Consumers must be able to choose longer lasting, repairable products
Defining obsolescence as unfair commercial practice
A legislative proposal on a right to repair is a key EU initiative for 2022
The “right to repair” must encompass designing products that last longer and can be fixed, as well as labelling to better inform consumers and extending guarantee rights.
In a resolution approved on Wednesday with 41 votes in favour, none against and 4 abstentions, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee stresses that an effective right to repair should address aspects of a product’s lifecycle and take into account product design, as well as the key ethical principles of production, standardisation, information labelling on reparability and on the expected lifespan of a product, consumer guarantees and public procurement.
Tabling the resolution on behalf of the committee, Chair Anna Cavazzini (Greens/EFA, DE) said: “Repairing broken or damaged products means saving money, saving energy and resources, which is more essential than ever for the creation of a resilient single market. To repair their own products enables consumers to quit the throwaway society and to take an active role in shifting to a circular economy. The EU must deliver on the right to repair. Today, the Internal Market Committee clearly defines its expectations for the Commission’s upcoming initiative”.
Ensuring greater access to repair services
MEPs say in the text that a proper “right to repair” should give the repair industry, including independent repairers, and consumers access to repair and maintenance information free of charge.
Concerning digital devices, MEPs argue that “software updates have to be made available for a minimum period of time”, and demand consumers are fully informed at the time of purchase on the availability of updates. These should not lead to a diminished performance of, for example, smartphones.
Practices which unduly constrain the right to repair or lead to obsolescence could be considered as “unfair commercial practices” and blacklisted in EU law.
Incentives for consumers to choose repair over replacement
Measures to motivate consumers to choose repair over replacement are also needed, according to MEPs. These may include the obligation to provide for a replacement good for the duration of a repair for certain products, extending guarantees and granting bonuses for consumers who choose to repair.
Other proposals include:
- requirements to design products to be longer-lasting and safely repaired, and their parts easily removed;
- harmonised rules for consumer information at the point of sale, including “repair scores”, estimated lifespan, spare parts, repair services, as well as the availability of software updates;
- a possible joint manufacturer-seller liability mechanism;
- the introduction of durability and repair requirements in a future Ecodesign Directive.
The draft resolution is due to be voted on by MEPs in April’s plenary session. Parliament has stressed in several instances the importance of the right to repair for consumers as a key pillar of the Circular Economy agenda in the framework of the EU Green Deal. The Commission announced that it would table a proposal amending the Sale of Goods Directive and that is considering to present a separate legislative proposal on the right to repair during the third quarter of 2022.
According to a Eurobarometer survey, 79% of EU citizens think that manufacturers should be required to make it easier to repair digital devices or replace their individual parts, and 77% would rather repair their devices than replace them.