The necessity for “repair is closely related to product durability and obsolescence”. If a product part malfunctions or the entire product reaches the end of its lifetime more quickly, this generates more waste and comes with a cost to consumers. The right to repair typically entails “repair during the legal guarantee, the right to repair after the legal guarantee has expired, and the right for consumers to repair products themselves”.
🌱 How much e-waste is produced in the EU?
Consumers and businesses in Europe frequently discard electronic goods that could be repaired, or from which usable parts could be recovered and reused. According to the EU, annually 35 million tonnes of waste are generated through the premature disposal of viable products within the EU. This is estimated to cost EU consumers buying replacements a total of EUR 12 billion annually.
🌱 What do the new EU rules set out?
On 22 March 2023, the European Commission proposed new rules under which manufacturers would have to “repair goods still under [the two-year legal] guarantee” for free, “if that costs the same or less than a replacement”. Moreover, manufacturers would have to offer consumer repairs for products that fall within the EU's "repairability requirements" for 5 to 10 years after sale. These repairs must be offered regardless of the validity of the product’s guarantee, and they may be offered to consumers for free or for a charge. (Smartphones and tablets are to be added to this category soon.)
🌱 How are repairs incentivized in France?
Through an incentive that began on 15 December 2022, the French government is offering consumers a “repair bonus” to have their electronics that are no longer under guarantee fixed. Under the “loi AGEC” (“la loi Anti-gaspillage pour une économie circulaire” or the “anti-waste law for a circular economy”), consumers can request EUR 10-45 for a repair, depending on the appliance. The law aims to annually increase electronics repairs in France by 20% and to strengthen the country’s circular economy. Until 2027, the initiative has a budget of EUR 410 million.
🌱 How else can repairs be made easier for consumers?
Modular devices and repair cafés can help consumers repair their electronics themselves. Modular devices are designed to be easily subdivided into smaller parts, so that broken or outdated parts can be replaced. Smartphones created using the Phonebloks concept or manufactured by Fairphone and SHIFT are excellent examples of this. Recently, Nokia also launched its G22 smartphone, which allows for easy repair of the battery, screen, charging port, and back cover. Repair cafés help consumers learn and use technical skills to repair their broken electronics. At the repair cafés, consumers are assisted by mechanics, engineers, or others with technical skills. The goal is to help consumers save money and to reduce the amount of electronics that end up on the landfill.
🌱 What repair rights do consumers in the EU currently have?
Currently, “consumers [have] a right to have faulty products repaired during the legal guarantee” under EU contract law. The EU’s “new generation of ecodesign rules require the availability of spare parts for a certain time, at least for some products”. Moreover, a few additional “[r]epair-related requirements” are entailed within the EU Ecolabel rules. Additionally, there are currently plans to introduce several other “policies designed to nudge companies towards making more sustainable products and [to] give consumers clearer information on their environmental impact”.