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Appareils électroniques: Right to repair gets European Commission backing

What about my iPhone?

The European Commission has introduced ambitious reforms to back the "right to repair" by forcing electronics manufacturers to improve the design, durability and recycling and reuse possibilities of devices they sell.

The Commission is pushing back against disposable electronics and punts the idea of a circular economy in order to hit climate targets.

The brave new world means reducing waste as well as a massive increase in reuse of materials and end to single use products.

Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, said: "Today, our economy is still mostly linear, with only 12 per cent of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy. Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. There is a huge potential to be exploited both for businesses and consumers. With today's plan we launch action to transform the way products are made and empower consumers to make sustainable choices for their own benefit and that of the environment."

The Circular Economy Action Plan promises to make sustainable products the norm in the EU. That means designing gadgets which last longer, are easier to reuse, repair and recycle. Single-use products will face restrictions. The move will likely face serious resistance from the likes of Apple which like to keep a stranglehold on any independent repairs of their phones.

The principles of Ecodesign, currently only covering energy products, will be extended to include mobile phones, laptops and tablets. The Commission is considering an EU-wide mobile phone, tablet and charger return or buy-back scheme.

The plan also promises to provide consumers with reliable information on repairability and durability of products they buy as well as a broad right to repair.

Throwaway culture

It's not just about electronics – packaging, food and construction all get a mention too – but the impact on consumer devices like mobile phones and tablets could be substantial. Electronics will get their own initiative to extend lifetimes and improve waste collection and treatment. Batteries are also in the firing line – a new regulatory framework for the collection and recycling of all batteries is proposed and revision of end-of-life rules for vehicles to improve recycling efficiency.

The right to repair movement has picked up momentum in the US from farmers, traditionally kings of the bodge, who face severe restrictions on fixing their hugely expensive tractors and harvesters. It reflects similar arguments over car repairs and manufacturers to restrict the ability of independent garages, or individual spanner-wielders, to fix their cars.

While the UK, once actual Brexit happens, won't be covered by the rules it is unlikely that most large manufacturers will want to make separate UK-only Farrage-phones or tablets.

The Commission said it believes the move will add 0.5 per cent to EU GDP by 2030 and create 700,000 jobs. ®

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