On 22 March 2023, the European Commission adopted a new proposal for a Directive on common rules to promote the repair of goods purchased by consumers, instead of replacing them.
Currently, consumers have a two-year guarantee period during which, if a product becomes defective, they can request free repairs. In fact, very often the producer replaces the defective item with a new one because he is not inclined to allocate his resources to the repair of a product, which can be time consuming. With today’s proposal, the European Commission aims to prioritize repair as a remedy for non-conformity of goods when repair is cheaper or equal in cost to replacement.
The initiative on the "right to repair" complements several other proposals put forward by the European Commission which aim to achieve sustainable consumption throughout the life cycle of a product, by establishing the framework for a genuine "right to repair" throughout the EU.
This proposal is part of the European Commission's broader framework of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, which can only happen – according to the Commission – if consumers consume, and businesses produce, in a more sustainable way.
The right to repair proposed by the European Commission essentially means that it will become easier and more cost-effective for a consumer to have a technically repairable product repaired by a repair center, or to repair it himself, even after the legal guarantee period of 2 years. Therefore, the aim of the Directive is to increase the repair and reuse of viable defective products purchased by consumers within and beyond the legal guarantee.
The right to repair movement has three objectives: to protect the right to open purchased goods, to improve the availability of parts and tools needed to repair, and to maintain the existence of repair centers.
Goods included in this proposal are household appliances (washing machines, TVs, refrigerators…) but the European Commission's proposal also breaks new ground by adding smartphones and tablets.
The proposed right to repair provides that manufacturers will be required to repair a product for up to 5 to 10 years depending on the type of product.
Concretely, the following rights and tools will be available for consumers to make exercising the right to repair easy and attractive:
- A right for consumers to demand a repair for products that are still technically repairable under EU law. The producers will be obliged to repair defective products, even outside the legal guarantee. They may repair for a price or free of charge as part of a commercial guarantee. If the producer is located outside the European Union, he must designate a representative to assume this obligation (Article 5 of the Directive).
- Producer’s obligation to inform consumers that they are obliged to repair products and provide information about repair services (Article 6 of the Directive).
- Set up an online repair platform to connect consumers with repairers and sellers of refurbished products in their area. This platform will enable consumers to find attractive repair offers and increase the visibility of repairers (Article 7 of the Directive).
- Establish a European repair information form that consumers can request so that they can easily compare the conditions and price of repairs, ensuring transparency. Consumers will be able to request the form from any repairer, who may not alter the conditions for 30 days (Article 4 of the Directive).
- Establish a European quality standard for repair services to help consumers identify repairers across to EU who are committed to providing higher quality (Article 7 of the Directive).
Member States will lay down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of national provisions adopted pursuant to the future Directive.
The legislator argues that this proposal will save consumers resources and support the Green Pact for Europe by reducing waste.
The next step is for the European Parliament and the Council to adopt the European Commission's proposal.