European Right To Repair: Poor Repairability Shamed With Rating System

Happily the right to repair movement is slowly gaining ground, and recently they’ve scored a major success in the European Parliament that includes a requirement that products be labelled with expected lifetime and repairability information, long-term availability of parts, and numerous measures aimed at preventing waste.

… including by requiring improved product information through mandatory labelling on the durability and reparability of a product (expected lifetime, availability of spare parts, etc.), defining durability and reparability as the main characteristics of a product…

Even the UK, whose path is diverging from the EU due to Brexit, appears to have a moment of harmony on this front. This builds upon existing rights to repair in that devices sold in Europe will eventually have to carry a clearly visible repair score to communicate the ease of repairability and supply of spare parts, making a clear incentive for manufacturers to strive for the highest score possible.

We live in an age in which our machines, appliances, and devices are becoming ever more complex, while at the same time ever more difficult to repair. Our community are the masters of fixing things, but even we are becoming increasingly stumped in the face of the latest flashy kitchen appliance or iDevice. The right to repair movement, and this measure in particular, seeks to improve the ability of all consumers, not just us hackers, to makebuying decisions for better products and lower environmental impact.

With a population of around 450 million people spread across 27 member countries, the EU represents a colossal market that no manufacturer can afford to ignore. Therefore while plenty of other regions of the planet have no such legislation this move will have a knock-on effect across the whole planet. Since the same products are routinely sold worldwide it is to be expected that an improvement in repairability for European markets will propagate also to the rest of the world. So when your next phone has a replaceable battery and easier spares availability, thank the EU-based right to repair campaigners and some European lawmakers for that convenience.

European Parliament from EU, CC BY 2.0.

93 thoughts on “European Right To Repair: Poor Repairability Shamed With Rating System

    1. Doubtful. Something that bad would mean that disassembly would actually damage it further and the repaired version wouldn’t even look the same. Simply put, it wouldn’t be worth the effort for anyone but a professional.

    1. You can try to join EU bandwagon with FTA Japan, South Korea, Canada and few others have already free trade agreements with EU. Its not a membership so no big protection the Brussels gives but its probably only thing doable. Me if i would be on your sid of the world i would talk to other countries with FTA with EU and try to combine it into economic area with free trade something like Pacific version of EEA or maybe just joining EEA.

  1. Thank you for this article, this propositon from the european parliament is extremely welcome to tackle the huge waste that consumer electronics can be.

    Some notes though:
    This is not a law yet, it’s a resolution from the parliament. As I understand it, the Counsil also has to review the text and that is where it could be blocked (lobbyism is strong there…).

    Also, consumer awareness is indeed really important, but how will the repairability could be objectively estimated? I fear the label could just become some kind of green washing tool for manipulating (fruity) companies.

    Lastly, I think you should have mentionned another aspect of the text: it is actually aiming at falicitating repairs, by making them systematic and cost effective for independent repair shops and for the consumers themselves!

    They mention forcing companies to give access to repair guides, diagnostic tools, documentation, softwares tools and parts! That is in my view extremely important, as it could make the business of repairs actually profitable for a lot of people. For instance, I have a small but honorable electronics lab at my home. I can afford the 4 hours I took to do a component level fault analysis and repair in my water heater. Someone paying me to repair their water heater would find it extremely expensive. If the various tools and ressources make it possible to go from a 4 hour repair to a 1 hour repair, then the cost actually makes sense to go for it in place of a replacement, hence reducing energy consumption and e-waste.

    Enforcing repairability by independant shops is the key. They need to be independant because a company will always push you to buy a new one. Moreover, that could create a lot of jobs localised everywhere, for a lot of people. I guess many people interested in techs and electronics would like that job.

    1. The next step would be to also mandate the availability of training to third party repairers.

      The health facility I work for (in Australia) has a requirement that new major equipment is supplied with technical manuals and service training.

      The quality varies from vendor to vendor but it’s better than nothing.

    2. That is how I initially became interested in electronics. I worked at repairing CB radios and car stereos when I was a Sr in high school (graduated 1980). I also earned my Commercial FCC license when I was 17 (it was the only one on my class to pass)

      1. I would have loved this as a high school job! My interest in electronics actually came from the opposite action: I just couldn’t resist the need to open electronic stuff, and therefore breaking them more often than not ;)

    3. “the Counsil also has to review the text and that is where it could be blocked (lobbyism is strong there…).”

      Council is the executive that became legislator, Montesquieu would not agree to call the EU a democratic institution that respects the seperation of powers.

      1. Don’t worry. If it ever becomes a regulation, each member state has to then interpret the regulation into a local law, which means the Italians will completely disregard anything it says, and the Finns will make it twice as stringent.

