Restart Radio: Sensing gadget failures and frustrations in Belgium

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Today we talk to Simon November from Test-Achats (Test-Aankoop) in Belgium, an association that uses crowdsourcing to identify ‘hot-spots’ of consumer frustration and investigate the gadgets that keep breaking.

Test-Achats has been defending the interests of consumers in Belgium since 1957, and is entirely funded by its 350,000 members. But you don’t need to be a member to participate in the project called ‘Trop Vite Usé’ – or ‘worn out too soon’. The website, set up in November last year, lets anyone lodge a complaint about a device, and has received more than 5,000 contributions concerning all kinds of items.

The idea is that Test-Achats investigates the gadgets that receive the most complaints. What the association really hopes to uncover is ‘planned obsolescence’ – the idea that gadgets are designed to break. But this can be hard to prove, so another aim is to just reveal early obsolescence, and put pressure on manufacturers to make products with a longer lifespan.

At our own Restart Parties, we’ve seen similar patterns with ‘hot spots’ of gadget failure emerging. We talk to Simon about how best to harness ‘the crowd’ in these kinds of projects, how to turn frustration into productive action, and how to speed up cycles of response form the manufacturer.

We also talk about perceived obsolescence, particularly with gadgets that are seemingly ‘too slow’. As well as pushing for better-made gadgets, we need to learn how to handle the ones we own.

Links to things we discussed:

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