The Right to Repair is Coming

The Right to Repair is Coming
16 Dez 2019

The EU Commission has declared war on electrical waste. It is introducing stricter provisions for the Ecodesign Directive and wants to simplify the repair of electrical appliances such as televisions, monitors and refrigerators. As of 2021, manufacturers of certain electrical appliances will have to provide spare parts and instructions to repair businesses. For consumer protection organisations, the Directive doesn’t go far enough. They are demanding more comprehensive action.

Huge rubbish dumps with electrical waste in Africa and Asia, where workers and children try to salvage scrap metal from old appliances such as PCs, monitors or smartphones. They smash up displays, immerse PCBs in strong acids and breathe in toxic vapours. Who is not familiar with these images of misery? The majority of the electrical scrap comes from Europe; in most cases it was exported illegally. But why do tons of electrical appliances end up as waste? One major reason is that they are difficult to repair.

There are many appliances that often cannot be repaired due to their design; a repair is too expensive or there are simply no spare parts on the free market because manufacturers do not provide them. After all, the hardware repair business is very lucrative to them, or they want to force their customers into buying a new product. The problem is that, up to now, manufacturers of electronic appliances have not been legally obliged to provide spare parts or information required for carrying out repairs. The result is a throw-away society that wastes resources and harms the environment.

EU commission introduces stricter provisions to Ecodesign Directive

The EU Commission has declared war on this ecological madness. It is introducing stricter provisions to the Ecodesign Directive and wants to simplify the repair of certain electrical appliances to give better protection to both European consumers and the environment. The Ecodesign Directive specifies requirements for product design aimed at lowering energy consumption and reducing the environmental impact of electrical appliances throughout their entire lifetime.

Recently the EU Commission adopted new ecodesign measures for products such as refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and televisions in line with the EU’s „Energy-efficiency first“ principle. For the first time, the measures include requirements relating to the repairability and recyclability of appliances. The new rules are due to come into force at the beginning of 2021.

The regulations for energy-efficiency and other requirements apply to the following ten product groups: refrigerators; washing machines; dishwashers; electronic displays (including televisions); light sources and separate control gears; external power supplies; electric motors; refrigerators with a direct sales function (e.g. fridges in supermarkets, vending machines for cold drinks); power transformers; and welding equipment. Eight of these regulations revise already existing requirements, whereas refrigerators with a direct sales function and welding equipment are regulated for the first time. Existing requirements on the durability of lighting products and the water consumption of dishwashers were also revised.

Repair to become easier

The following ecodesign measures are aimed at facilitating product repairs. The main point is that spare parts should continue to be available long after purchase, for example:

  • 7 years minimum for refrigerating appliances (10 years for door gaskets)
  • 10 years minimum for household washing machines and household washer-dryers
  • 10 years minimum for household dishwashers (7 years for some parts for which access can be restricted to professional repairers)
  • Moreover, during that period, the manufacturer shall ensure the delivery of the spare parts within 15 working days
  • Spare parts can be replaced with the use of commonly available tools and without permanent damage to the appliance
  • In order to support the repair sector, manufacturers have to ensure the availability of repair and professional maintenance information for professional repairers.

Less environmental impact

The EU Commission estimates that these measures will deliver 167 terawatt hours (TWh) of final energy savings per year by 2030. This is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of Denmark and corresponds to a reduction of over 46 million metric ton of CO2 equivalent. A further positive effect is that, according to the EU Commission, these measures will save European households an average of 150 euros per year.

 

Consumer protection organisations have welcomed these new EU measures for energy-saving appliances and, above all, for simpler repairability and the obligation to deliver spare parts for electrical appliances. However, they still see room for improvement. For example, they are demanding that the EU rules be extended to spare parts for PCs, notebooks, smartphones and tablets, and that the spare parts should not only be available to professional repair businesses but also to private individuals. Only then would the right to repair be implemented in full. A further step would be the Europe-wide extension of statutory warranty periods to make manufacturers improve the lifetime of household appliances.

Epilogue: Refurbished hardware for more environmental protection

Companies too can reduce the amount of electrical waste they produce by turning to refurbished equipment. Green IT Solution GmbH specialises in refurbished hardware, thus making a valuable contribution to environmental protection. In particular, the company buys network components such as servers, routers or switches and reconditions them.

Customers of Green IT Solution benefit in a variety of ways. As the company professionally refurbishes and thoroughly tests the hardware, there is an extended guarantee of ten years on all products. There is therefore no difference in quality between a new device and a used one. Thanks to the long guarantee times, companies can save up to 70 percent compared to the cost of new device while making a major contribution to sustainability and environmental protection. Green IT Solution developed the Green IT Calculator in collaboration with the Green Design Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. This enables companies to measure the resources they save for each used device.


Stefan Winklhofer