2 May 2023

European Commission on Right to Repair directive

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European Commission on Right to Repair directive

Following the European Commission’s recent proposal for common rules promoting the repair of goods, the organisation has released further information detailing everything consumers and retailers need to know about the proposed directive.

The Commission says that the proposal will make it easier and more cost-effective for consumers to pursue repair as opposed to replacement, both within and beyond the legal guarantee. In addition, more demand will translate into a boost to the repair sector and the creation of new jobs, while incentivising producers and sellers to develop more sustainable business models, and products, using eco-friendly designs which are designed to be repaired.

Why is a common set of rules needed?

When products become defective, the new measures will ensure that consumers can repair within the legal guarantee when equal in cost to replacement, the European Commission said. They also have easier and cheaper options to repair outside the legal guarantee.

The ‘right to repair’ initiative will promote sustainable consumption throughout a product’s lifecycle, making it easier and cheaper for consumers to repair defective goods, reducing waste and boosting the repair sector.

How will this play out with legal guarantees?

The proposal will promote repair both within and beyond the legal guarantee, according to the European Commission.

Within the guarantee: The Sale of Goods Directive covers a period of two years, when a consumer can request the seller to repair or replace a good free of charge in case of defects that are due to non-conformity of the goods with a sales contract.

Under the new rules, when repair is cheaper or equal in cost, sellers will have to provide free repair as a remedy instead, within a reasonable time and without any inconvenience for the consumer, according to the European Commission.

Beyond the guarantee: Producers of goods subject to repairability requirements under Union legal acts, such as TVs or dishwashers, will be obliged to repair a product for five to 10 years after purchase. This depends on the type of product and applies unless impossible – for example, if products are damaged in a manner in which repair is technically impossible.

The new rules will help consumers find suitable repair services, for example, through national matchmaking online repair platforms where consumers can easily find a repairer based on different search criteria, such as location.

Consumers will also have a right to request the repairer to provide the European Repair Information Form on the price and key conditions of repair. This form will help consumers easily compare different repair services based on key aspects, such as price, duration of repair or availability of a replacement product during repair. These conditions must remain unchanged for 30 days, the European Commission states.

A European repair standard will also be developed to help identify repairers committing to a higher quality service, such as in regards to duration.

Which products are covered?

The proposal covers consumer goods, which means any tangible movable item, and concerns any defect that may occur in such goods, whether or not still under legal guarantee. The producer has an obligation to repair goods for five to 10 years after they were bought, depending on the type of product, for which reparability requirements are provided in Union legal acts. Goods for which reparability requirements currently exist include household washing machines and household washer-dryers, household dishwashers, refrigerating appliances, electronic displays, welding equipment, vacuum cleaners, and servers and data storage.

Mobile phones, cordless phones and tablets will soon be included in this list, when the respective eco-design reparability requirements are adopted.

According to the European Commission, there are different kinds of reparability requirements in place under Union legal acts. They can relate for example to improving the ease of disassembly, access to spare parts or repair-related information.

Ecodesign Directive

The Ecodesign Directive sets the framework for product reparability, in particular as regards product design requirements and availability of spare parts. It has led so far to the adoption of eco-design requirements for 31 individual energy-related product groups of which eight are currently covered by reparability requirements. Examples include TVs and electronic displays, washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators.

The proposal for a Regulation on eco-design for Sustainable Products will replace the Ecodesign Directive and progressively expand the coverage of product groups including reparability requirements in the future. New repairability requirements will come into play for tablets and smartphones for example, the European Commission said.

Once repairability requirements are developed for new product groups, the scope of the obligation to repair will progressively expand, the directive states. The proposal therefore ensures full consistency with the ecodesign legal framework and is also future-proof in view of potential reparability requirements that may develop in other areas of Union law.

What is the impact?

Consumers: Under the legislation, it will be easier for consumers to have their defective goods repaired, even when they are not covered by the legal guarantee, as the environmentally sustainable consumption choice.

It will make repair easier and more attractive by increasing transparency on availability and conditions of repair, facilitating comparisons of repair services and by creating a right to request producers to repair certain goods beyond the legal guarantee for a fee, irrespective of the nature of the defect.

In addition, by repairing more goods and using them longer, consumers in the EU will not only contribute to sustainable consumption, but will also achieve considerable savings, the European Commission said.

Environment: Fewer discarded products means less waste, fewer materials needed to produce new goods and less greenhouse gas emissions in the production and sales process. The initiative is therefore estimated to trigger savings of greenhouse gas emissions of 18.5 million tons, and savings of resources of 1.8 million tons and of waste of three million tons over 15 years.

Economy: The proposal will bring considerable gains for the repair sector, the European Commission believes. Savings for sellers and producers are estimated at around €15.6 billion in the next 15 years, as they repair products instead of replacing them for free under the legal guarantee. Growth and investment also will increase by €4.8bn in that timeframe. In addition, consumers in the EU will achieve considerable savings, amounting to €176.5bn in the next 15 years.

It is also hoped that the directive will bring a net increase in jobs, mainly in the repair sector in the EU.

How does this play out with other initiatives on sustainability?

The proposal is closely linked to other European Commission initiatives pursuing the European Green Deal objective of sustainable consumption. Together, they will make the ‘right to repair’ effective for consumers. In order to make goods technically repairable, the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products sets out requirements for producers to make goods repairable by design.

In addition, the proposal for a Directive on Empowering consumers for the green transition will help consumers to obtain more information on durability and repairability of products at the point of sale. Moreover, it will strengthen consumer protection against early obsolescence and greenwashing practices.

This proposal complements the related initiatives by encouraging consumers to repair products after they bought a product and a defect occurs. In addition, the proposal for a Green Claims Directive will also encourage sustainable consumption by setting specific requirements on the substantiation, verification and communication of environmental claims, and complements the earlier adopted proposal on Empowering Consumers for the green transition.

For more news about the ‘Right to Repair’, click here.

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