Right to repair enshrined in EU law

Fridges will now be subject to new ecodesign laws

Discarded fridges piling up

Manufacturers will be obliged to make appliances more easily repairable and longer-lasting following a decision by European environment ministries.

Small independent repairers can make a great contribution to the economy and our society.

Everyday products including lighting, displays, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges will need to be made to be more easily repairable and longer-lasting from April 2021.

The move has been welcomed by environmental campaigners and consumer groups, who argue that the “right to repair” will cut waste and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing consumer goods that are designed to need replacing prematurely.  

The proposals are part of the EU’s laws aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of products, known as Ecodesign. Previous Ecodesign policies have mostly focused on improving energy efficiency, but this is now being taken further to ensure that products are designed to last longer, and are easier to repair and recycle.

Limited access

However, campaigners have criticised the new laws for limiting access to most spare parts and repair manuals to professional repairers only. This may restrict the access of independent repairers, repair cafés and consumers to some key replacement parts and information, limiting the availability and affordability of repair services, they said.

Campaigners blame strong pressure from industry lobby groups for prompting the European Commission to water down proposals on repairability in favour of recyclability. 

Stephane Arditi of the European Environmental Bureau said that the restriction was a missed opportunity. "Small independent repairers can make a great contribution to the economy and our society. We need to help them do their job,” she said.

However, a spokesperson for the UK Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances said: “It is essential that a repaired product remains safe as well as in good working order and this is why the legislation is specifying a professional repairer.”

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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