This blogpost is written by our member Runder Tisch Reparatur in the context of their advocacy work in Germany.
Since December 2021, Germany has a new government: the so-called “traffic light” coalition involving the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Liberals. In their coalition agreement, aka the basis of their government work, the parties announced their intention to implement the right to repair in Germany.
This step is truly overdue and the repair movement in Germany welcomes this commitment. But in order to clarify what measures are needed to make repairing easier and more mainstream, the Runder Tisch Reparatur, together with 24 other organizations, published yesterday a position paper outlining their demands to the new government.
Indeed, official announcements so far include improving the repairability of products, creating access to spare parts and repair instructions and setting mandatory software update periods. These are important measures for extending the lifespan of our products and thus conserving resources, contributing to climate protection, reducing the burden on consumers and supporting the repair sector.
More is needed
However, the measures can only be truly effective if conditions are created for fair and non-discriminatory access to the repair market. A right to repair is the right of the owner of a device to repair it themself or have it repaired by a professional of their choice. This right can only become applicable if the conditions necessary for repair are met, in particular if manufacturers or distributors must provide spare parts and repair information.
Repairing must become easier for citizens and more profitable for independent repairers. The repair sector, which has been shrinking for many years, must be made fit for the future. This requires measures at both European and German level. Specifically, the authors of the paper call for the German government to:
- Advocate for EU-wide repair requirements across all product groups that include access to spare parts, diagnostic tools and information for all market participants, as well as repair-friendly product design.
- Advocate for repairers to have access to spare parts that are reasonably and justifiably priced in relation to their manufacturing costs.
- Advocate for software updates to be made available for ten years and users to be given more rights with regard to software choice and continued use.
- Advocate for consumers and their contracted repairers to be able to decide on the replacement of a part without having to use an unlocking software – i.e. without having to obtain the manufacturer’s approval.
- Support the development of an EU-wide repair index that includes spare parts prices as an assessment criterion.
- Enforce stronger control of digital platforms and compliance with European competition rules, and advocates that online providers and platforms be just as strictly controlled by market surveillance as stationary retailers.
- Reduce repair costs by introducing a reduced VAT rate for repair services and a Germany-wide repair bonus that specifically benefits the local repair sector.
- Ensure that a revision of warranty claims actually leads to an extension of the service life of products and does not jeopardize the repair sector in the process.
- Ensure that market surveillance authorities are well resourced and staffed and that exchange between EU market surveillance authorities improve.
- Promote activities that enable people to gather repair experience and examine how the entry barriers of service providers and start-ups to the repair sector can be lowered in order to address the problem of finding new young talent in the repairing sector.
- Ensure that financial support is provided for the extraction of used spare parts in preparation for reuse.
- Explore a framework for the promotion and use of 3D printing for repair.
- Facilitate access to repairable and usable goods that have become waste and specifically promote new business models based on the refurbishment, reuse and upgrading of used products.