The European Union wants to give consumers the right to have worn-out products like washing machines and televisions repaired by producers even after the sales guarantee has expired, to cut waste and make goods last longer.
The European Commission proposed rules on Wednesday that would oblige producers to offer repairs for a product for between five and ten years after it was sold – regardless of whether or not the legal guarantee is still valid.
The rules would apply to fridges, vacuum cleaners, televisions, washing machines and other goods that are deemed “repairable” under EU law. The EU is negotiating rules that would extend the requirement to smartphones and tablets.
European consumers and businesses routinely throw away goods that could be repaired, piling up waste and tossing away parts that could be recovered and reused.
A 2020 survey on behalf of Germany’s Environment Agency found that the “first-use” lifespan for products including televisions and large household appliances has decreased in recent years.
Some products were not designed to be easily repaired, while for others it was cheaper to buy a new product than repair an old one, the study found. In many cases, consumers simply replaced still-functioning goods because they wanted a newer version.
Under the EU rules, companies would have to repair a defective product for free within the two-year legal guarantee period, if the cost of repair is cheaper or equal to replacing the product.
After that date, companies must still offer repairs, either for free or for a charge. The EU also wants to launch an online service to help consumers find local repairers and thinks competition with other repairers will keep a lid on costs.
European Consumer Organisation BEUC welcomed the proposal, but said it would have made more sense to extend the legal guarantee period for long-lasting products like fridges.
The EU is negotiating a handful of policies designed to nudge companies towards making more sustainable products, and give consumers clearer information about the environmental impact of what they consume.
A second law, proposed by Brussels on Wednesday, would force companies to verify claims that their products are “green” or “eco-friendly”.
EU countries and the European Parliament must negotiate and approve both laws, a process that typically takes more than a year.