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15th Apr 2024

MEPs push for limited 'right-to-repair' on consumer devices

  • The 'right-to-repair' could be one of the new flagship policies where the EU advances consumer rights (Photo: Ian Sane)

Annoyed at the short lifespan of modern digital devices, or the inability to fix a seemingly small problem on a laptop and instead having to buy a new one?

The 'right-to-repair' has been making its way through different EU channels and on Monday (26 October) MEPs supported a report that called on the EU Commission to grant such an innovative right to consumers.

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The goal of right-to-repair rules is to get companies to make parts, tools and information available to consumers and shops in order to keep devices from being thrown away too quickly, advocates say.

They also argue that firms often design products to be short-lived, so-called "planned obsolescence", to encourage people to make repeat purchases - which increases energy use and climate-damaging emissions.

Manufacturers, on the other hand, either say that their products are repairable, or cite privacy and security issues when they do restrict repairs.

The MEPs's report, passed in the internal committee, asked the commission to "consider" labelling products and services according to their durability and estimated lifespan. And MEPs again called for a common charger system.

MEPs also said practices that intentionally shorten the lifetime of a product should also be examined - but did not call for action on the issue of "planned obsolescence".

The lawmakers said that software updates for certain digital devices must continue throughout their estimated lifespan, and should not diminish their performance.

The right-to-repair could be one of the new flagship policies where the EU advances consumer rights, such as roaming.

Some 77 percent of Europeans would rather repair their devices than replace them, and 79 percent think manufacturers should be required to make it easier to repair digital devices or replace their parts, according to two Eurobarometer reports.

But campaigners criticised the MEPs report, which was softened after compromise amendments backed by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), and the liberal Renew group.

Voluntary, not mandatory

The Right to Repair European campaign said in a statement it was "disappointed" with the results.

"By adopting amendments that limit the mandatory labelling of products in favour of voluntary schemes, weaken provisions on premature obsolescence and suppress the reference to mandatory sustainability criteria and targets for public procurement, the European Parliament plays is putting citizens' demands on mute," the coalition of European repair organisations said, adding that the parliament caved into big tech and the industry when not setting ambitious goals.

The parliament's plenary will vote on the report in November, and advocates are hoping for a turn-around by then. They say the parliament, untypically, lags behind the most progressive member states.

France, for instance, will introduce mandatory repair labelling starting next year on smartphones, televisions, computers, washing machines and lawn mowers, based on a set of criteria including availability of spare parts and access to repair information.

In a separate EU track, the commission announced plans in March for new right-to-repair rules that would cover phone, tablets and laptops.

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