Why the European Commission’s 'Right to Repair' is a game-changer

In a world shaped by rampant consumerism, promoting the repair of goods over replacement is a light at the end of the tunnel. The European Commission has introduced a groundbreaking proposal that has the potential to change the way we view and interact with the products we purchase.
This new initiative, referred to as the 'Right to Repair,' aims to revolutionize the relationship between consumers, producers, and the environment. The proposal not only saves consumers money but also takes a significant step toward achieving the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal.
We’ll explore the key elements of the 'Right to Repair' proposal, its significance, and its potential impact on consumers and the environment and how this initiative aligns with the broader objectives of sustainability and the European Green Deal.
 

The 'Right to Repair' initiative is a  game-changer

The 'Right to Repair' initiative is a response to the growing trend of discarding products when they become defective, rather than seeking to repair and reuse them. Over the years, convenience, lack of transparency, and difficulties in accessing repair services have discouraged consumers from opting for repair as a sustainable choice. The proposal aims to change this paradigm by making repair a more straightforward and cost-effective option, both within and beyond the legal guarantee period.
 

Within the legal guarantee

 Under existing rules, consumers can request a free repair or replacement within the legal guarantee period (typically two years). The 'Right to Repair' proposal introduces a crucial change: when a repair is cheaper or equal in cost to a replacement, sellers are now obligated to provide free repair as a remedy. This shift ensures that consumers are not inconvenienced or forced to choose replacement when repair is a viable and cost-effective option.
 

Beyond the legal guarantee

For products like washing machines and televisions that fall under the scope of Union legal acts related to repairability, producers will be required to offer repair services for 5-10 years after the purchase, depending on the type of product. This provision ensures that consumers always have a repair option available to them, even when the legal guarantee has expired.
 

Matching consumers with repair services

The proposal also introduces an online matchmaking repair platform, connecting consumers with repairers and sellers of refurbished goods in their area. This platform makes it easier for consumers to find repair services based on location and quality standards, ultimately driving demand for repair services.
 

Transparent repair information

To empower consumers to make informed decisions, the proposal includes a European Repair Information Form that consumers can request from any repairer. This form provides transparency regarding repair conditions and prices, facilitating comparisons between repair offers.
 

European repair quality standard

To enhance the quality of repair services, a European quality standard for repair services is in development. Repairers across the EU can voluntarily commit to minimum quality standards, making it easier for consumers to identify reliable repair services.
 

Products covered by the proposal

The 'Right to Repair' proposal covers a wide range of consumer goods, including any tangible movable item, irrespective of whether they are still under legal guarantee. Producers are obligated to repair goods for 5-10 years after purchase, depending on the product type and the existence of reparability requirements in Union legal acts.
As of now, products like household washing machines, washer-dryers, dishwashers, refrigerating appliances, electronic displays, welding equipment, vacuum cleaners, and servers and data storage are covered by the proposal. In the near future, mobile phones, cordless phones, and tablets will be included when ecodesign reparability requirements are adopted.
The proposal ensures consistency with the existing ecodesign legal framework and is designed to be adaptable to potential reparability requirements that may emerge in other areas of Union law.
 

The impact of the 'Right to Repair' proposal

The 'Right to Repair' initiative promises significant benefits across multiple dimensions:
 

Benefits for consumers

The proposal makes it easier for consumers to have their defective goods repaired, even after the legal guarantee period has expired. This not only aligns with environmentally sustainable consumption but also leads to substantial savings. By choosing repair over replacement and using their products longer, EU consumers can collectively save significant amounts of money.
 

Environmental gains

One of the most relevant aspects of the 'Right to Repair' proposal is its potential to reduce waste and the environmental impact that comes from that. Obviously, by repairing products rather than discarding them, less waste is generated, fewer resources are needed to produce new goods, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions are released during the production and sales processes. Over 15 years, the proposal is estimated to save 18.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 1.8 million tons of resources, and 3 million tons of waste.
 

Economic growth

The repair sector stands to gain considerably from the 'Right to Repair' initiative. Sellers and producers are expected to save approximately EUR 15.6 billion in the next 15 years, as they opt for repairs instead of free replacements under the legal guarantee. Moreover, there will be an increase of EUR 4.8 billion in growth and investment over that period. These changes will create a net increase in jobs, particularly in the repair sector, contributing to the overall economic well-being of the European Union.
 

Alignment with sustainability goals

The 'Right to Repair' proposal is an integral part of the European Commission's broader commitment to sustainability and the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Achieving this goal requires a fundamental shift in the way consumers and businesses consume and produce goods, and the 'Right to Repair' initiative plays a pivotal role in this transition.
The proposal complements several other initiatives, forming a comprehensive framework for sustainable consumption throughout the entire lifecycle of a product.
Here's how it aligns with these related efforts:
 

Ecodesign for sustainable products

This regulation promotes the reparability of products in the production phase, ensuring that products are designed with repairability in mind. It has already led to the adoption of ecodesign requirements for various product groups and will continue expanding to cover more, including tablets and smartphones.
 

Directive on empowering consumers for the green transition

This directive enables consumers to make informed purchasing decisions at the point of sale by providing information on durability and repairability. It strengthens the demand side of sustainability by promoting repair in the after-sales phase. 
 

Substantiating green claims

This initiative ensures that consumers can support the green transition through their purchasing choices and prevents companies from making misleading environmental claims about their products and services.
Together, these initiatives cover the entire lifecycle of a product, complementing and reinforcing each other to drive sustainable consumption and reduce waste.
The 'Right to Repair' proposal represents a significant step forward in the European Commission's journey toward sustainability and the European Green Deal objectives. By empowering consumers with the right to repair, promoting transparency, and setting quality standards for repair services, the EU is creating a more sustainable approach to consumer goods.
The impact of this initiative extends beyond financial savings; it encompasses environmental benefits and economic growth. As this proposal progresses through the legislative process, it has the potential to reshape the way we interact with our possessions, making repair an attractive and eco-conscious choice.
You can read more here.

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