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How the EU's Right to Repair Proposal Will Change the Tech Sector

by Minoas Vitalis, EU Policy Analyst, FiscalNote EU Issue Tracker

Discover how the European Commission's groundbreaking proposal for a "right to repair" is changing the game for EU consumers. With 77% preferring repairs over replacements, this initiative aligns with the European Green Deal's climate goals. Learn how it aims to make repairs accessible and cost-effective, reducing waste and fostering sustainability.

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According to a recent Eurobaramoter survey, 77 per cent of EU consumers would rather repair their malfunctioning goods than purchase new replacements. In line with this sentiment, the European Commission's recent proposal for common rules that encourage the repair of goods represents a vital milestone in reaching the objectives of the European Green Deal — a sweeping initiative designed to transition Europe to climate neutrality by 2050.

At the heart of this new proposal is the concept of a consumer "right to repair." By this, the objective is to make repairs not just more accessible but also financially more appealing than the prevalent practice of free product replacements — an approach that leads to viable goods being discarded.

Currently, European legislation guarantees consumers a minimum two-year warranty on purchases. Unfortunately, once a product's warranty period expires and the item becomes defective, consumers often find themselves without viable options.

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Key Components of the Commission Right to Repair Proposal

Access to repair information and manuals

The Commission's proposal highlights pivotal measures aimed at fostering repair and reuse. It facilitates access to repair information and manuals through the launch of the European Repair Information Form and national online repair platforms.

The European Repair Information Form will standardise essential data such as repair service conditions and pricing. Requiring repairers to honor these conditions for 30 days will empower consumers to compare services and choose the best fit.

Online national repair platforms will connect consumers with local repair, refurbishing, and resale businesses. The platforms make it easier for consumers to compare service providers, thus strengthening the appeal of repair over purchasing new goods.

European quality standard for repair services

Additionally, a voluntary European quality standard would be developed to help identify reputable repair service providers. This standard, applicable across the EU, would assure consumers of prompt service, temporary replacement products, and quality guarantees, among other benefits.

Obligation to inform consumers and to repair goods that are under reparability requirements

Under the proposal, producers will be required to inform consumers about goods they are required to repair. Also, consumers will have a “right to repair,” as long as the repair isn't technically “impossible.”

The “right to repair” pertains only to goods under the EU's “reparability requirements” listed in Annex II of the Commission proposal. These include washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, servers, and data storage products, among others, with mobile phones, cordless phones, and tablets due to be added soon.

These obligations would ensure consumers access to repair services, encourage producers and repairers to adopt sustainable practices, and build healthy competition.

Amendment to Sale of Goods Directive

Lastly, the proposal calls for an amendment to the Sale of Goods Directive, mandating sellers to offer free repairs whenever the cost equals or is less than replacement. This amendment would also incorporate defects discovered post-warranty into the “right to repair.” It ensures that consumers are not disadvantaged by repair time, making it a feasible alternative to replacement.

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Potential Impact of Right to Repair Proposal in the EU

Benefits for Consumers

The Commission's Right to Repair proposal would enable EU consumers to repair faulty products even post-warranty, making repair an appealing option. Essential information such as projected repair cost, time frame, and availability of interim replacement products will be easily accessible. Consumers will also have the right to request product repairs from manufacturers beyond the warranty period. This behavioural shift toward repair over replacement will ultimately lead to considerable long-term savings for consumers.

Environmental Impact

Once in effect, the proposal is likely to reduce product waste, as fewer items will be discarded. The Commission anticipates a significant environmental impact with an estimated reduction of around 18.5 million tons in greenhouse gas emissions, as fewer products will need manufacturing and sales.

Current Legislative Status

The proposal is currently being debated within the European Parliament and the Council. The proposal is under consideration within the European Parliament and the Council. The leading Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee is set to vote on its draft report by the end of October. Post its approval in the plenary, it will serve as the Parliament’s negotiating standpoint for trilogue discussions, anticipated in November. The Council aims to adopt its General Approach in early December 2023, paving the way for trilogue negotiations between the two institutions thereafter.

Global Implications and International Adoption

For multinational firms outside the EU, active involvement in shaping this proposal is crucial. If they are required to adhere to the repair provisions, they must appoint a European Union-based operator to carry out these obligations. In the absence of an authorised representative or importer, the EU distributor would assume responsibility for the producer's repair obligations.

Businesses that also become involved in the repair sector will be able to save around EUR 15.6 billion for the next 15 years, as they would repair products instead of providing replacements for free. It's, therefore, vital for companies to diligently monitor the Right to Repair legislative proposal to ensure they are ready and strategically positioned when it is enacted.

In navigating the dynamic legislative landscape of the Right to Repair proposal, the power of real-time tracking and comprehensive analysis through FiscalNote EU Issue Tracker cannot be overstated. Providing insights on legislative developments such as this proposal is invaluable, ensuring you stay informed and have the necessary tools to strategize and respond effectively.

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