        1. Not so sure about that, it could actually be integrated into the CE certification directives, which are usually taken quite seriously by the countries and the industries to get their CE approval and stickers on their products.
          There is actually a “ecodesign” CE directive that already exists, but I think it is mostly empty and has no real effect. This new proposition could change that.

      2. You are probably right. But one fight at a time ;).
        Actually, as a Belgian, I mostly feel like european politics is mostly ignored by the people, and it is rarely promoted by the media. I think that has to change first if we want the people to actually care about who they vote for in the EU parliament balot instead of randomly choosing someone.
        And if people is not interested, I guess it is quite natural to derive into a non democratic institution ruled by the few that actually cared, because they understood the importance of it and how they could use it for their interests.

        1. Well, it goes back to the same point: it doesn’t really matter what the EU is doing because it’s the local government that actually decides to go along with it. If anything, they just pick and choose which bits of the regulations they like, and then blame the EU for doing things that the EU never asked them to do but they did anyways.

          For example, Sweden should have transitioned to Euro like decades ago, but they keep stalling the switch indefinitely because the different currency is effectively acting as a trade border within the common market area. They are able to adjust the relative prices to the rest of EU to cancel out their systemic overhead, reduce imports of everyday goods, and control the loss of jobs to cheaper countries. Norway did the same by not joining the EU in the first place.

    4. The availability of repair kits and manuals used to be the norm. Even for VHS recorders from Japan. But consumers only want one thing: the lowest sticker price. Even if it ends up costing twice as much in the long run. The initial layout is paramount.

      1. That’s very true. It’s short sighted in some respects but also logical in others. The march of technology is so fast these days, keeping a DVD player for 4 years means it is out of date, not supporting current resolutions or new market driven features anymore. It may be more sense to ensure products are more recyclable and that recycling is enforced.

        As a product designer, I’d love to make things home repairable, but all the other design drivers contradict this.

      2. Back in the 80’s you could look forward to actually using your VHS recorder for the next 20 years. Nowadays you don’t want to be stuck with hardware that is older than 5 years because it’s shite anyways.

          1. We couldn’t afford one, so we rented. Later when the prices dropped, we had one second hand.

            They cost so much that you only bought one with the expectations that you wouldn’t need another for 10-20 years, and with that came the assumption that they could be maintained to last as long.

          2. Plus, the tapes cost so much that when the machine ate our favorite cartoon, dad just cut the tape in two and re-spooled it so we could watch the first half on one casette and the second half on another casette that was taken from another film that got mangled up.

  2. I assume most of Apple’s products will get the lowest score possible? Hopefully they won’t be giving Apple any special treatment like they did when mandating all cellphones sold in the EU had to use a common type charging port, which at the time was USB Micro B. Apple was allowed to get by with providing an adapter to their proprietary connector.

      1. It’s missing some info. At the time of enactment it was usbc, not micro. However the EU decision early 2020) was that a law should be made to enforce single charger port type. They didn’t specify what it should be, and the law was meant to be in place by mid 2020 which would specify the standard (expected to be usbc). In not sure if it got derailed by covid.

    1. Given the reliability of lightning vs USB micro cables in my house, Apple made the right decision.

      Apple kit gets a bad rap, but all the Apple kit I’ve repaired has been fantastic to work on – I’ve opened 3 MacBook Pro’s and an iMac to do upgrade SSDs, replace batteries, and replace a screen. Much easier than most windows laptops, aside from finding the right screwdrivers. But at least the screws don’t strip their heads.

      1. You have probably worked on older Apple products. Recently they have made quite a few strides in making sure independent repair shops can’t do their job. Louis Rossmann’s has quite a number of YT video’s on that subject. Apple are not the only one btw.

        1. Yep, even when Apples designs could support repair they jealously guard their parts to the extent that you have to send them the defective part before they’ll send you a replacement. There’s no way to have parts in stock unless you would literally have a stock of Apple machines. And that’s when you’re an “Apple certified repair technician”. If you’re not “Apple certified” you have no access to even that limited version of a parts system.

          1. There’s the old joke/truth that if you build a car out of individually sourced spare parts, you could buy four new cars. Obviously when everyone’s adding their profit margins to each and every part, you end up paying a lot.

            But for an iPhone it’s the other way around. If you could source the spares, they would cost much less than a new phone. Apple’s gross profit margin on the products is around 40%, though they then spend billions on marketing the things and keeping up the status image. It’s a publicly traded company, so you can see that on their closing statements each year.

