There is an upcoming vote at the European level that can have global implications for the repairability and durability of our products. And it is coming at a time when citizens in the UK and across Europe are calling for more repairable products.
Our products are getting harder and harder to fix, and this represents a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand our right to repair what we own. However, corporate lobbying or bureaucratic manoeuvring may succeed in watering down the measures. And we need the UK and other member states to support them.
Key dates and the value of a precedent
This month and in January, the EU member states may throw out over two years’ work on creating better product standards for appliances and electronics. EU members will vote at the Council of the European Union on measures affecting the repairability of various domestic appliances:
- 10 Dec (fridges)
- 8 Jan (dishwashers)
- 10 Jan (washing machines)
The new ecodesign measures originally introduced minimum period that manufacturers must provide spare parts, required design for disassembly and access to key documentation.
These measures could set a crucial precedent which could in the future be extended to electronic devices, such as laptops or smartphones.
Why the UK must take action
The UK is one of the main countries that showed opposition to these measures in meetings over the past year. We have no other evidence to suggest how the UK will vote, in spite of our best efforts.
This vote represents a crucial opportunity to respond to current calls of citizens for more repairable products. As recently shown by Green Alliance UK, there is evidence that people are frustrated with products that fail way earlier than they should.
In the Manchester Declaration, community repair organisations from Belfast to Edinburgh to Pembrokeshire to Brighton called for longer lasting and more repairable products.
Beyond consumer’s rights, extending product lifetimes is a popular way to help meet our carbon targets. The upcoming vote is therefore a chance to recognise the environmental impact of industrial policy. Industrial and climate strategy need to merge.
With Brexit, this will also likely be the last chance for the UK to contribute to ecodesign regulation before leaving the EU.
Push for the original measures – not the watered down version
We need to pressure member states to push for the original drafts of these measures, and NOT ACCEPT significant changes undermining their positive impacts for people and planet.
European Environmental Bureau summarises these changes:
- Provisions for a better design that facilitates repair through the non-destructive disassembly of key components have been replaced with provisions targeting recycling through the ease of dismantling at end of life only. This will make it easier to destroy and recycle a machine, not fix it.
- The provisions granting access to repair and maintenance information to independent repairers have now been restricted to authorised repairers only. This will restrict the access of repair cafés or independent repair shops to the information, limiting the scope and availability of repair services.
Citizens across Europe are mobilising to save these measures, with nearly 200,000 signatures in support, as a member-state vote approaches. Countries that showed resistance to these measures during the past year are the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. If you are an individual in one of these countries, please sign the petition [UK, DE, IT]
[Feature image by Unsplash user Janaya Dasiuk]