European countries have taken another step towards the introduction of a universal “right to repair” consumer e-goods, which aims to reduce e-waste and encourage manufacturers to make durability and serviceability a key part of product design.
The new rules, introduced on March 1, mean that all new washing machines, hair dryers, refrigerators and displays, including TVs sold in EU countries, must be repaired within 10 years.
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The next step of the proposed right to repair by law – which was voted in favor of the European Parliament last November – aimed at expanding similar requirements to cover smartphones, laptops and other consumer electronics – which now make up a significant proportion of Europe’s e-waste.
France in this regard is one step ahead of the bloc. This year, the country is introducing a legal requirement for manufacturers to include “repairability indicators” for electronic goods that show how easily a device can be repaired.
Apple introduced these scores to their online stores in France on Monday. Manufacturers must introduce these varieties into their products by the end of 2021 before they risk being subject to legal sanctions.
Like French law, the European Parliament wants to introduce a mandatory assessment for the repair of consumer electronics sold in the EU.
Anna Cavazini, MEP and chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, told TechRepublic: “The French law introducing repair appraisals is a good example of the first step towards longer product life in the internal market. By showing the suitability of a product for repair, consumers get the information they need to choose a product that they can repair and use longer. ”
A key part of European repair law is to push companies to compete on the sustainability of their products.
The announcement of new ecodesign standards for home appliances in 2019 was seen as a milestone for the movement as well as for Europe’s goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.
Dorothea Kessler, iFixit’s communications communications repair manager, said expanding the right to repair legislation to focus on mobile devices was a “logical next step” given that smartphone makers are huge participants in e-waste.
“I hope that Europe’s pioneering steps will affect our global way of working with electronics in the long run,” Kessler told TechRepublic.
“We hope this will speed up the transition to more robust – and repair – product design … It is important, both in terms of environmental protection and consumer protection, to be able to repair and store devices as long as possible, and iFixit will continue to defend it. ”
But extending the right to repair to all consumer devices is expected to be a slow process. The adoption of such a broad legislature across Europe faces a number of bureaucratic hurdles and is likely to face a backlash from manufacturers.
There are also serious concerns about new rules introduced in Europe this week. As well as obvious restrictions on the range of devices covered by the law, limited access to spare parts and repair manuals create barriers to making device repairs quick, easy and accessible to consumers.
“While these new rules are an important step as the first in the history of rules for the repair of electronic and electrical devices, they do not mean that we still have the right to repair in Europe,” said Chloe Nicholas, member of Right to Repair Europe and a member of the advocacy group Repair.eu.
Nikolaychak explained that although the requirements introduced this week for European countries “look good on paper”, they left open several “gaps” that limited the number of electricity consumers to take over the repairs.
For example, new legislation requires parts for broken devices to be delivered within 15 business days – for example, too long to live with a faulty refrigerator – while the regulations do not include any special requirements for software support manufacturers at all times. services. product.
Nikolaychak said the rules should be much more ambitious. “Otherwise, it’s just a weakened version of the right to repair, which ultimately preserves the monopoly of manufacturers and doesn’t really give consumers and independent repairmen the right to do much with products,” she told TechRepublic. .
The European Commission is expected to present legislation on sustainable products in the second half of 2021, including the right to repair. Based on this deadline, it may be several years before a common policy is introduced in Europe.
Nikolaychak believes that the results of repairs, similar to France, can be introduced for the rest of the unit in early 2023. However, she notes that the ultimate goal of the right to repair is much more transformative.
“We hope that if they have strong and ambitious EU rights to repair, it will mean that manufacturers will have to change the entire product line to fit the EU market,” she said.
“We very much hope that if the EU takes the lead in this, it will force manufacturers to really improve the maintainability of their products at the design stage. And that would be so, so important, because the impact will be global. ”
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