Photo by Mark A Phillips

EU national experts are set to rubberstamp faulty ‘right to repair’ rules for smartphones and tablets in a meeting taking place on Thursday in Brussels. 

Right to Repair coalition will stage a protest in front of the building where experts meet.

On Thursday 17 November, national experts will meet in Brussels to rubberstamp new ecodesign rules for smartphones and tablets. 

Sadly, draft rules seen by campaigners are fraught with loopholes. In practice, as they stand today, new rules will not grant a real right to repair to citizens, Right to Repair campaigners denounce. 

The meeting of the ecodesign and energy labelling regulatory committee with regard to mobile phones and tablets will take place on 17 November at 09:00, at the Borschette Centre in Brussels. 

In protest against this fake right to repair, campaigners will gather in front of the building, at the time when experts are expected to arrive for the meeting. Campaigners will make comments for journalists.

In a letter sent last week to national experts [1], the Right to Repair coalition calls on the EU to grant citizens a real right to repair, including: 

  1. Information and fairness on spare part price
  2. Software shall not be used to limit repair
  3. Equal access to spare parts and repair information
  4. Enable all crucial conditions for repair for the same duration, seven years after a product is retired from the market

Cristina Ganapini, Right to Repair campaigner, said: 

“EU citizens have made clear time and time again that they support repairability of electronics. Keeping our devices longer means reducing emissions and using less resources. But how can the EU keep promising a right to repair without including the price of spare parts as a criteria in its proposed repair index to bring clarity at the point of purchase? Repair won’t become a reality until we unlock the conditions for its affordability.”

Mathieu Rama, Programme Manager, Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), said: 

“The bill as it is makes phones and tablets repairable… but only in theory. People will still find lots of barriers to repair. Spare parts and security updates will only be available for a period of five years. Rules are also worryingly unclear on how software could be used by manufacturers to avoid repairs by third parties. Today, phones last just about 2 years. For this environmental disaster to end, the EU will have to step up its game.”

Orla Butler, Associate Policy Officer for Circular Economy, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said: 

“Short lived smartphones place a heavy burden on our climate, demand for rare metals, and consumer’s wallets. In order to make a repair economy for our electronic devices a reality in Europe, policy makers must ensure repair is affordable, open and accessible for all actors including independent repairers, repair cafes and end users. Unfortunately the ecodesign measures tabled for phones and tablets fall short in this regard” 

Right to Repair Europe’s demands to tackle the main flaws in the draft ecodesign bill for smartphones and tablets: 

The repair index criteria don’t take into account the price of spare parts.  

The price of spare parts is a key factor in determining users’ choices of whether to repair or replace a smartphone. It is also one of the most important features of the French repairability score index. Omitting it from a European repair index, as it is the case in the current draft, makes it unfit for purpose. 

Manufacturers are allowed to block repair through software using part pairing 

Part pairing is used to control who can and can’t perform certain types of repairs. This is made possible by the serialisation of spare parts. Some parts have a unique serial number, which is paired by manufacturers to an individual unit of a device using software. If any of these parts need replacing during a repair, they might not be accepted, or lose some of their functionality. The current draft allows this practice to continue. 

The bill unjustifiably makes repair harder for end-users than for professionals  

Rules will oblige manufacturers to make a specific list of 15 types of spare parts available to professional repairers. The list is much shorter in the case of end-users and repair cafes who will have access to only 5 types of spare parts. For example, camera assemblies and external audio connectors will not be available to end-users. If manufacturers reach certain battery durability requirements, batteries won’t be accessible to consumers either. This distinction is purely discriminatory and based on unsubstantiated safety issues. Analysis of data from community repair initiatives shows that the range of repairs performed by end users at repair cafes is wide, requiring access to all the same spare parts used by professional repairers. 

Rules are inconsistent and will not grant a true 7-year-long right to repair 

Draft rules have inconsistent provisions. For example, the draft states that users and professionals should have access to repair and maintenance information for 7 years. But other requirements, such as spare parts, software and security updates are secured for a shorter time span.  This will lead to situations where end-users and professional repairers can get access to repair information, but not to the spare parts necessary for the repair operations to be conducted, or the security updates to keep the devices secure. 

Notes to editors: 

 [1] Letter sent last week to national experts


Cristina Ganapini, Right to Repair campaigner 
Ivo Cabral, press & communications manager at ECOS

Photo by Mark A Phillips