Repairing instead of throwing away: what the EU’s Right to Repair provides
Background information

Repairing instead of throwing away: what the EU’s Right to Repair provides

Jan Johannsen
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook

The EU wants more defective electronic devices to be repaired more often and replaced with new ones less frequently. As a result, manufacturers will have to offer repairs as well as spare parts and instructions in future, so that consumers can take action themselves.

On 23 April 2024, the EU Parliament adopted the Right to Repair. After years of negotiations, the next steps are merely formalities. Nevertheless, it may still take more than two years for the new directive to take full effect.

Why is the EU doing this?

To conserve resources, save money and protect the climate. According to the EU Commission, 261 million tonnes of equivalent CO₂ are generated each year in the EU alone through the disposal of still-usable appliances. In addition, it says, 30 million tonnes of resources are wasted and 35 million tonnes of waste are produced.

Consumers also spend around 12 billion euros more on new purchases than would be necessary for repairs. The EU expects the directive to generate 4.8 billion euros in growth and investment.

Which devices are covered by the Right to Repair?

The new Right to Repair applies to common household products. Examples include televisions, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and smartphones. There’s no definitive list. I’d also include headphones, laptops or monitors, for example. However, whether digital cameras are still common today could still be clarified in court.

Manufacturers must repair and replace devices

According to the new regulations, manufacturers must carry out timely and cost-effective repairs. Consumers must also be informed about their right to repair. In addition, repairs are to be made more attractive by extending the liability period by one year if the repair is carried out within the warranty period – i.e. in the first two years after purchase.

Manufacturers are also obliged to repair common household products that are still technically eligible for repair. During the repair period, customers will be able to borrow replacement appliances. If a repair isn’t possible, you should be able to opt for a refurbished device instead of having to buy a new one.

More information about repair conditions and services

An online platform with national offshoots is intended to help people find repair businesses in their area. It will also list sellers of refurbished appliances, potential buyers of defective devices and repair initiatives such as repair cafés.

Consumers will be able to evaluate and compare repair services using a standardised Europe-wide form. Information is collected on the type of defect and the cost and length of the repair.

Enable at-home and independent repairs

As a further measure, the EU wants to make it easier for repairs to be carried out at home and by independent services. Manufacturers must provide spare parts and tools at reasonable prices. Furthermore, a repair mustn’t be made harder by contractual clauses, hardware or software. For example, they may not prohibit the use of used spare parts or spare parts produced using 3D printers. If someone presents them with an appliance for repair, they may not refuse it for monetary reasons or because someone else previously repaired it.

Promoting repairs

EU Member States must implement at least one measure to promote repairs. These could be, for example, vouchers for repairs, information campaigns, repair courses or the promotion of repair cafés and similar facilities.

What happens now

The EU Council still has to approve the new directive. This is considered a formality. With subsequent publication in the Official Journal, the Member States have 24 months to transpose the Right to Repair into national law. It’s currently unclear in what form the regulations will be adopted in Switzerland. Likewise, whether manufacturers will change their service independently of local laws for the whole of Europe.

Satisfaction and criticism: new law only applies to personal purchases

MEPs are satisfied with the new directive. German MEP René Repasi (SPD) and rapporteur on the directive is certain this won’t only make repairs easier and cheaper, but also an attractive alternative to buying expensive new products.

Manufacturers and industry associations are publicly reluctant to give their opinion. However, some of them have already started to offer repair kits or have made their devices more repairable. For example, Apple started selling spare parts and tools for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 in 2022. The Fairphone is easy to repair right from the start, and HMD is also focusing on better repairability for its first smartphones under its own name

For Right to Repair Europe, an association of over 100 organisations, the EU directive is a step in the right direction. However, NGOs, repair activists and companies as well as suppliers of spare parts and used appliances aren’t entirely satisfied. They criticise that the Right to Repair only applies to personal purchases. There are also no guidelines on what constitutes a reasonable price for spare parts or tools. Apple is cited as a negative example. Repairing an iPhone yourself is more expensive than visiting an Apple Store.

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In addition, Right to Repair Europe believes that it’s too easy for companies to prevent independent repairs by pointing to legitimate and objective factors – including their intellectual property. The impact on new products is also minimal. There are already existing EU directives that require most common household products to be repairable for five to ten years.

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Jan Johannsen
Content Development Editor

As a primary school pupil, I used to sit in a friend's living room with many of my classmates to play the Super NES. Now I get my hands on the latest technology and test it for you. In recent years at Curved, Computer Bild and Netzwelt, now at Digitec and Galaxus. 

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