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Intellectual property rights, it is often argued, should be protected to allow companies to recoup their research investment. Yet, the reality is that these protections can also lead to monopolistic practices which severely prejudice consumers.
This is common in the pharmaceutical business where medicines are often unaffordable for those who most need them.
Likewise, the motor industry has, in many respects, made itself a “closed shop” cartel by forcing car buyers to have their maintenance and repair work done by registered dealers – on pain of a warranty being invalidated.
From 1 July, though, the Consumer Commission will give car owners the option to take their vehicles elsewhere for servicing and repairs – without voiding any manufacturer warranties.
However, consumers must be aware that the original equipment maker still has a wide range of options to “punish” an owner for taking a vehicle elsewhere while it is under warranty.
The car brand can refuse to honour its guarantee if it is able to prove that sub-standard “non-original” parts were used in any procedure carried out on a car – or if the workmanship was not up to their standards.
The new arrangement is not perfect – but it is a step towards consumer choice.