The European Commission has approved limited right to repair regulations for some household appliances, including dishwashers, lighting, refrigerators, televisions, and washing machines, among others.
According to the new regulation, starting from April 2021, manufacturers will have to meet standards to make their products last longer, and to supply spare parts to professional repairers for a decade following a product’s purchase date. No special tools will be necessary to install the replacement parts, and it must also be possible to effect the repair without damaging the product.
The new regulations arise from the EU’s eco-design directive, which sets mandatory ecological requirements for energy-using and energy-related products sold in EU Member States.
According to EU estimates, the measures together with stricter energy labeling will amount to annual reduction of more than 46 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
Jyrki Katainen, European Commission vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Figures speak for themselves: these measures can save European households on average €150 per year and contribute to energy savings equal to annual energy consumption of Denmark by 2030.”
Although significant, this is a limited win, restoring some agency to consumers to repair rather than replace their appliances.
Consumer advocates say that the EU initiative does not go far enough, and should have required manufacturers to supply parts not only to professional repair services, but also to consumers who wish to undertake their own repairs.
On the other hand, manufacturers claim that liability concerns prevent them from making replacement parts widely available to any who want to purchase them. But restricting who can buy the parts potentially limits the development of wider, lower cost, independent repair services – particularly of the smaller, mom and pop variety.
The definition of “professional repair “has yet to be settled, and upon that definition much will turn as to how effective the regulations will be in promoting a robust, low-cost repair culture.
Stephane Arditi of the European Environment Bureau said: “When repair activities stay in the hands of a few firms, we’re missing an opportunity to make it more affordable and readily available.Small independent repairers can make a great contribution to the economy and our society. We need to help them do their job.”
According to the new regulation some existing machines might need to be designed differently to meet the standard and be sold in the EU. The directive requires that certain components can be easily removed with commonly available tools, and without damaging the product.
Notably, the European Commission’s household appliances action is limited first step. But there’s considerable scope for extending a right to repair, to include a broader range of products, within the EU.