The Verge

Image of the EU flag.
Cath Virginia / The Verge

The European Union has officially adopted a new set of right-to-repair rules designed to encourage people to repair broken devices, rather than replace them. One of the rules extends a product’s warranty by one year if it’s repaired while still covered.

The European Union already requires companies to offer a two-year minimum warranty on products, but these new rules take things a step further. Even after the warranty period ends, companies are “still required to repair common household products,” including smartphones, TVs, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other items. If a product breaks while under warranty, consumers can choose between a replacement or a repair. If they choose to repair, the warranty will be extended for a year.

The rules say companies must offer repairs for a “reasonable” price so that customers aren’t “intentionally deterred” from getting their product fixed. It will also require manufacturers to provide spare parts and tools, while also barring them from using “contractual clauses, hardware or software techniques that obstruct repairs.”

Manufacturers won’t be able to stop the use of 3D-printed or second-hand parts by independent repair shops, or refuse to repair a product due to economic reasons — or even if it was repaired by an outside party in the past.

Additionally, the EU plans to launch an online platform that’s supposed to help customers find local repair shops, sellers of used products, and people who buy defective items. The new rules will go into effect once they’re approved by the Council and published in the EU Official Journal. Members of the EU will have two years to adopt it as law.

The Right to Repair Europe coalition applauded the new rules, calling it “a step in the right direction”. But the coalition also noted limits to the EU rules, such as that they only covers consumer products, so wouldn’t include anything purchased by businesses or industrial goods. Manufacturers must supply third-party independent repair shops with spare parts and tools for a “reasonable price” under the new rules, but the coalition said there’s no guidance on what that means — effectively leaving it up to companies to decide what to charge.

The coalition also said that a ban on practices that impede repair, such as Apple’s use of parts pairing, didn’t go far enough. Companies don’t have to comply with the ban if it can cite “legitimate and objective factors” — including the protection of its intellectual property rights. The coalition called the exemption “very blurry” and argued that it left “the door open” for manufacturers to continue blocking outside repair of their products.

The coalition criticized the “narrow scope” of the rules as well, claiming that they wouldn’t impact most new products that enter the EU market. The products covered by the new rules are apparently already covered under an existing EU law that requires many appliances and electronics to be repairable for a period of 5 to 10 years after purchase, including washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, fridges, TVs, e-bikes, scooters, welders, vacuum cleaners, phones, tablets and more.

“In essence, its main effect will be to somewhat increase the chances that the small number of products that already had to be repairable by law anyway, will actually end up being repaired,” wrote the coalition.

Meanwhile, the US is making headway on right-to-repair-laws as well. In the absence of a federal right-to-repair law, more than two-dozen states are working on individual right-to repair legislation. California’s law officially goes into effect this July, and will require manufacturers to make repair materials available for all electronics and appliances that cost $50 or more.

Emma Roth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *