‘Right to repair’: Questions & Answers

Today, the European Commission adopted a new proposal on common rules promoting the repair of goods, further advancing towards the objective of sustainable consumption under the European Green Deal.

Repairs reduce waste, and result in savings for consumers. Additionally, more demand will translate into a boost to the repair sector, while incentivising producers and sellers to develop more sustainable business models. 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.

Why is this proposal needed?

When goods become defective, they are often discarded prematurely instead of being repaired and reused. If they are still under legal guarantee, free replacement is often chosen over free repair and returned viable goods are mostly tossed. After the legal guarantee has expired, many consumers are discouraged from repair because it is difficult to identify a suitable repair service at an acceptable price, there is uncertainty about the conditions or inconveniences linked to the process.

When products become defective, these new measures will ensure that consumers can repair within the legal guarantee when equal in cost to replacement, and that they 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:

Within the guarantee: The Sale of Goods Directive provides that for a period of two years, 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.

Beyond the legal 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 5-10 years after purchase (depending on the type of product), unless this is 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.

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 (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 5-10 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 ecodesign reparability requirements are adopted.

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.

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 ecodesign requirements for 31 individual energy-related product groups of which 8 are currently covered by reparability requirements (such as TVs and electronic displays, washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators). The proposal for a Regulation on Ecodesign 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.

Once repairability requirements are developed for new product groups, the scope of the obligation to repair will progressively expand. 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 will be the impact?

Consumers: The proposal will make it 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. 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.

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 3 million tons over 15 years.

Economy: The proposal will bring considerable gains for the repair sector. Savings for sellers and producers are estimated at around EUR 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 EUR 4.8 billion in that timeframe. In addition, consumers in the EU will achieve considerable savings, amounting to EUR 176.5 billion in the next 15 years. The proposal will also bring a net increase in jobs, mainly in the repair sector in the EU.

How does this play out with the other initiatives on sustainability?

The proposal is closely linked to other 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 strenghten consumer protection against early obsolescence and grenwashing 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.