February 26. 2024. 6:40

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EU Commission pitches legislation to boost repair services

The European Commission on Wednesday (22 March) presented the final piece in a series of proposals to reduce product waste.

The proposal for a directive on common rules promoting the repair of goods aims to support the European Green Deal targets by increasing incentives for consumers to repair their products instead of replacing them, especially after the legal guarantee of a product expires.

The proposal promises to boost demand and consequently competition for repairers and reward sustainable business models.

“The proposal aims to promote repair after sale when the products become defective, to achieve consumer savings, and to boost the repair sector. The bigger picture is to achieve less waste, and less viable goods are thrown away,” said a senior EU official.

Implications for consumers

The proposal targets obstacles such as high costs, lack of information, limited access to spare parts, and the absence of standardisation and interoperability. It also promises to simplify and render reparation services more cost-efficient.

According to the proposal, the ‘right to repair’ for consumers extends beyond the legal guarantee period of a minimum of 2 years under EU law. Thus, consumers can be offered repair unless a replacement is less expensive.

Producers will be obliged to inform consumers about their products and reparation services to ensure that consumers have easy access to information. In addition, a “European Repair Information Form” will allow consumers to retain any information from any repairer.

To easily identify a suitable repairer, an online matchmaking repair platform will be introduced to display different criteria for searching by for a repairer.

“Only 20% of defective devices are currently repaired in the EU, even though the willingness of EU citizens for repair is much higher than that,” emphasised the Right to Repair shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA Group, Anna Cavazzini.

EU to tackle ‘green claims’ with unified product lifecycle methodology

The European Commission is preparing to table a proposal on 30 March that will force companies to substantiate their environmental claims, using an EU-wide methodology that has been in the making for nearly ten years.

Implications for companies

The new obligation affects product manufacturers, not self-repair services.

“The match-making platform is a voluntary tool in which all repair sellers and independent repairers can be given access to from different member states,” the senior EU official added.

The new legislation is set to impact Apple in particular, as consumer groups have often criticised the iPhone maker for running a closed system that limits access to alternative repair services.

In response to this criticism, Apple launched the Independent Repair Provider programme addressed to companies offering out-of-warranty repair services for its products.

Moreover, the Cupertino-based company supplemented its repair services three months ago by launching “Self Service Repair” in Europe, allowing citizens of eight European countries to complete their own repairs.

However, the Right to Repair Europe Campaign said that Apple’s self-repair programme covers only a narrow scope, is geographically limited, provides difficult manuals, and doesn’t offer the consumer lower prices.

“One of the biggest issues with the programme is the long-standing manufacturer technique of part pairing and serialisation, hindering repair. Also, after performing the repair, the new part must be paired or authorized by Apple via a system configuration. This represents a major shortcoming, and leaves no room to opt-out,” said the Right to Repair Europe campaigner Cristina Ganapini.

MEPs try to gain first-mover advantage on right to repair

EU lawmakers want to stay ahead of the game on the right to repair, preparing a motion to lobby on the European Commission’s upcoming proposal and overall legislative framework.

The European Commission committed to putting forth a legislative proposal on …

What’s next

The initiative for the right to repair was previously pushed for by shadow rapporteur Cavazzini, who is also the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee Chair.

Cavazzini dubbed the proposal nothing short of a ‘game changer’, as it raises awareness of repairs and helps consumers to access repair services more efficiently.

“An element that is missing from my preliminary assessment is the idea of a repair index. As with food, it would be good to include a product label to directly identify what is easy or difficult to repair when making a purchase decision,” the German MEP said.

Cavazzini and consumer groups are also pushing to extend the legal guarantee to the durability of the product, a measure not included in the proposal.

“Providing a repair index is beyond the scope of the directive. The proposal does not focus on the sale, but on the after-sale. Moreover, the legal guarantee has a minimal impact on consumption. The biggest amount of non-conformity defects occur in the first two years,” responded EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.