The French repair index came into force on the 1st of January 2021. A world first, it applies to 5 categories of product: smartphones, laptops, washing machines, TVs and lawn mowers.

The index, which is part of the anti-waste bill, had two goals: to inform consumers at the point of purchase on the repairability of a product and to push manufacturers to sell more repairable products in order to improve their score. While this index is a key milestone for the Right to Repair in Europe, it didn’t come without limitations – from self-declared scores to a lack of transparency. 

This is why French campaign member HOP decided to analyse the outcomes of the index, how it affects repairers and how consumers feel about it. The results were shared in a report that can be accessed here. 

Below is a summary of the findings:

An index well perceived by consumers but unevenly displayed on products

The majority of consumers polled by HOP (55%) knew about the repair index which is noteworthy considering its recent implementation, and three quarters of those who saw the index while buying a new product said they took it into consideration.

This highlights the influence of the index on consumers choice. But in order to be truly effective, some improvements are needed. 

Someone looking for a new smartphone for instance is way more likely to find repair grades than someone buying a laptop as they’re more covered by the index. In order to tackle this, a stricter control of the dissemination and the display of the scores on all product categories is needed. In adddition, a lack of “differentiation” between models within a product category makes it less easy for consumers to choose.

Among all product categories, models with a low grade (between 2 and 3.9/10) and very low (below 1.9) remain marginal. This doesn’t necessarily mean most products are repairable but more that the current calculation method does not manage to differentiate enough between products and give very low grades to the ones that are non repairable.  

The ambition of the index also varies between categories. Because washing machines and lawn mowers already tend to have high grades, manufacturers do not feel they need to make additional efforts.

Increased transparency and stricter controls are needed

For consumers to be able to fully embrace this tool, HOP recommends: 

  • to make the access to the detailed calculation grid mandatory (and not just the summary)
  • to make justification of the grades mandatory for manufacturers by making available all the commitments and actions behind each of the points 
  • to create a website gathering all the scores

These measures would not only enable a better understanding of the index from consumers but would also support increased control by French authorities.

Indeed, when HOP performed independent scoring on 6 products (3 smartphones, 2 laptops and a TV) from different brands, it found that apart from one product, all the grades they came up with were lower than the grades declared by manufacturers. For three products analysed, the grades obtained were 15% lower than the grades declared. One of the main criteria often over-evaluated is the availability of spare parts necessary to repair. 

Making the grading system more ambitious

Overall, most displayed grades are quite good (between 6 and 8/10). In order to reflect the true repairability of products, HOP recommends a revision of the scoring system by questioning the weighting of the various criteria. Indeed, while a very low score on a criterion such as disassembly, availability or cost of spare parts means repair is almost impossible, the current grading system allows a product to still get a decent grade, despite performing poorly on the criteria above. This is made possible by the system allowing manufacturers to “compensate” for their poor grades on certain criteria by doing much better on others.

Yet if a product can not be disassembled, what’s the point of having available spare parts? Vice versa, can a product get a decent grade when the manufacturer doesn’t make spare parts available to consumers or independent repairers? 

Additionally, to better differientiate between products, HOP suggests to make some criteria and sub criteria more ambitious such as:

  • Evaluate ease of access to repair information (in addition to availability)
  • Base the price criteria on the most expensive part
  • Evaluate part pairing and serialisation

These insights on the French repair index are incredibly useful at a time when the EU is looking into developing and implementing a European wide repair index. Yet, the current draft we’ve been able to see falls short on many of the issues outlined here, such as the weight of certain criteria vs others and the absence of a price criteria which would drastically reduce the usefulness of the index to consumers. 

This is why we need your help to put pressure on the EU. Join us to make the Right to Repair a reality in Europe.

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