European Parliament votes to screw repair rights in consumer toolkits

Directive places requirements on gizmo vendors, but still needs formal approval

The European Parliament has adopted the right-to-repair directive with 584 votes in favor and three against, making repairing goods more accessible and cost-effective.

"The rules clarify the obligations for manufacturers to repair goods and encourage consumers to extend a product's lifecycle through repair," said the European Parliament. There were 14 abstentions in the vote.

The vote came after a lengthy period of negotiation – a provisional deal was reached in February – and this week's vote means the directive has been adopted. It must still be formally approved by the European Council and published in the EU's official journal. Member states then have 24 months to transpose it into national law.

The objective is to make getting items mended in the EU easier. Goods fixed under warranty will get a one-year extension of the legal guarantee and "cannot impede the use of second-hand or 3D-printed spare parts by independent repairers, nor can they refuse to repair a product solely for economic reasons or because it was previously repaired by someone else."

Tech companies like Apple have started adopting parts pairing in their products, where the company must approve components before use. In 2022, its self-service repair program was blasted by critics, concerned by the company's approach.

On April 11, Apple announced that it would "enhance" the existing repair process later this year to allow used Apple parts in repairs. Teardown specialist iFixit complained that Apple's concession "doesn't go far enough" and pointed out the changes only covered iPhones and "all repairs will still require you to phone home to the Apple mothership for permission."

The Register asked Apple to comment on the EU directive and will update this piece if it responds.

Thomas Opsomer, Repair Policy Engineer at iFixit, told The Reg: "This directive is a good start, but its scope is actually quite limited. An opportunity was missed for measures applying to all electric and electronic products.

"Given that the newly voted rules do not, nor will in the foreseeable future, apply to the vast majority of short-lived products flooding the EU market, it would be very optimistic to expect that they would even make a dent in the use of resources and the production of e-waste. We will keep pushing for horizontal measures enacting a true right to repair."

The directive also requires manufacturers to inform customers about their rights and repair products even after the guarantee has expired. Customers can borrow a device while theirs is being fixed or opt for a refurbished unit if theirs is irreparable.

Rapporteur René Repasi (SPD, Germany) said: "Consumers' right to repair products will now become a reality. It will be easier and cheaper to repair instead of purchase new, expensive items.

"This is a significant achievement for Parliament and its commitment to empower consumers in the fight against climate change. The new legislation extends legal guarantees by 12 months when opting for repair, gives better access to spare parts and ensures easier, cheaper and faster repair."

According to the United Nations, e-waste is growing nearly five times faster than it can be recycled. In its most recent report, the UN estimated the monetary cost of e-waste at $37 billion annually, with it forecast to reach $40 billion by 2030.

The UK government has laid out plans to mend people's gadgets rather than send them to a landfill, and a number of US states have passed Right to Repair legislation, including Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Maine and California. ®

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