European Commission proposes new rules on repairing defective goods

Published on 07 July 2023

The question

How will the new rules proposed by the European Commission (EC) in the Right to Repair Directive affect producers and consumers of goods?

The key takeaway

The EC has proposed new rules which aim to prevent defective goods from being prematurely discarded and replaced. Manufacturers will have to repair goods deemed reparable under EU law and must inform consumers of their repair obligations in a clear and accessible manner. Put another way, the EC is saying repair, don’t replace, defective goods in its latest Net Zero effort.

The background

Consumers are currently entitled to a replacement or repaired product under the legal guarantee in the EU Sale of Goods Directive, if their product is defective. Consumers are often also discouraged from opting for a repair because of poor repair options and conditions. Due to this, reparable products are often prematurely replaced, causing increased waste and a greater demand for resources with the need to manufacture additional products from scratch.

On 22 March 2023, the EC proposed the Right to Repair Directive (the Proposed Directive), which modifies existing EU legislation (including the Sale of Goods Directive, the Representative Actions and the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation) to promote repairing goods rather than replacing them. This will mean that consumers will only be able to choose a replacement, when it is cheaper than a repair.

The EC’s overarching goal is to deliver on the European Green Deal, a package of climate, energy, tax and transport policies striving to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This proposal seeks to contribute to this by reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by throwing products away as soon as they show a slight defect, despite the products still having a lot more life left in them, if repaired properly.

The development

The Proposed Directive recommends the following obligations for manufacturers and EU Member States:

Producers must

  • Repair goods deemed reparable under EU law.
  • Inform consumers as to which products they are obliged repair whilst providing easily accessible, clear and comprehensible information on the repair services offered.
  • Provide consumers seeking repair with a standardised European Repair Information Form (ERIF) setting out the price and key conditions of a proposed repair.

Member states must

  • Establish national matchmaking online repair platforms where consumers can easily find a repairer based on different search criteria, including location.
  • Ensure adequate and effective means are implemented to make their country compliant.
  • Incorporate the Directive into national laws within 24 months of it being codified.

Member states can

  • Set their own penalties, ensuring that they are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
  • Choose precisely how to incorporate the Directive into their national law.

The same final text of the Right to Repair Directive will need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Once this is agreed, the legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will enter into force. Member States will then have 24 months to adopt the Directive into domestic law, with measures applying 24 months from then.

Why is this important?

The Proposed Directive follows on from the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act (see our previous Snapshot here) and ultimately shows an ongoing trend by the EC of stricter legislation which imposes new duties on companies. Whilst Member States have discretion as to how they incorporate directives in national law, they must give effect to the Proposed Directive once it becomes legislation. Member States will be able to set their own penalties for noncompliance.

Any practical tips?

Producers manufacturing or supplying reparable goods in EU Member States will need to assess potential liabilities under the Directive and should monitor developments in the Member States in which they operate; there may be differences in how each Member State chooses to enforce the Directive. It is also likely that other countries, such as the UK, will follow suit.

Producers will not only need to ensure existing products are repaired, but also that they are built with repairability in mind and that they are able to complete a fast and efficient repair, if anything goes wrong. They will also need to source the right parts and ensure employees are properly trained to complete the repairs.


Summer 2023

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