Right to repair: EU proposes ways for consumers to re-purpose old devices

22 Mar 2023

Image: © watman/Stock.adobe.com

Irish MEP Grace O’Sullivan said the proposals were a way of enabling consumers and manufacturers to be more sustainable and less wasteful.

As part of its attempts to encourage consumers to reduce waste, the EU has today (22 March) proposed a series of measures promoting the repair of goods, including digital devices.

The body hopes the proposals will boost the repairs industry as well as encourage consumers to be more mindful when it comes to how, when and why they dispose of goods.

The impact of tech waste on the environment is already well-known. The EU has been trying to get its right to repair framework in place since last year, but the directive has been postponed several times.

The right to repair proposals will help to ensure that more products are repaired within the legal guarantee.

They will also make provisions for consumers so they have easier and cheaper options to repair products that can be repaired once the legal guarantee has expired or when the product is not functional anymore.

Products that can be repaired include household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, as well as tablets and smartphones.

Irish MEP Grace O’Sullivan, a member of the European Green party, was involved in the negotiations for the proposals.

She was one of the lead negotiators for the aspect of the proposals that focused on packaging waste regulation.

“We are now calling for a repair labelling index with clear information on service life and repair possibilities,” she said.

“Spare parts and instructions must also be easily accessible and affordable to independent repairers and citizens so that corporate giants like Apple no longer dictate the rules for repair.”

In 2021, Apple said it was going to begin rolling out a self-service repair option for consumers that would enable them to order parts online to carry out repairs on their devices themselves.

The option was made available for US customers first, before coming to other countries. Apple has historically kept tight control over who can get parts for its devices.

Adding to her comments on the proposals today, O’Sullivan said that they would boost the circular economy and benefit manufacturers and consumers alike.

“Manufacturers have increasingly pushed for more disposable and less repairable productions so they can keep selling new products, instead of repairing and guaranteeing existing ones. The right to repair and the circular economy are inseparable, and this will go hand in hand with our efforts to cut waste, emissions and bring the idea of ‘reuse’ back into our homes and daily lives just like before.”

As well as the packaging waste regulation rules, other suggestions that the EU has made as part of its right to repair proposals include an online platform that will connect consumers with repair workers in their local area; a quality standard for repair services; and a special European Repair Information Form that consumers can request from repairers.

The proposals will now have to go before the other EU institutions for negotiations before coming into force.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.