. ^ A b Hans Raffée, Klaus Peter Wiedmann: The obsolescence controversy - attempt at clarification . In: Schmalenbach's journal for business research . tape 32 , 1980, pp. 149-172 .
  27. Gerhard Bodenstein, Hans Leuer: Obsolescence - a synonym for consumer goods production in developed market economies . In: Journal of Consumer Policy . tape 5 , 1981, pp. 39-50 .
  28. Jeremy Bulow: An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence . In: The Quarterly Journal of Economics . tape 101 , no. 4 , November 1986, pp. 729-749 , doi : 10.2307 / 1884176 , JSTOR : 1884176 ( [PDF]).
  29. Jasna Cudic: Product Shelf Life in Strategic Marketing: An Empirical Analysis . Eul Verlag, Lohmar, Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-8441-0025-9 , pp. 43 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  30. Michael Waldman: A New Perspective on Planned Obsolescence . In: The Quarterly Journal of Economics . tape 108 , no. 1 , 1993, p. 273-283 .
  31. Jay Pil Choi: Network Externality, Compatibility Choice, and Planned Obsolescence . In: Journal of Industrial Economics . tape 42 , no. 2 , 1994, p. 167-182 .
  32. ^ Arthur Fishman, Rafael Rob: Product Innovation by a Durable-Good Monopoly . In: Rand Journal of Economics . tape 31 , no. 2 , 2000, pp. 237-252 .
  33. ^ Praveen Kumar: Price and Quality Discrimination in Durable Goods Monopoly with Resale Trading . In: International Journal of Industrial Organization . tape 20 , no. 9 , 2002, p. 1313-1339 .
  34. ^ Robert Nieschlag, Erwin Dichtl, Hans Hörschgen: Marketing . Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1991, ISBN 978-3-428-07053-4 .
  35. ^ Gerhard Wortmann: Planned product wear and tear as a legal problem . P. Lang, 1983, ISBN 978-3-8204-7014-7 , pp. 21st f., 45-47 .
  36. Heribert Meffert: Product aging as a sales strategy . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , remote edition . February 28, 1990, p. 44 .
  37. Hans Raffée, Klaus Peter Wiedmann: The obsolescence controversy - attempt at clarification . In: Schmalenbach's journal for business research . tape 32 , 1980, pp. 149-172; here p. 157 .
  38. ^ H. Kocher: Marketability and lifespan of products . In: io management magazine . tape 58 , no. 11 , p. 87-90 .
  39. ^ Gerhard Wortmann: Planned product wear and tear as a legal problem . P. Lang, 1983, ISBN 978-3-8204-7014-7 , pp. 21st f., 45-47 .
  40. Manuel Zalles-Reiber: Product obsolescence and industrial design . Akademischer Verlag, 1996, ISBN 978-3-929115-72-7 , pp. 98, footnote 2 .
  41. ^ Gerhard Wortmann: Planned product wear and tear as a legal problem . P. Lang, 1983, ISBN 978-3-8204-7014-7 , pp. 16 .
  42. ^ Gerhard Wortmann: Planned product wear and tear as a legal problem . P. Lang, 1983, ISBN 978-3-8204-7014-7 , pp. 62-66 .
  43. Thorsten Bagschik: Surrender of Complex Consumer Goods . Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 978-3-8244-6887-4 , pp. 100 ( limited preview in the Google book search - dissertation, TU Freiberg, 1998).
  44. Manuel Zalles-Reiber: Product obsolescence and industrial design . Akademischer Verlag, 1996, ISBN 978-3-929115-72-7 , pp. 108-111, 264 .
  45. Vanessa Materla: Planned Obsolescence: That's Behind It. In: Focus. January 18, 2018, accessed June 2, 2020 .
  46. ^ Renate Huebner: Planned Obsolescence. (PDF) Retrieved June 2, 2020 .
