Saturday, April 28, 2007
Planned Obsolescence at
Orange is the trade name for France Telecom's (the former state-owned monopolist) mobile phone operation and some other retail businesses. They have been my mobile carrier since moving to France and service has been pretty good. So I was a little surprised when I encounteredthe problem described below.
As I prepare to leave France Orange agreed to unblock my mobile phone, since I had accumulate enough usage points to avoid a penalty for cancellation, so I can use it for prepaid SIMs upon future trips to Europe . (Note this is a similar issue to the Skype petition at FCC and the blocking of cell phones to discourage carrier switches.)
I visited an Orange boutique yesterday to get a new battery* for my LG cell phone since the present one holds a charge for only about 2 days at max. I was surprised to hear that even though the phone is only about 18 months old that they don't have batteries for it. They usually stock batteries for only 4-6 months after they stop sales of a model. The only suggestion for finding a new battery was a unnamed store somewhere near Metro station Nation.
So I thought, a great trick! Get people to constantly turn over their mobile for a new model because you can't get batteries!
Do US cell phone carriers have this same policy now?
Is regulation the answer? No. But the real problem is that market place forces can't work on such problems because they don't disclose at time of sale this strange battery stocking policy. Thus we have a marketplace failure. Perhaps regulations for better disclosure would help, but is unlikely from the French regulators who can't even straighten out the Noos mess.
(Noos not only has not paid me back for January and February service that was not provided due to their service meltdown, but is now billing me for March after I cancelled and is trying to charge a penalty because I stopped all bank bank payments to them after 2 months of nonservice.)
Later found another battery store in Paris and asked them about battery for my LG cell phone. They pointed out that in this LG model the battery forms part of the back of the case so that stocking batteries would involve lots of different one for related models. By comparision, many models have an internal battery which is easier to design for multiples models. So I wonder if LG is complicite in this planned obsolescence?
* Interesting linguistic note - In French, a nonrechargeable dry cell battery is pile (as in Voltaic pile, a historical term for early batteries) while a rechargable battery for a car, cell phone or laptop is a batterie. Things they don't tech you in high school French!
Posted by MJM at 12:36 AM