While the final decrees have not been published yet, France is set to show Europe that it is possible to have a repairability score for products. We hope this is just the beginning, and that more countries will follow Frances’s example, despite manufacturers’ attempts to undermine such initiatives.
Our French member HOP explains the origin of the proposal, what concrete changes consumers will see as of January 2021 and the current limitations of this new tool.
A grade out of 10 to promote repairable products
The repairability index should “inform the consumer about the possibility to repair a product”. This is a first globally: while the EU is thinking about implementing a similar tool, France is the first country to do so.
Concretely, a grade out of 10 will be added to the labels of washing machines, laptops, smartphones, TVs and lawn mowers. This score will be calculated based on criteria such as: ease of disassembly, price and availability of spare parts and access to repair information.
There’s more than one goal to the index. Firstly, it aims to bring useful information to consumers who are looking more than ever for durable and repairable products. A 2018 study found that consumers are twice as likely to choose a product labeled as “more repairable”.
Secondly, the objective is to create competition between manufacturers to design more repairable products in order to obtain the best grade. Finally, the index should help extend the lifespan of products in the interest of the environment but also of consumers’ wallets.
A first step towards more sustainable consumption
This new tool is a first step on a road to more possibilities. The index aims to be extended to more categories of products after 2021. HOP is notably advocating for an index on printers, which have a notoriously short lifespan, as well as other hard or impossible to repair products such as vacuum cleaners, coffee makers and toasters for instance.
The goal for HOP being that such an index would eventually exist for as many products as possible (including bikes and furniture).
The index is also aimed to be transformed into a durability index in 2024 to inform consumers not only on the repairability of a product but also on its reliability and robustness. This is something HOP obtained: before repairing, it’s essential to differentiate the more durable products that will last longer. 92% of Europeans are in favour of such index.
An index with some limitations
The index isn’t perfect. Its first limitation is how easy it is to obtain a good grade. This is for instance the case for smartphones and laptops: by indicating simply the nature of software updates (corrective, upgradable or mixed), manufacturers can gain 1 point out of 10. This is a free point as this information does not limit software obsolescence whatsoever.
By being too generous, the index risks not differentiating enough between more and less repairable products, reducing its usefulness for consumers. This is why HOP is asking that it should be regularly reviewed to increase its ambition.
The second limit is the way the index is implemented: as scores are self-declared by manufacturers, they should be sufficiently verifiable. Anyone should know how a score was calculated by the manufacturer. While this transparency is an objective of the index, it isn’t clear enough for the public: for instance people should for be able to know easily for how many years spare parts will be available for a specific product. But this might not be the case as it is not yet clear how easily the public will be able to access information on how a product scores on individual repairability criteria.
Finally, HOP calls everyone to participate by providing their feedback on the index on its collaborative platform Produits Durables by flagging fake information and misleading claims that will only be sanctioned as of 2022.