  47. Clement Wong: Planned Obsolescence: The Light Bulb Conspiracy. September 12, 2012, accessed June 8, 2020 .
  48. United States v. General Electric Co., 115 F. Supp. 835 (DNJ 1953). Retrieved June 8, 2020 .
  49. Helmut Höge: Taz uncovers lightbulb conspiracy: adored, betrayed and burned up. In: The daily newspaper. December 24, 2008, accessed June 8, 2020 .
  50. ^ Ipswich's Martin & Newby Bulb. Retrieved June 8, 2020 .
  51. a b c Andreas Hirstein: Modern fairy tales of consumer criticism . In: NZZ am Sonntag . November 18, 2012 ( ).
  52. U.S. Patent 2,883,571 - Elmer Fridrich and Emmett Wiley's Tungsten Halogen Lamp. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  53. Emily Spivack: Stocking Series, Part 1: Wartime Rationing and Nylon Riots. In: Smithsonian Magazine. September 4, 2012, accessed June 8, 2020 .
  54. E.g. the suicide code: Is my toaster programmed to be destroyed? April 26, 2019, accessed June 8, 2020 .
  55. Florian Heise: Programmed printer death. December 11, 2012, accessed June 9, 2020 .
  56. Affordable Printers With Cheapest Ink Cartridges. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  57. David Schrieberg: Landmark French Lawsuit Attacks Epson, HP, Canon And Brother For 'Planned Obsolescence'. In: Forbes. September 26, 2017, accessed June 9, 2020 .
  58. Inkjet printers: This is how manufacturers trick. September 14, 2018, accessed June 10, 2020 .
  59. How printer manufacturers are tricking their cartridges - and polluting the environment. Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
  60. Philipp Odermatt: The nasty tricks of the printer manufacturers. In: SRF . January 22, 2013, accessed June 1, 2020 .
  61. ^ Epson mis en cause par une plainte pénale en obsolescence program: l'enquête est ouverte. Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
  62. ^ Obsolescence program: une enquête ouverte contre Epson. In: Le Figaro (online). December 28, 2017, accessed December 28, 2017 (French).
  63. Obsolescence: fabricants et consommateurs, tous responsables? Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
  64. ^ Nathan Chandler: How does your computer know how much ink is left in the cartridge? Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
  65. What actually is printer ink? Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
  66. Peter Cohen: Apple settles iPod battery class action suit. June 1, 2005, accessed June 10, 2020 .
  67. Leander Kahney: Is Apple Guilty of Planned Obsolescence? January 20, 2011, accessed June 10, 2020 .
  68. Sam Costello: Is iPhone or iPod Battery Replacement Worth It? Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
  69. Planned obsolescence: First European lawsuit against the iPhone brake. Retrieved June 2, 2020 .
  70. ^ Jack Nicas: Apple Agrees to Pay Some iPhone Owners $ 25 Each. In: The New York Times. March 2, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020 .
  71. iPhone throttling: Apple accepts a fine of more than 25 million euros. Retrieved June 2, 2020 .
  72. Italy fines Apple and Samsung in the millions. Retrieved June 2, 2020 .
  73. Adolf Wolf: From the gentle death of the rentier: ... the approaching collapse of our monetary and financial system and the blind spots of the economy ... Novum Pro, 2011, ISBN 978-3-99026-249-8 , p. 62 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  74. Sandra Krautwaschl: Plastic-free zone: How my family manages to live almost without plastic . Heyne, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-641-07538-5 , pp. 124 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  75. Jürgen Reuss, Cosima Dannoritzer: Buy for the garbage dump. The principle of planned obsolescence . orange-press, 2013, ISBN 978-3-936086-66-9 .
  76. Christian Kreiß : Planned wear and tear: How industry drives us to ever more and ever faster consumption - and how we can defend ourselves against it . Europe, 2014, ISBN 978-3-944305-51-6 , pp. 145–153 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  77. Hans-Arthur Marsiske: Active principles of the planned obsolescence . In: c't . No. 15 , 2012, p. 75 .
