The EU legislator aims to define obsolescence as an unfair commercial practice and highlights how the new law "should include long-lasting products that can be repaired, better labeling and extended warranty".
The issue has been on the table for years now: MEPs have adopted two resolutions containing a series of proposals; furthermore, the right to reparation is framed as a fundamental pillar of the circular economy agenda and the Commission has already announced its intention to present a proposal to amend the directive on the sale of goods and is considering the possibility of proposing a separate legislative act on the right to repair in the third quarter of 2022.
The new requests also come following a 2020 Eurobarometer survey, which showed that: 79% of Union citizens believe that manufacturers should be required to simplify the repair of digital devices or the replacement of individual components, while the 77% would rather repair their devices than replace them.
Coming to the most recent facts, MEPs have taken a very clear position on the issue: "an effective right to repair should cover the life cycle of products, including design, fundamental ethical principles of production, harmonization of protocols of assessment and consumer information, including repairability labeling. It should also promote a more efficient and sustainable use of resources, waste reduction and a wider use and reuse of products ”.
Since these are requests adopted by the European Parliament, we are still faced with a non-legislative text, which in any case was approved with 509 votes in favor, 3 votes against and 13 abstentions.
How products should change:
The requests of the MEPs speak of a right to effective repair, but this objective can only be reached by starting from the basics, that is, by designing products designed to last longer over time and, again, to be repaired in complete safety, also thanks to the fact that the components to be repaired are easy to remove and replace. In short, enough with "disposable" products.
According to the position of MEPs, an adequate right to repair should give industry and consumers free access to information regarding repair and maintenance.
Durability should not only be hardware, but also software: with regard to digital devices, the requests of the European Parliament expressly speak of the reversibility of application updates and updates that do not involve - sometimes - deliberate decreases in performance (think smartphones) . Still on the subject of updates, requests refer to their availability for a minimum period of time, with consumer information right from the time of purchase.
MEPs go so far as to take a clear stance: "Practices that unduly limit the right to redress or lead to obsolescence could be considered" unfair commercial practices "and prohibited by EU law".
It was said that the text that has just been approved is of a non-legislative nature, however it is not empty requests, on the contrary the European Parliament has defined some key points that should be present in a future law on the right to reparation. Here are the most important highlighted when submitting requests:
- Incentives for consumers to repair a product rather than replace it, such as the extension of warranties or the provision of a replacement device for the duration of the repair;
- Harmonized rules on consumer information, including "repair scores", estimated lifespan, spare parts, repair services and the availability of software updates;
- Intelligent labeling tools such as QR codes;
- A joint liability mechanism between producer and seller in case of non-conformity of products;
- Durability and repair requirements included in a future Ecodesign Directive.
While waiting for something concrete to move, let's see how the major producers of the tech industry are behaving.
The matter had been addressed by the United States FTC (Federal Trade Commission), which, in the field of Right to Repair, had highlighted the serious shortcomings of the manufacturers, and then had directly taken on three giants of the caliber of Apple, Microsoft and Samsung.
The first to actually move was Apple: already in November last year the Cupertino giant had announced the launch of the new Self Service Repair program for iPhone and Mac. In unsuspecting times we also talked about Google: from Mountain View have seen fit to improve the sustainability of Chromebooks and at the same time give students useful experiences with a new repair program entrusted to schools. As for Microsoft, for now only promises have arrived, but no concrete initiatives. Finally, a few days ago we told you about the new, interesting initiative from Samsung, even if at the moment it is rather limited.
written by Matteo with love from Italy