Easy product repair

What’s the problem?

Consumer goods are now less durable and repairable than in the past. RREUSE has investigated the increasing difficulties associated with attempting to repair modern electronic equipment including:

  • Lack of access to and high costs of spare parts: costs of repair are higher than purchasing a new appliance
  • Lack of appropriate repair information: no free access to service manuals, software and hardware of product and components
  • Product design and components without re-use potential: new designs make it increasingly difficult to repair a product or components without breaking it.

Not only is this a serious environment issue but not being able to repair an appliance also puts at risk the economic viability of re-use and repair organisations.

Our aims

RREUSE promotes more durable and repairable products by:

  • Advocating policies to make repair and re-use activities more competitive in order to provide more repair choices for consumers
  • Influencing product policy by including provisions with repair-friendly criteria including:
    • Durable and easy to repair product design
    • Spare parts availability must be guaranteed for longer periods
    • Free access to repair service documentation and software for all re-use and repair centres

Promoting ease of repair criteria extends the lifetime of a product and reduces the need to purchase a new one, saving on the energy and resources that go into production.

To push these demands further, RREUSE takes part in a coalition of organisations fighting for a “Right to Repair” in the EU.  This campaign advocates that consumers should be able to decide how their products should be repaired, by themselves or by professionals. Manufacturers should not be able to retain the right to repair their products by giving access to repair tools or information only to repairers which they authorised.

EU policy agenda

The EU’s Ecodesign directive, establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products, is a tool which has been recently opened up to include repairability requirements for certain types of products such as domestic washing machines and washerdryersfridges, dishwashers and electronic displays. In the past, this directive mainly focused on making products more energy efficient.

From March 2021 onwards, manufacturers of these products will have to respect the following requirements:

  • Designing their products so they can be easily disassembled
  • Ensuring that key parts can be removed and replaced without the need for proprietary tools
  • Providing certain key spare parts to professional repairers under a delivery period of 15 working days
  • Making repair manuals available to professional repairers, but in exchange for a ‘reasonable fee’

The Commission is already looking at implementing the same rules for other types of products such as vacuum cleaners, tumble dryers or even cooking appliances. In the future, mobile phones, computers, tablets, game consoles and printers could also be covered. These are good first steps towards more repairable products, but RREUSE encourages the Commission to also think about non-energy related products such as textiles and furniture.

Financial tools, such as reduced VAT on repair activities, should also be considered to make repair less expensive and therefore, more attractive to consumers. Several examples of such measures are listed here.