On October 1, 2019, the European Commission (EC) adopted a package of ecodesign measures that, for the first time, include requirements for repairability and recyclability for household products. These requirements seek to contribute to the European Union's (EU) circular economy objectives by improving the life span, maintenance, re-use, upgrade, recyclability, and waste handling of appliances.
In September 2020, the European Commission announced a legislative proposal aiming to revise the current EU EcoDesign Directive 2009/125/EC (in force since November 20, 2010) by broadening its scope beyond energy-related products* and by providing for EU rules on “Right to Repair”’, obligating merchants and their manufacturers placing certain consumer goods on the EU market to provide access to necessary repair and maintenance information, including information on spare parts and software updates, to both consumers and regulators alike.
* “Energy-related products” is defined as any good that has an impact on energy consumption during use. This entails both energy using products as well as products of which the insulating properties affect the energy required for heating and cooling of buildings, e.g., lamps, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, game consoles, kitchen appliances, and dishwashers, windows, etc.
Merchants and/or manufacturers of such products have had obligations under the EcoDesign Directive to: (a) bear “CE Marking”; (b) be issued an “EC Declaration of Conformity”; (c) prepare technical documents on the design and manufacture of products; and (d) provide requisite information to consumers.
Note, the EcoDesign Directive does not apply to means of transport for persons and goods.
On March 1, 2021, new EU rules entered into force prescribing that all washing machines, dishwashers, fridges and displays (including TVs), and light sources and separate control gears must be manufactured to be more easily repairable and longer-lasting (requiring producers to make spare parts and repair manuals available to professional repairers). As of September 1, 2021, external power supplies, light sources, and separate control gears came into the scope of these obligations as well.
The UK (effective July 1, 2021)
The UK was one of the first nations in Continental Europe to robustly align with these EU measures. The provisions in The Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information Regulations 2021 (SI 2021 No. 745), also known as the “Right to Repair” regulation, came into effect by the United Kingdom of Great Britain government (UK) on July 1, 2021. The “Right to Repair” consists of ecodesign and labeling requirements for specified electrical products sold in the UK.
The regulations aim to increase manufacturer responsibility, reduce energy usage and electrical waste, and enable consumers to identify the most energy-efficient products on the market. Manufacturers are required to provide spare parts and maintenance information to consumers to facilitate repairs. The regulations in the UK apply to products bought from July 1, 2021 (hence they are not retroactively applicable), but manufacturers of products have up to 2 years to make spare parts available to professional repairers. Additionally, spare parts must be made available for minimum periods ranging from 7 to 10 years after the last unit of the model has been placed on the market. The consumer product types covered by the regulations are:
- Washing Machines and Washer-Dryers
- Refrigeration Appliances
- Televisions and other electronic displays
The UK Ecodesign Regulation also introduced energy labeling requirements for commercial refrigeration put into effect July 1, 2021. Please refer to The Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information Regulations 2021 for more information on energy labeling requirements for commercial refrigeration.
It is the merchant’s responsibility to ensure that the products sold comply with the UK’s “Right to Repair” regulation, if they are selling the products mentioned above into the UK. Please refer to The Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information Regulations 2021 for more information on requirements.
The EU (effective September 1, 2021)
Since April 1, 2020, as part of the EU's ecodesign and energy labeling package reform, it has become easier for consumers to repair their own household EEE devices. These rules, applicable across the EU starting September 1, 2021, intend to crack down on practices used by manufacturers that shorten the lifespan of their products. It is important to note that certain electrical goods such as washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, displays (including TVs), and hair-dryers sold in the EU must be repairable for 7 - 10 years. Though certain electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) are not yet included currently in-scope, smartphones, tablets, and laptops may also be covered in the future.) These rules are part of a wider effort to tackle ‘e-waste’ and to achieve climate-neutrality in the EU by 2050.
The new laws require merchants and/or their manufacturers to make the majority of the spare parts and repair manuals available to professional repairers only. According to the new legislation, spare parts should also be provided within fifteen (15) working days. Manufacturers also retain the exclusive right to repair within the first 2 years of the product’s life span.
Key Takeaway Points
- "Right to Repair" rules apply to various household products such as dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, electronic displays (e.g., televisions), and light sources (e.g., household lamps).
- Proposals include obligations on manufacturers to make available: (a) spare parts for up to 7 or 10 years (for certain products); (b) repair and maintenance information for professional repairers.
- Environmental protection and waste reduction are key drivers for the legislation, as opposed to consumer rights or competition issues among repairers.
- Manufacturers and importers will need to comply with the new requirements by the relevant commencement date (which varies depending on the product type but falls between April 1, 2020, and September 1, 2021) in order to keep marketing such products in the EU.
- The Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information Regulations 2021 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2021/9780348222920
- Right to Repair Regulations: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9302/
- Right To Repair (general guidance): https://repair.eu/
- EC FAQs: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/energy_climate_change_environment/frequently_asked_questions_on_the_ecodesign_measures.pdf