The European Parliament showed resounding support for consumers’ right to repair during today’s pivotal vote on the „Common rules promoting the repair of goods“ [1]. The position of the Council of the EU’s unfortunately represents a step back and we are now calling on interinstitutional negotiators to keep the Parliament’s provisions in the final text.

In a near unanimous vote, policymakers voted yes to the report from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), which is a commendable improvement on the initial proposal by the European Commission. The approved text addresses exorbitant costs of repair through transparent pricing of spare parts, fosters an open repair ecosystem, and tackles unjust anti-repair practices from manufacturers.

Cheaper and easier repair

In a huge win for consumers’ right to repair, the Parliament approved a solid ban on contractual, hardware or software techniques obstructing repair. Lawmakers also approved obligations on fair pricing and accessibility of spare parts. However, this is applicable only to ten product categories [2]. 

Nevertheless, these factors are great enablers for self-repair and independent repair, which has so far struggled to be a viable option since producers control spare parts pricing and supply. If put in place, producers will be required to provide parts at non-discriminatory price for the entirety of a product’s expected lifespan. Moreover, they will have to make repair information and tools available for all stakeholders, including independent repairers, remanufacturers, refurbishers and end-users.

Repair before replace

For the first time, producers will also be obliged to offer repair as an option even outside of the warranty period. Besides, the new legal guarantee framework stipulates that sellers and manufacturers must prioritise repair as a remedy over replacement- although this won’t apply if sellers claim that repair would be more expensive than replacement.

Problematic products not included

While welcoming today’s vote as a significant forward stride, the Right to Repair and Coolproducts coalitions regret that the provisions enabling a more transparent and affordable access to spare parts and curtailing anti-repair practices only cover a limited number of products. The consumer protection still does not extend to more problematic and irreparable-by-design products such as many electronics and ICT products, toys, and small household appliances.

The Council of the EU waters down the EU Commission’s proposal for repair rules [3]

Unfortunately the Council text has generally weakened the Commission’s proposal. The Council’s text is clearly a huge step back from the EU Parliament version of the text as it does not tackle the key aspects of anti-repair practices (such as software pairing of spare parts) enacted by manufacturers nor the unfair price for parts.

The Council also deleted the priority given to repair over replacement under the legal guarantee framework, which was proposed by the EU Commission (albeit already with limitations) and endorsed by the EU Parliament. Crucial provisions enabling affordability of repair are covered by Parliament’s amendments (to Art5 and Art9) and we call on trilogue negotiators to keep the Parliament’s ambition in the final text.

The Council also further limited the scope of the products covered by the new repair rules by throwing out fridges for direct sales. They also delayed the timeline for implementation by member states of further 6 months. 
On a more positive note, the Council added to the manufacturers‘ obligation to repair (Art5) that they should perform repairs at a reasonable price. This was not mentioned in the original Commission’s proposal nor in the amendments introduced by the EU Parliament. 

As of 7 December, the three institutions will start to negotiate to agree on a final compromise text. We call on trilogue negotiators to keep the Parliament’s ambition in the final text and to finally deliver a real right to repair before the end of the current mandate and the next EU elections in spring 2024.

​​Thomas Opsomer, Repair Policy Engineer at iFixit, said:
„Today’s vote brings us a step closer to an open repair ecosystem. Manufacturers are no longer allowed to use parts pairing or other sneaky tricks to keep independent repairers and self-repairers alike from using the spare parts of their choice, be it second-hand parts, aftermarket parts or even 3D printed ones. This is an important milestone – making it all the more regrettable that key provisions in this supposedly all-encompassing legislation only cover a handful of products in the end.“

Cristina Ganapini, Coordinator of the Right to Repair Europe coalition, said: 

“We celebrate the EU Parliament for protecting EU consumers from unfair manufacturers’ techniques which limit repair for a wide range of products. These practices deliberately undermine the viability and/or affordability of repair without adding to users’ experience or security. We encourage co-legislators to keep up this level of ambition, going beyond existing ecodesign rules and empowering consumers to choose repair.”

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Policy Manager for Circular Economy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:
„It is high time that the EU took this step in the right direction to tackle manufacturers’ tactics to force consumers into a cycle of buying replacements for minor issues, perpetuating a systemic wastage of resources. However, restricting this to only a handful of products is a major missed opportunity to revolutionise sustainable products and expand consumer and repair rights in Europe.“

Notes to editors

[1] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20231117IPR12211/new-eu-rules-encouraging-consumers-to-repair-devices-over-replacing-them

[2] The ten categories consist of bicycles and nine other product groups currently covered by ecodesign requirements: smartphones and tablets, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, fridges, displays, welding equipment, vacuum cleaners and servers. 

[3] This blog post was edited to integrate a reaction to the position of the Council of the EU on repair rules, which became public on 22 November

Contact
Cristina Ganapini: info@repair.eu
Coordinator of Right to Repair Europe (Brussels-based)