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Great Right to Repair news from Brussels – we must benefit in the UK

Man repairing an electronic tablet

We’re a founding member of the European Right to Repair Campaign, who celebrated a major milestone yesterday, with the release of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan.

The five-year blueprint outlines actions envisaged by the European Commission in order to move away from the wasteful take-make-use-dispose economic model towards a system where sustainable products, services and business models become the new normal. In recognition of frustration that our stuff breaks down too quickly and cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, it also promises a ‘new right to repair’ to be established as a key lever of change.

While the strategy remains thin on the details, it provides plenty of reason to feel hopeful. Not only does it fill the urgent need for a policy framework that prevents wasteful consumption and built-in obsolescence of many of our products starting with consumer electronics, it also promises to empower consumers to make more informed choices about their purchases.

The plan promises

Sustainable product policy legislative initiative that aims to improve, among other sustainability aspects, repairability of all products on the European market and counter premature obsolescence – electronics and ICT products are identified as a priority

Revision of EU consumer law to establish a new ‘right to repair’ and provide point of sale information on lifespan of products, as well as availability of repair services, spare parts and repair manuals

Circular Electronics Initiative, with focus on mobile phones, tablets, laptops and printers and including focus on both hardware and software as well as the introduction of common charger

Revision of economic instruments to enable Member States to use VAT rates to promote repair services

Will we benefit from the Right to Repair here in the UK?

Many people have been asking us whether we in the UK will benefit.

The answer is: it’s unclear, and it’s up to us to make sure the UK government matches the European measures, or does better.

Last year, ministers publicly pledged support for the ecodesign measures, and Defra told the BBC it was planning on adopting “similar measures” post-Brexit.

But this government has made it clear that it does not like European standards. They say they want to do better.

If the UK would like to exceed the EU measures, the way forward is clear: the UK could easily adopt European Right to Repair measures and extend access to spare parts and repair information to all consumers, not just professional repairers.

Ultimately, if we do not adopt European standards as a minimum, what mechanisms are in place to ensure we do not become a dumping ground of sub-standard products?

Doubts about the UK “doing better”

We have some new doubts about the UK’s sincerity about “doing better” than Europe, as this week after failing to meet electronic waste collection targets, Defra announced it would simply lower them. According to trusted industry insiders, this “appears to signal a decision not to be bound by EU targets as we go through the Brexit transition phase”.

If we cannot be serious about the collection of electronic waste, what hope is there to prevent waste upstream?

We will be focusing on building pressure here in the UK for strong commitments post-Brexit, with allies and community groups who have signed The Manchester Declaration.

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