The Right to Repair Movement

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The Right to Repair Movement

Legislative implications and potential future impacts

A circular economy could tackle our planet’s challenges in the field of climate, biodiversity and pollution. With the 'right to repair' legislative proposal, which is included in the EU Green Deal, the European Commission (EC) aims to create such a circular economy. It aims to stimulate more sustainable usage of goods and reduce waste. The proposal will likely be adopted in the third quarter of 2022 and entails amendments to existing rights in the Sale of Goods Directive as well as a new right to repair. In this article, we will discuss the introduction of new sustainability product requirements, the legislative implications, potential future impacts, and business opportunities.

Author - Hester Kok

The right to repair

The right to repair is one of the EC’s key initiatives for 2022. It promotes that consumers should be able to choose reusable, durable and repairable products. The legislation is focused on the right to repair during the legal guarantee, the right to repair after the legal guarantee has expired, and the right for consumers to repair products themselves. It is designed to contribute to the reduction of unsustainable consumption and its negative impact on the global environment and climate. In addition, these measures are part of the EU Circular Economy Plan to advance the transition to an EU circular economy.

There is little legislation to date. The EU Ecodesign Directive was first introduced back in 2009, aiming to establish a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products only. As part of the EU Green Deal the Ecodesign Directive has been revised. This has resulted in a Proposal for a Regulation establishing ecodesign requirements for sustainable products, which was revealed on 30 March 2022.
 

Introduction of new sustainability product requirements

The Proposal for a Regulation extends the scope of the Ecodesign Directive in terms of products and new requirements. By means of the EU Ecodesign Proposal for a Regulation, it has already created a right to repair household appliances, such as washing machines. For instance, it requires manufacturers to ensure that spare parts are available for several years and to allow access to repair and maintenance information for professional repairers. However, consumer electronics, such as mobile phones, are still being excluded. This means that the scope remains narrow. Hence, as part of the right to repair legislative proposal, the EC intends to propose implementing measures on the ecodesign of tablets, computers (servers) and mobile phones. In addition, as part of this initiative, a proposal for a new Batteries Regulation also shows the focus on the durability and reparability of electronic devices.

The right to repair legislative proposal involves amendments to the Sale of Goods Directive, which now solely serves as a remedy for products that are faulty at the moment of delivery. It aims to solve, amongst others, the issue that once the legal guarantee has expired consumers no longer have a right to repair - even if they want to pay for the repair themselves. Consumers now often face a situation in which repair is too expensive (in comparison with purchasing a new product), spare parts are unavailable, there are no nearby repair shops, or products are made in such a way that they cannot be repaired. In this context the initiative will tackle these issues, since it helps consumers to use products longer instead of buying new ones, thus keeping costs down.

Legislative implications

The current and pending rules and legislation are already a patchwork but even more initiatives are on their way, such as Sustainable Products and the Green Transition as laid down in the New Consumer Agenda. The latter ensures, amongst others, that consumers obtain reliable and useful information on the lifespan and repair options of their products. This has been realised by amending the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive, which are, in turn, part of the Omnibus Directive, a deliverable of The New Deal for Consumers.
The Right to Repair will thus be spread across several regulations. For one product numerous requirements are scattered in several pieces of legislation. This is not user-friendly and creates a complex situation. It is a missed opportunity for the EC to create more mutual coordination so that manufacturers at least know what requirements they need to meet and how to prepare for the upcoming legislation.

Potential future impacts

The right to repair is likely to have an impact on many existing business models. Companies may need to set up new systems and operations to facilitate the repairs, which involves investment and resources. In addition, it will probably lead to a reduction in consumers’ purchases due to the easier access to repair services and longer liability periods.
Manufacturers have raised concerns about the removal of repair controls and the provision of broad access to technical information. In particular, concerns related to breaches of Intellectual Property rights and product safety and integrity deficiencies. For instance, products that collect sensitive consumer data or commercially sensitive information could jeopardise (cyber) security because unauthorised people could have access when they are doing repairs. Also, safety hazards may arise since products and systems can be very sophisticated and may be repaired incorrectly.

Furthermore, making technical information widely available may result in revealing trade secrets, which can impact the competitive advantage. Manufacturers are therefore advised to carefully consider relevant safeguards to protect valuable information.
The initiative will have a positive impact on the environment, particularly regarding resource efficiency and waste reduction. Besides, the initiative is expected to boost economic growth. It will bring higher revenues and employment opportunities in e.g., the repair sector and second-hand and refurbishing businesses. Also, the market for repair services is expected to attract new parties, since the repair will (partly) take place outside the network of manufacturers.

Outlook

The right to repair legislative proposal endeavours to encourage innovation among consumer businesses to manufacture goods that will last longer and are more easily repairable. The proposal also aims to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour to use goods for a longer period and to purchase more second-hand and refurbished goods. With the operational and impactful challenges it brings, it is important for companies to be well prepared for the upcoming legislation. However, this upcoming legislation on the right of repair is not yet fully crystallised. We will keep a close eye on the developments and continue to share these. And finally, if you want to understand how the right to repair legislative proposal may affect your business, we are happy to look into this with you.

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