This post was written by Sonja Leyvraz from EEB
Last Wednesday, the new Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition (ECGT) was finalised. The Right to Repair Europe coalition welcomes this step towards more clarity for consumers, as the law will restrict greenwashing practices and misleading green claims, including claims on reparability and durability of products. However, we regret that the new law only addresses consumer access to information, instead of banning barriers to repair and early obsolescence practices altogether. What exactly does the ECGT mean for repair, and what is missing?
- Traders must provide information on reparability – but only if it is made available to them. Amending the Consumer Rights Directive, ECGT requires those who sell directly to consumers to pass on information about reparability, provided that they have received this information from the producers. This means that traders have to provide consumers with a product’s reparability score if the product is required to have a reparability score under ecodesign. For products outside of the scope of ecodesign, traders have to present information about the availability, cost, and ordering procedure of essential spare parts, the availability and of repair and maintenance instructions, and about repair restrictions – but only if manufacturers volunteer this information.
- Traders may not provide misleading information on reparability. Amending the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, ECGT prohibits traders from presenting false or deceiving information on a product’s circularity aspects, such as its durability, reparability, recyclability. Furthermore, the new law specifically bans misleading information regarding software updates, and false information regarding the use of consumables, spare parts or accessories from other suppliers than the original manufacturer.
- No ban on early obsolescence. ECGT fails to ban early obsolescence: while the new law makes it illegal for traders to advertise products that have an early obsolescence feature, this is only the case if the feature was known to the trader – something that is very difficult to prove in practice.
While ECGT takes an important step towards ensuring that consumers will have access to existing information regarding reparability and durability, the new law does not set any new information requirements, nor does it actually require products to be more durable or reparable. To some extent, these limitations were to be expected: as a consumer law, ECGT targets mainly sellers, not producers, and therefore does not place any requirements regarding product design. However, the failure to clamp down on early obsolescence is a major missed opportunity in the new law, and we regret that the current wording will make it incredibly difficult to hold manufacturers and sellers accountable.
Therefore, we continue our call for the upcoming Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation delegated acts and new ecodesign requirements to establish reparability requirements for a wide range of products, and to finally ban anti-repair practices and early obsolescence.