European parliament pushes to make gadgets easily repairable
Smartphones should be more durable, while also being easier and cheaper to repair, according to a series of new recommendations from the European Parliament.
The body set out its position earlier this week in the hope that it would bring longer lifespans to gadgets which are typically disposed of once components with limited lifespans, most significantly the battery, become unusable.
It also wants to tackle the issue of “programmed obsolescence” for goods and for software where manufacturers intentionally make it difficult to replace parts or swap the battery out in their products in order to push for new purchases.
Its recommendations include:
- robust, easily repairable and good quality products: “minimum resistance criteria” to be established for each product category from the design stage,
- if a repair takes longer than a month, the guarantee should be extended to match the repair time,
- member states should give incentives to produce durable and repairable products, boosting repairs and second-hand sales - this could help to create jobs and reduce waste,
- consumers should have the option of going to an independent repairer: technical, safety or software solutions which prevent repairs from being performed, other than by approved firms or bodies, should be discouraged,
- essential components, such as batteries and LEDs, should not be fixed into products, unless for safety reasons,
- spare parts which are indispensable for the proper and safe functioning of the goods should be made available “at a price commensurate with the nature and life-time of the product”,
- an EU-wide definition of “planned obsolescence” and a system that could test and detect the “built-in obsolescence” should be introduced, as well as “appropriate dissuasive measures for producers”.
Last month Apple announced that third-party repair centres would be allowed to use its proprietary machines to fix iPhone screens in a bid to reduce long wait times for iPhone repairs at its retail stores.
Although eight US states have recently launched “right to repair” bills, Apple said that its decision was not affected by legislative pressure, although it did lobby against New York’s attempts to force smartphone manufacturers to make it easier to repair devices earlier in the year.
The European Parliament called for the Commission to consider a “voluntary European label” covering, in particular, the product’s durability, eco-design features, upgradeability in line with technical progress and repairability.
MEPs also propose creating a “usage meter” for the most relevant consumer products, in particular large electrical appliances, to ensure better information for consumers.
The resolution was approved by 662 votes to 32, with two abstentions.
Pascal Durand (Greens/EFA, FR), rapporteur, said: “We must reinstate the reparability of all products put on the market. We have to make sure that batteries are no longer glued into a product, but are screwed in so that we do not have to throw away a phone when the battery breaks down. We need to make sure that consumers are aware of how long the products last and how they can be repaired.”
According to a 2014 Eurobarometer survey, 77 per cent of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones, but ultimately have to replace or discard them because they are discouraged by the cost of repairs and the level of service provided.