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Restart Radio: New Right to Repair rules, broken down by a pro

Exploded diagram of a washing machine

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In December and January, European member states approved groundbreaking measures which ensured that appliances (dishwashers, fridges, and washing machines) become more repairable. But as always, the devil is in the detail.

After much celebration and fanfare about the new European regulations guaranteeing some “right to repair” for consumers, we needed to chat with Steve the Spindoctor. Steve runs solo business in South London, tirelessly saving appliances from the shredder. His work is relentless. He has little time for BS and he understands every angle of running a professional repair business.

The new ecodesign regulations have professional repairers as their intended targets: they call for manufacturers to provide spare parts and repair documentation to professionals. It all sounds so good. But our interview with Steve feels like a tour of terrible caveats.

Spare parts and “bundling”

Steve confirms that sealed drums – and the “bundling” of drums and ball bearings – is the main reason washing machines are not fixable. The regulation does nothing to fix this. And a similar problem is arising with the heating systems on dish washers. Generally speaking, the cost of spare parts is the main obstacle to many repairs.

Software and circuit boards

We ask about software and circuit boards, as pros will have increased access to both. But access to software powering these appliances is no real revolution for Steve. And what about guaranteed access to spare printed circuit boards within 15 working days for pros? Without a warranty on these, and quicker access to them, this is no game-changer for the Spindoctor. As he asks, what family can wait 15 working days for their washing machine to be fixed?

Design for disassembly

On the bright side, design for disassembly is indeed a major win for Steve. He hopes it will reduce his time opening up machines, and thereby make more repairs viable. He also hopes that this public interest will lead people to maintain and care for their appliances better.

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[Feature image courtesy of UK Whitegoods]

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