“Right to repair” legislation set to change consumer appliance production

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Widening EU ecodesign legislation to include “right to repair” powers for white goods and other domestic products will affect manufacturing and production.

European Environment Ministers will vote this week on new ecodesign powers forcing manufacturers to make consumer products that last longer and are easier to repair. The proposals are set to extend new manufacturing laws agreed in December to make fridges and freezers more easily repairable and longer-lasting.

Ministers are considering applying a similar approach to other products such as lighting, washing machines and dishwashers, according to several national representatives consulted by European citizen group, ECOS, and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Under the new proposals, ecodesign legislation will go beyond improving energy efficiency of products, to include making products that last longer and easier to repair throughout their entire lifecycles. This is part of the EU’s push for a more inclusive and robust circular economy.

Under the new arrangements, manufacturers will also need to ensure faulty parts are replaceable using commonly available tools and without damaging the product or invalidating guarantees.

A recent behaviour study by the European Commission found that most EU citizens would prefer to buy products that are durable and repairable, and want more information on reparability at the point of sale. The study reveals that consumers feel repair is often too expensive or difficult.

A similar study carried out in the UK, by think tank Green Alliance, shows that 65% of people feel frustrated about the short lifecycles of their products and 62% find it too difficult to get them repaired.

Industry lobbyists argue that proposed rules on repairability are too strict and will stifle innovation. In response, EU officials have removed some provisions to make repair guides and information available to independent repairers, echoing concerns from the industry that competitors may use this information to infringe their copyright and replicate their products.

The UK Government is exploring options to include extended five-year warranties on products to “encourage manufacturers to design and manufacture products that last longer and will support reuse and repair activities”.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said the Government fully supports “measures in the new Ecodesign Directive product regulations to encourage repair and reuse of a range of products.”

Speaking to The Independent, she said: “We want manufacturers and producers to make products easier to reuse and repair, to make them last longer. We will consider mandatory extended warranties and clearer product labelling if necessary to achieve this.”

Changes to EU ecodesign legislation will affect UK manufacturers that want to continue trading with the European countries, regardless of whether we leave the bloc.

According to the BBC, the proportion of major household appliances that failed within five years between 2004 and 2012 rose from 3.5% to 8.3%, while an analysis of dumped washing machines at a recycling centre showed that more than 10% were less than five years old.

Last reviewed 10 January 2019

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