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European body releases right-to-repair proposal

Map of Europe under a magnifying glass.

The European Commission’s ideas for making repair more affordable face opposition from some E.U. member states but enjoy support from activist groups.| Sasirin Pamai/Shutterstock

Europeans may soon have a more consistent right to repair electronics after the European Commission proposed a template for rules promoting the repair of goods. 

The proposal is in line with the European Green Deal and the Commission’s goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. However, it still must be approved by the European Parliament and European Council before member states can adopt the rules. 

“Over the last decades, replacement has often been prioritized over repair whenever products become defective and insufficient incentives have been given to consumers to repair their goods when the legal guarantee expires,” a press release noted. “The proposal will make it easier and more cost-effective for consumers to repair as opposed to replace goods.”

The increased demand for repair will also boost the repair sector and pressure OEMs to develop more sustainable business models, the press release noted.

Delving into details 

The proposal would add smartphones and tablets to the list of items required to be repairable under EU law, which already includes many household appliances. It also leaves the option open to add more items to the list. 

For items still under warranty, the proposal requires sellers to offer repair, except when it is more expensive than replacement.

For items out of the warranty time period, the proposal sets up the right for consumers to “claim repair to producers for products that are technically repairable under EU law, like a washing machine or a TV” for five to 10 years after it was sold.  

Putting the responsibility on the producers will ensure that “consumers always have someone to turn to when they opt to repair their products, as well as encourage producers to develop more sustainable business models,” the press release noted. OEMs are required to ensure that independent repairers have access to parts and repair-related information and tools, as well. 

The proposal also requires producers to inform consumers about the products they are obligated to repair themselves and sets up an online matchmaking repair platform to connect consumers with local repairers and vendors of refurbished goods. 

“The platform will enable searches by location and quality standards, helping consumers find attractive offers and boosting visibility for repairers,” the press release stated. 

A European Repair Information Form would also be created under the proposal, which consumers would be able to request from any repairer for greater transparency around repair conditions and price. In addition, the proposal calls for development of a European quality standard for repair services to help consumers identify high-quality repairers. 

If its proposal were to be adopted, the commission would collect data for five years and report on the system’s effectiveness. 

Pushback from member states

During the public comment period, the commission conducted a survey and found that while half of all stakeholders that responded saw voluntary commitments promoting repair as effective measures, the majority of responding environmental organizations and half of consumer organizations believed such promotion to be ineffective. 

In addition, a survey of EU member states found that while there was support for the concept, a majority did not support imposing the requirement to repair on producers. 

The Right to Repair campaign in Europe released a statement saying that it welcomes the step forward, but said the proposal still shows the “EU’s lack of ambition to make repairability an affordable reality.” 

“Once again, the opportunity to make the Right to Repair universal is missed,” the statement said. 

The group recommends making repairs affordable, expanding the number of items covered and ensuring that OEMs do not continue “anti-repair practices,” such as deciding if a repair is more affordable than a replacement and charging high costs for replacement parts. 

“Requiring manufacturers to provide a repair service does not mean that it will be affordable, and the proposed legislation doesn’t cover the cost of spare parts either,” the statement noted. “For customers to feel confident in repairing, it should be made accessible, affordable and mainstream.”

Cristina Ganapini, coordinator of the Right to Repair Europe coalition, said in the press release that the “proposed concrete obligations to repair are too narrow to bring on the repair revolution that we need.” 

“We call on the EU Parliament and Council to step up the ambition of this first right to repair proposal in the EU,” Ganapini said. 

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