  78. Heike Holdinghausen: Guaranteed broken. In: The daily newspaper. June 21, 2012, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  79. Measuring the predetermined breaking point with laser sensors ensures the functionality of airbags. September 4, 2009, accessed June 2, 2020 .
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  81. Stefan Schridde, Christian Kreiß, Janis Winzer (collaboration): Planned obsolescence. Causes of development, concrete examples, consequences of damage, program of action. Expert opinion on behalf of the Bundestag parliamentary group Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . 2013, p. 5, 17 ( download ).
  82. Stefan Schridde, Christian Kreiß, Janis Winzer (collaboration): Planned obsolescence. Causes of development, concrete examples, consequences of damage, program of action. Expert opinion on behalf of the Bundestag parliamentary group Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . 2013, p. 6 ( download ).
  83. Stefan Schridde, Christian Kreiß, Janis Winzer (collaboration): Planned obsolescence. Causes of development, concrete examples, consequences of damage, program of action. Expert opinion on behalf of the Bundestag parliamentary group Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . 2013, p. 28-49 ( download ).
  84. Stefan Schridde, Christian Kreiß, Janis Winzer (collaboration): Planned obsolescence. Causes of development, concrete examples, consequences of damage, program of action. Expert opinion on behalf of the Bundestag parliamentary group Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . 2013, p. 50-61 ( download ).
  85. Stefan Schridde, Christian Kreiß, Janis Winzer (collaboration): Planned obsolescence. Causes of development, concrete examples, consequences of damage, program of action. Expert opinion on behalf of the Bundestag parliamentary group Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . 2013, p. 63 f . ( Download ).
  86. Stop planned wear and tear and ensure the longevity of products. Motion by the Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parliamentary group. June 12, 2013, accessed June 12, 2020 .
  87. Stop planned wear and tear and ensure the longevity of products. Decision recommendation of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. June 26, 2013, accessed June 12, 2020 .
  88. Karin Zühlke: Technisat is the first company to receive the HTV-Life seal of approval. June 12, 2013, accessed June 12, 2020 .
  89. ^ HTV Life. Accessed June 1, 2020 .
  90. Where the predetermined breaking points are in the electronics. In: June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 27, 2013 .
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  92. Holger Krumme: Long-term storage of electronic components as a strategy against obsolescence . In: Erik Poppe, Jörg Longmuß (eds.): Planned obsolescence. Behind the scenes of product development . transcript, Bielefeld 2019, ISBN 978-3-8376-5004-4 , p. 157–170 ( Online Open Access ).
  93. Products that have already been tested. Retrieved June 12, 2020 .
  94. Just bought and are back? In: test, Stiftung Warentest . No. 9 , 2013, p. 58-64 ( online ).
  95. "Tests show no predetermined breaking points". March 20, 2013, accessed on June 11, 2020 (interview with Jürgen Nadler).
  96. Resource protection by specifying a minimum useful life for technical products. Request by the Left Group. April 17, 2013, accessed June 12, 2020 .
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  101. ^ A b c Christian Wölbert: Cheap, but not a fraud. In: c't 08/2016 of April 1, 2016, p. 62, accessed online on April 15, 2016.
  102. Andreas Link: Flat screen TV: Study cannot prove planned obsolescence. March 3, 2015, accessed June 12, 2020 .
  103. Siddharth Prakash, Günther Dehoust, Martin Gsell, Tobias Schleicher, Rainer Stamminger: Influence of the useful life of products on their environmental impact: Creation of an information basis and development of strategies against "obsolescence" . February 2016, ISSN  1862-4804 ( Online [PDF]).
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  108. ^ France forbids planned obsolescence. In: , August 18, 2015, accessed April 15, 2016.
  109. ^ Loi Hamon et assurances: ce qui a changé. Retrieved June 10, 2020 .
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  111. What is the Difference Between a Full Warranty and a Limited Warranty? Retrieved June 12, 2020 .
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