Combatting Goods Waste: European Agreement on ‘Right to Repair’

Published on 1 March 2024 categories , , ,

On February 1, 2024, the European Parliament and the European Council reached a provisional agreement on the directive proposal from March 2023 regarding rules to promote consumer goods repair. Once officially adopted, the new rules will establish a ‘right to repair’ for consumers, applicable within and beyond the statutory warranty, aiming to simplify and make repairing goods more cost-effective than replacing them with new ones. This proposal aligns with the European Green Deal, contributing to the envisioned green transition by the European Commission. After the provisional agreement, the directive needs approval and formal adoption by the European Parliament and the European Council before being implemented into Dutch legislation.

The directive proposal on the right to repair complements the sales of goods directive, holding sellers liable for defects existing at the time of delivery within two years. In such cases, consumers have the right to choose between repair or replacement, unless one option is impossible or involves disproportionate costs for the seller. Repairs should be free and carried out promptly without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer. If repair is necessary, the consumer must make the goods available, and the seller covers the cost of replacement.

The proposed changes in the directive alter the choice between remedies for repair and replacement. It mandates that sellers must always opt for repair when the costs are equal to or higher than replacement, allowing consumers to choose replacement only when it is cheaper.

Additionally, the proposal introduces a repair obligation for manufacturers of certain goods like washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners. Consumers can have defects in these goods repaired after the expiration of the legal warranty period, either free of charge or for a fee. An exception to this obligation is possible when repair is technically impossible. If sellers are obliged to repair certain goods, they must inform consumers of this obligation and provide information about repair services.

The proposal also mandates repairers to provide standard information about repair services through a European repair information form. This form aims to enable consumers to assess and compare repair services, and non-mandatory repairers are exempt from providing it when not performing repairs to avoid unnecessary burdens. The form should make compliance with legal information obligations toward consumers more easy for small repairers.

Furthermore, the proposal obliges EU member states to create an online platform connecting consumers and repairers. The platform should feature specific functionalities, including search functions for repair services, regular information updates for repairers, and the ability for consumers to request the European repair information form. Quality marks on the platform will indicate repairers meeting certain quality standards. Registration on this platform will be voluntary for repairers.

While the proposal takes a step in facilitating consumer goods repair, uncertainties exist, especially as the repair obligation applies only when repair costs are lower than replacement costs. Additionally, a seller can refuse repair if technically impossible, even if obligated to repair beyond liability. The question arises as to who should determine whether repair costs exceed replacement or are technically impossible. Overall, the EU approval of the ‘right to repair’ establishes a foundation for a more sustainable consumer culture, but the impact of the new rules will need evaluation over time.



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