Personal Tech

Europe's right-to-repair law asks hardware makers for fixes for up to 10 years

Smartphones and tablets would also be added to the EU's list of devices that must be repairable under new rule

The European Commission has adopted a new set of right to repair rules that, among other things, will add electronic devices like smartphones and tablets to a list of goods that must be built with repairability in mind.

The new rules [PDF] will need to be need to be negotiated between the European Parliament and member states before they can be turned into law. If they are, a lot more than just repairability requirements will change.

One provision will require companies selling consumer goods in the EU to offer repairs (as opposed to just replacing a damaged device) free of charge within a legal guarantee period unless it would be cheaper to replace a damaged item.

Beyond that, the directive also adds a set of rights for device repairability outside of legal guarantee periods that the EC said will help make repair a better option than simply tossing a damaged product away.

Under the new post-guarantee period rule, companies that produce goods the EU defines as subject to repairability requirements (eg, appliances, commercial computer hardware, and soon cellphones and tablets) are obliged to repair such items for five to 10 years after purchase if a customer demands so, and the repair is possible.

OEMs will also need to inform consumers about which products they are liable to repair, and consumers will be able to request a new Repair Information Form from anyone doing a repair that makes pricing and fees more transparent. 

The post-guarantee period repair rule also establishes the creation of an online "repair matchmaking platform" for EU consumers, and calls for the creation of a European repair standard that will "help consumers identify repairers who commit to a higher quality." 

"Repair is key to ending the model of 'take, make, break, and throw away' that is so harmful to our planet, our health and our economy," said Frans Timmermans, EVP for the European Green Deal, which aims to make the whole of EU carbon neutral by 2050.

On that note, the EC proposed a set of anti-greenwashing laws alongside passing its right to repair rule yesterday that would make it illegal to make any green claims about a product without evidence.

Citing the fact that 94 percent of Europeans believe protecting the environment is important, the EC said its proposal covers any explicit, voluntarily-made claims "which relate to the environmental impact, aspect, or performance of a product or the trader itself." Any such claims, like a laptop being made from recycled plastic, would need to be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence, the EC said

New rules don't do enough, say right to repair advocates

The Right to Repair coalition said in a statement that, while it welcomes the step forward taken by the EU's new repairability rules, "the opportunity to make the right to repair universal is missed." 

While the EC's rules focus on cutting down on waste by making products more easily repairable, they don't do anything to address repair affordability or anti-repair practices, R2R said. Spare parts and repair charges, the group argues, could still be exorbitantly priced and inaccessible to the average consumer. 

"We need a truly universal right to repair including independent providers and granting universal access to affordable spare parts, repair manuals and diagnostic tools," R2R Europe coordinator Cristina Ganapini said. 

Ganapini said that truly universal right to repair laws would include assurances that independent providers were available to conduct repairs, and that components, manuals and diagnostic tools would be affordably priced. She also said that, even with the addition of smartphones and tablets to repairability requirements, the products it applies to is still too narrow. 

"We call on the EU Parliament and Council to step up the ambition of this first right to repair proposal in the EU," Ganapini said. ®

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