Visual: own canva design, picture of EU flags by Yaroslav Danylchenko, repair illustration by Leremy Gan
2022 repair progress in EU policy
2022 promised to be a big year for repair. Looking back, we can only observe that concrete progress is slow and keeps getting postponed, despite the ambition of theoretical political declarations. This being said, we do have a few achievements to celebrate!
EU institutions found an agreement on a Battery Regulation, which from 2026 or 2027 will require manufacturers of most consumer products to come up with designs allowing users to replace their battery themselves, and to move away from disposable, “single-battery” devices.
We’re also happy that ecodesign measures for smartphones and tablets were finalised. While far from perfect, they will for the first time require manufacturers to make a range of spare parts available for at least 7 years to consumers, and a larger range to independent repairers. Manufacturers will also have to commit to making available software and security updates for at least 5 years once a product is removed from the market.
Unfortunately, it will be years before both legislations come into effect. Equally worryingly, we witnessed plenty of delays in new legislation announced by the European Union, for example the upcoming consumer legislation aimed at promoting repair. Furthermore, despite some relative progress, none of the legislation in the pipeline tackles the cost of repair: requiring manufacturers to make spare parts available doesn’t mean that the parts will be affordable. In addition, software practices threatening product repairability and longevity keep thriving.
So let’s have a look at ongoing and upcoming 2023 legislative processes which bear potential for the right to repair!
Empowering consumers for the green transition
This proposal, unveiled in the Circular Economy Package on 30 March 2022, aims to tackle greenwashing by obliging manufacturers to provide consumers with more reliable information at the point of sale. Beyond this, the proposal also aims to target the problem of planned (or premature) obsolescence, a major hindrance to the durability of our goods.
As we highlighted in our feedback on the Commission’s proposal, we don’t only need information on these unfair practices, we need a general prohibition of early obsolescence and practices preventing repair. Now that the file is being discussed within different Committees of the EU Parliament, we keep repeating that this legislation must ban the marketing of products containing a feature (often a software feature) which foreseeably limits its lifetime. These practices have gone too far. Similarly, inducing consumers to replace consumables earlier than is technically necessary, or preventing consumers from using second-hand or non-original manufacturer consumables and spare parts, should be banned. Consumers should be provided with all information necessary to enable repair, for example the availability of spare parts necessary for the repair of the product.
The EU Parliament and Council will foreseeably finalise their positions during the first half of 2023 and then the negotiations between the three EU institutions will begin. Throughout the process we will keep advocating for a general ban on early obsolescence and anti-repair software practices.
Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR)
Design is essential in determining repairability. This is why the regulation for Ecodesign proposed by the EU Commission is crucial in establishing a new framework for setting ecodesign requirements to products. While the EU Commission is advancing very slowly via a “product by product” approach, we asked the Commission to set horizontal requirements across larger product groups such as ICT. This will speed up progress and prevent problematic product groups like small kitchen appliances and connected devices from slipping through the legislative cracks. It would also enable us to get cosmetic “voluntary agreements” out of the picture and actually make some progress on every-day-life products. Finally, we called for the need to improve the definition of independent repairers in the ESPR regulation as such actors cannot be treated as if they were placing new products on the EU market. Read our full feedback on ESPR.
Similarly as for the previously mentioned legislation, the EU Parliament and Council are now working on their positions. Negotiations between the three EU institutions can be expected for the end of 2023 / beginning of 2024.
Sustainable Consumption of goods, promoting repair and reuse – also sometimes referred to as “Right to repair initiative”
We first expected a proposal from the Commission on consumer legislation on repair in July 2022, then it was postponed to November 2022, and we are now expecting it for 22 March 2023.
Back in April 2022 we submitted open feedback on possible policy options to the EU Commission. We are pushing for the highest level of ambition possible, well beyond the much talked about measure foreseeing manufacturers to extend a product’s legal guarantee in scope and duration. Without a prioritisation of repair over replacement, this would simply lead to more replacement and needless e-waste. When necessary, sellers should be able to replace defective products with refurbished goods.
What we would actually like to see on 22 March is horizontal and far-reaching repair legislation. This must include banning a wide range of techniques limiting repair beyond the networks authorised by manufacturers, such as (eg.) use of adhesives and part pairing. Lack of access to repair manuals, or lack of availability of spare parts also need to be legislated against in a horizontal way – meaning, tackling all product categories for which specific ecodesign legislation doesn’t exist.
Overall, financial incentives are needed to ensure affordability of repair. We pointed to national policy examples like the repair bonuses in Austria and Germany or tax breaks on repair in Sweden as inspiration for EU level policies that will lead to actually preventing lots of waste. The newly launched repair fund in France also represents a good example of how this could work. The French repair fund makes repair more accessible via financial aid which is directly discounted from the consumer’s bill. It is financed through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fees paid by producers and managed by French eco-organisations (who receive these fees). Consumers will receive a significant reduction (minimum 20%) of their repair bill, which will apply to all out-of-warranty repairs for eligible products.
As the “Sustainable Consumption of goods, promoting repair and reuse” proposal was postponed several times and kept beyond a curtain of mystery it’s difficult to estimate whether it will be up to the task. Stay tuned as we will provide plenty of possibilities to take action!
Ecodesign for printers
Short-lived printers and their consumables are responsible for a tremendous amount of e-waste. After years of campaigning (and useless voluntary agreements) the EU Commission is finally starting to work on real regulation.
The first step (preceding the development of a legislative proposal by the EU Commission) is a study carried out by the Joint Research Committee. We will contribute to the ongoing call for evidence on the impacts of printers and their consumables. At a later stage we will provide input on repairability requirements to make sure that printers finally become repairable. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated on how to contribute to all these processes.
What we DON’T expect from 2023 and want to make happen
We don’t realistically expect any of the above-mentioned legislations to tackle the high price of repair, which is ultimately a big incentive for consumers to buy new devices. Furthermore, we think it is necessary to highlight to decision-makers the socio-economic potential of the repair sector in terms of employment for Europe. Hence, we are starting own campaigns on:
- The affordability of repair – we ask that legislators consider fiscal measures to make repair more affordable and universally accessible.
- The socio-economic potential of repair in terms of job creations – we are working on data collection and forecasting research.
- International repair day 2023 and Black Friday 2023
Find out more in our 2023 campaigns and policy priorities here.