According to a proposal by the EU Commission, consumers in Europe should be given a so-called right to repairs. The aim is to relieve the financial burden on citizens and protect the environment.

What products are you talking about?

Many many. The EU Commission cites washing machines and dishwashers, televisions, tablets, smartphones and dryers as examples. In general, it says: “The proposal applies to consumables.” This means “movable physical objects”. In addition, all defects in such goods should be covered – regardless of whether they are still subject to the statutory warranty or not. It should also be possible to repair self-inflicted damage.

What is the aim of the planned rules?

Consumers should be strengthened, the environment should be protected. The proposal makes it easier and cheaper to repair goods rather than replace them. For example, buyers should be able to request repairs from manufacturers for five to ten years – even after the statutory guarantee has expired – for products that are technically repairable under EU law.

According to the EU Commission, discarded goods can often still be repaired, but are often thrown away prematurely. This results in 35 million tonnes of waste, 30 million tonnes of wasted resources and 261 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU every year. It is estimated that 18.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 1.8 million tons of resources and 3 million tons of waste will be saved over 15 years.

When do the regulations apply?

That’s not decided yet. First the European Parliament and the EU states have to agree on a concrete form of the rules. This process usually takes several months – there is no deadline by which the negotiations must be concluded. There may still be changes. The Chairwoman of the Internal Market Committee in the EU Parliament, Anna Cavazzini (Greens), emphasized that she will work to ensure that consumers are not left with the costs of repairs.

The CSU MEP Markus Ferber also welcomed the Commission’s proposal. However, he made it clear that, in his view, it should not be about discouraging consumers from making new purchases.

What are the limits to repairs?

For example, if a mobile phone is so badly damaged that repairing it does not make economic sense, it does not need to be repaired. Literally, the Commission says: “As part of the legal guarantee, sellers will have to offer repairs, unless these are more expensive than the replacement.” As a rule, a statutory guarantee is valid for two years.

CSU politician Ferber emphasized: “If you want the latest ultra-thin end device, you have to make compromises when it comes to repairability by the end user.” His SPD colleague René Repasi made it clear: “It is crucial that companies do not demand deterrent moon prices, so that the right to repair is socially acceptable.”

Where can I have devices repaired?

On the one hand, the manufacturers have an obligation – but they can also commission service providers with the repair. In addition, independent workshops should be allowed to operate. Cavazzini announced that he wants to work to ensure that spare parts and instructions are easily accessible “so that corporate giants like Apple no longer dictate the rules for a repair”. In addition, national online platforms are envisaged where citizens can find out about repair services and sellers of refurbished goods.

What are the implications for Germany?

If the rules come into force as planned, they would also have to be implemented by Germany. In addition, Federal Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens), who is responsible for consumer protection, announced a similar project a year ago. “We will take important steps out of the throwaway society, for example through a right to repair.” This should be supported by a funding program “Repair instead of throwing away”.

Consumer advocates also see the Commission’s plans as an opportunity for more movement on the subject in Germany. According to the Federal Association of Consumer Centers (vzbv), there are no concrete plans for the plans announced by Lemke.

How is the German economy reacting?

“Many companies face major challenges with the proposed ‘right to repair’,” said Peter Adrian, President of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. If, for example, spare parts have to be stored longer and repairs have to be carried out within 15 days, this means additional logistical and financial burdens. “Many companies are currently operationally unable to implement the right to repair in practice.”

The managing director of the digital association Bitkom, Bernhard Rohleder, explained that a certified right to repairs could make devices more durable, but was not enough. Similar to Adrian, Bitkom calls for more incentives for companies: “A reduction in VAT on spare parts and repair services for IT hardware such as smartphones and laptops would be such an incentive.”

Communication from the EU Commission