Fixing the illegal fixy issue

The rise of the “fixy” – the stripped bare bikes favoured by trendy urbanites – has been much talked about (e.g. by my cousin here, and me here).

What I had missed in all of this is that the bikes themselves may well be illegal to sell (but not own), as this press release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warns.  The basic story is that if they don’t have brakes, reflectors and a bell then retailers shouldn’t be selling them as they fail to comply with road safety standards.

This raises some strategic conundrums:

– could this actually be selling point, as it highlights some rebellious angle already inherent in the product?
– ethically can a retailer justify not informing a customer of the legal situation?

There are a series of ‘workarounds’ in the advice from the ACCC, including an exclusion for

” – Bicycles that are designed, promoted and supplied primarily for use in competition such as track racing.
– One-of-a-kind bicycles – that is, bicycles that are uniquely constructed to the order of an individual consumer…”

So could/should firms (both retailers, and manufacturers) look at ways to ensure bikes are (i) portrayed as track bikes; and/or (ii) ‘tailored’ to an individual purchaser’s needs through minor customisations?

Any strict definition of the latter customisation angle might well reduce any scope to build economies of scale in manufacturing, marketing and retailing these popular products.

Another strategic option is, of course, to band together and fight the legality of the advice, but that would create considerable legal and coordination costs (with a pun-worthy “free-rider” problem), and also entail big risks if an unfavourable or even more restrictive ruling results.

h/t: Bicycle Victoria

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