Right to Repair

We have a history of planned obsolescence that has created a vicious cycle of waste – use and throw away, buy again. It’s eating the planet.

The UK are the second largest producer of some types of waste, notably electrical waste. We can’t afford to use up precious, non-repeatable resources. We think, if people had the right to repair their own stuff if they wished to, it would help save energy, precious resources, money and therefore, the planet.

Governements first started to act as the car industry was born. Manufacturers everywhere try to control every aspect of what they do and consumers can pay a heavy price for that.

If things were designed to be repairable they would last longer, especially if their component parts were reusable. Yet according to an article quoted by Wikipedia, half of the world has a broken item stored away at home, useless.

Improvements are gradually happening but laws are needed, not just regulation, to counter the considerable power manufactuers have to dictate how we behave. If you can’t fix it, do you actually own it?

We support the creation of law that gives people a right to repair their own stuff if they wish.

The EU leads the world in bringing in regualations that pave the way for laws to grant people these rights. The UK followed the EU lead in 2019 and copied into UK law a set of ‘Eco Design’ regulations to help reduce the waste that manufacturers cause. This House of Commons briefing on the UK Right to Repair regulations summarises what was done by 2021. Very few product ranges are affected. The manufacturing lobby is very strong.

EU/UK Regulations

Regulations do not confer rights – laws do. The UK has not yet granted people a right to repair but we are on the right path.

The UK has followed the EU in approaching the issue from the perspective of the contract around the sale of goods, urging sustainable product design.

The EU started in 2019 with the ‘ecodesign’ of computer parts https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32019R0424 (too long, don’t read).

In 2023 the EU advocated for proposed legislation to make manufacturers sell goods repairable for up to 5-10 years after purchase.

It’s been broadened to a  ‘circular economy’ EU Directive on Right to Repair (“the Common Rules”), adopted in May 2024 but only applying to these household goods so far:

 washing machines, washer-dryers, dishwashers, refrigerating appliances, electronic displays, welding equipment, vacuum cleaners, servers and data storage products, mobile phones, cordless phones and slate tablets, tumble dryers, batteries in consumer goods   

As it’s a Directive, EU Member States have two years to implement it. Some EU countries have already gone further, notably Austria from 2017 onwards.

Directive aims: “improving the functioning of the internal market, while achieving a high level of consumer protection as well as increased circularity within the economy. In the context of the green transition, this Directive pursues the objective of improving the functioning of the internal market, while promoting more sustainable consumption, and thereby complements the objective https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2019/771/oj(too long, don’t read)

Cherry-picking from the 70 pages of the 2019 to  2024 Common rules promoting the repair of goods:

2. explains the need for  uniform rules promoting the repair of goods purchased by consumers so as to give them more choice. They want to promote “... a life cycle of goods which includes re-use, repair and refurbishment

5. ” to promote repair within the liability of the seller” …” a more sustainable consumption, a circular economy and the green transition

8. ” In order to fully exploit the benefits of this Directive, it should apply to all goods.” However they’ve severely limited the range it actually applies to.

10.  Repairers are to provide consumers with key information on their repair services. “In order to facilitate the consumer’s free choice to decide by whom to have goods repaired and to help identify and choose suitable repair services, repairers should be able to use on a voluntary basis the standardised European Repair Information Form” which could ” allow consumers to assess and easily compare repair services, including alternative repair offers, and facilitate the provision of information on repair services, in particular for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises

(Section 28 says the EU themselves will set up a central website for all form-filling and article 7.2 gives the EU 3 years to do so)

12.  Filling out the Repair Information form should be free, but if a repairer needs to perform a diagnostic service they can charge for it. ” If the consumer chooses to have the good repaired, the repairer should be able to deduct such costs from the price of the repair

“… The price should be reasonable, meaning it should be set in such a way that consumers are not intentionally deterred from benefitting from the manufacturers’ obligation to repair“. ” To incentivise consumers to have their goods repaired outside of the legal guarantee, a manufacturer should be able to offer a loan of a comparable good for the duration of the repair, which is expected to be returned once the consumer receives the repaired good.”

18. ” manufacturers are to provide access to spare parts, repair and maintenance information or any repair related software tools, firmware or similar auxiliary means.”

24. ” the manufacturer should not be able to refuse repair for purely economic reasons, such as the cost of spare parts, or for the sole reason that a previous repair has been performed by other repairers or, where applicable, by the consumer

41. ” the right to choose between repair and replacement as well as the extension of the liability period if that consumer chooses repair

USA Right to Repair

The US has taken a different approach, seeing the whole thing as about competition. On repair for example, they say that if a manufacturer is allowed to restrict reuse and repair to authorised resellers, those resellers will convince customers to upgrade to a better model rather than fix their old one.

So US campaigners want the law changed to facilitate easy access for ordinary people and independent repair shops to manuals, info and tools to repair things themselves.

They’ve made some notable successes, notably over Apple’s policies but manufacturing are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to control over what they do…

2023 onwards

Colorado’s HB23-1011 Consumer Right To Repair Agricultural Equipment is claimed as a world first

Minnesota passes the Digital Right to Repair Bill requiring manuals, tools, and parts be made available for most electronics and appliances, covering the most ground of any US state to date. Exemptions include cars, game consoles, medical, farm or construction equipment and digital security tools.

Apple reversed its position to now support California’s right to repair bill which subsequently passed into law on October 12th. Manufacturers must make repair materials available for a set period after the product is last manufactured. Cities, counties, makerspaces, local repairers can all bring cases against non-compliant manufacturers

Quebec amends their Consumer Protection legislation to ban planned obsolescence and give consumers a right to repair

Lenovo announce a plan that, “by 2025, more than 80 percent of the repair parts will be repaired again so that they they enter into the circular economy to reduce the impact to the environment.” More than 80% of their devices will be repairable by customers

2024 The EU adopts a set of right-to-repair rules. Starting in 2025, Oregon will ban parts pairing (e.g Apple preventing non-Apple charging cables).