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Forced obsolescence

Posted by Richard on February 23, 2006

If you’re upset because your analog television will stop working in 2009 (you Luddite old fuddy-duddy!), be glad you don’t live in Japan. On April 1st (no joke), it’ll become illegal to sell an electronic device more than five years old. Unless you get a special certificate verifying that the equipment meets the "Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law" of 2001:

Sellers are crying foul, saying that in certain cases, it’ll be too hard to get certification, and they may end up dumping their gear — or exporting it, since it turns out exports are exempt from the new law. So, for the best deals on unsafe old Japanese electrical products, start checking the second-hand markets of Shanghai and Hanoi. Just don’t mention our name.

One of the commenters to that post speculated that environmental regulations regarding lead solder could be involved. That sounds like a possibility to me. I know that my division of Polycom, which makes large teleconferencing bridges, is under the gun to change all our circuit boards and components to comply with EU regulations regarding lead, mercury, cadmium, etc. It’s a huge expense and hassle for very little benefit (assuming you don’t chew on the electronics and they’re recycled or properly land-filled, the harm/risk from the existing equipment is trivial).

In any case, if you want to find some bargains in used electronics, you might schedule your trip to Tokyo for late March.

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