EU governments support first set of laws for more repairable products

EU governments have supported the first-ever repairability measures for fridges despite opposition from manufacturers and hesitation from the European Commission. The same progressive approach may now also be applied to other popular products, NGOs understand.

The EU’s 28 member states have agreed on a new set of manufacturing laws to make fridges and freezers more easily repairable and longer-lasting. The vote, which took place on 10 December, was the first of its kind for Europe.

The agreed text foresees that repairers should be able to disassemble some critical parts without damaging the product and with the use of commonly available tools. Components of products are very often glued together or welded, which makes the replacement of failing parts very difficult.

Governments also suggested applying a similar approach to other products such as washing machines and dishwashers, according to several national representatives consulted by the NGOs ECOS and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The decision comes after the two NGOs denounced strong pressure from industry lobby groups, which prompted the European Commission to water down the proposals on repairability in favour of recyclability.

“EU governments refused to cave in to pressure and restored ambitious proposals to boost repair and reuse of white goods: this is good news for consumers and the planet,” said Chloe Fayole of ECOS.

However, Fayole said that the rules must now be extended also to lighting and displays, which will be discussed next week, and to all products in the future.

Commenting on why these measures are so important, she said:

“Waste from electronics is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Enabling consumers to repair and reuse all electronic products is a must and will help save millions of tons of natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions while saving consumers money.”

Alongside the ease of disassembly, EU governments agreed to make spare parts such as door gaskets for fridges available to all for a number of years. Only certain spare parts will be made available exclusively to professional repairers who must meet several criteria defined at national level.

While welcoming the decision, the NGOs called on regulators to make as many spare parts and repair information as possible available to all, including consumers, community repairers, repair cafés and others. Limiting the availability of spare parts and information is equivalent to limiting the availability of repair services, they said.