  3. “the EU represents a colossal market that no manufacturer can afford to ignore”
    uhh, about that – several japanese car manufacturers will simply pull out of the EU market in the near future, as it’s no longer profitable profitable to even try to comply with the ridiculous emission regulations.
    Let’s hope more don’t follow because of more EU-specific bureaucracy…

        1. That’s interesting, but it’s not really surprising when so few buy a Mitsubishi here anyway. It also doesn’t mention anything about emissions and regulations, just that they aren’t competitive.

    1. But that’s fine, if a company can’t compete it can’t compete. If there were no car manufacturers who could comply with emission regulations it would be a problem, but that’s not the case.

          1. No, it’s a prediction.

            Batteries aren’t getting any cheaper because the supply is simply unable to keep up with the potential demand. IF you’re going to replace hundreds of millions of cars with electrics in the next 10-15 years, you will have to produce so many batteries so fast that it drives up the price to way above what 80% of the population can afford.

            So, as the deadline starts to loom and reality hits the fan, the government is forced to make a big U-turn or face an angry mob.

          2. In other words, the IC ban is simply a populist move – lip service to the green agenda. It’s just something you have to say because the opposition is saying the opposite thing and you can’t admit they’re right on anything.

            Nobody’s actually going to do it.

          3. I mean, think about it.

            The average person is driving a second or third hand vehicle that’s worth about $5,000 – $10,000or something in the neighborhood. They can’t buy a new car, yet in order to ban gasoline engines by 2035 or whatever, everybody has to.

            So if you really believe the ban is coming, better start saving up now.

          4. The move is to ban the sale of new cars with IC engines, not to make it illegal to run existing vehicles.

            I have mixed feelings on this:

            On one hand, I think it is the right thing to do.

            On the other hand, my job is diesel engine development for a major motor manufacturer. Which means I will be out of a job.

          5. > not to make it illegal to run existing vehicles

            Denmark has announced the ban of new IC cars in 2030 and all IC vehicles in 2035.
            Netherlands: all IC cars by 2030
            Norway: all IC cars by 2030
            Singapore: all IC vehicles by 2030
            India: all IC vehicles by 2030
            Sri lanka: all IC vehicles by 2040

            The rest are more conservative and only ban new vehicle sales, but the point is largely the same, because it doesn’t take many years to deplete the second hand market. If these deadlines are true, then the manufacturers will have to start winding down production in the next 5-10 years and there won’t be any spare parts available after the deadline either, so the entire world will go the way of Cuba – illegal private shops refurbishing parts for old cars – if they actually intend to pull this one through.

    2. “ridiculous emission regulations”, “EU-specific bureaucracy”…

      Careful, your Brexit is showing :-)

      Indeed Japanese automakers in Europe are leaving but it is because they have been losing money for decades and manufacturing in certain EU countries has become unsustainable. I work in the sector and I can assure you that it is not because of EU regulations. Japanese and US regulations are also pretty complicated to meet.
      You’ll see, when UK based factories start to close down we will be told it’s the EU’s fault. The PM will probably say something like: “A betrayal of the utmost wickedness of clearly non British people and an act of jealousy towards the resolution of the British people to stand for freedom of the will of the British people”.
      It is not the first nor the second.
      And going back to Right to Repair, your mention of the automotive industry is interesting because that is a very good example of a sector where the right to repair has never really gone away. It is not as good as it once was but it is still there.

    3. I know Toyota stopped selling the Hiace van in Europe because it’s engine no longer complied with EU regulations. But that’s because Toyota refused to develop cleaner diesel engine, not because the requirement is ridiculous or unobtainable.

        1. Yes, no.
          The restrictions for c02 is thouger in Europe. And the nox restrictions are tougher in the USA.
          Smog is a bigger problem in the US. In General these two emissions are opposite to each other. If you optimize for nox you get more co2
          And if you optimese for co2 you get more nox

  4. The one that gets me the most, after some type of digital rights management that stops repair, is that they are deliberately making the battery as hard to replace as possible in many devices – yet we know it has a charge/discharge limit, and know that limit is going to be reached a long time before the failure of any other component.. Yes, great for selling new devices because the battery is dead, but not great for the consumer..

  5. great, but 20 years too late, all the mom and dad little repair shops have closed long ago.
    The supply chain also doesn’t exist any more.
    It seems just like more bureaucracy for manufacturers.
    story:
    20 years ago Philips (big EU appliance manufacturer) started to have competition from cheaper alternatives, they split their product line, you could get a quality repairable blender for 100€, and a much cheaper comparable alternative for 15€, but it specifically said in the catalog that it wouldn’t be repairable (just like their competitors).
    Those 100€ included stocking parts to your neighbourhood repair centre, training technicians and all that jazz, that blender would be repairable in the next 20 years or more.

    This isn’t compatible with cheap consumer electronics we are used to have now.

    1. While the old repair shops have closed, there’s nothing stopping new repair shops from opening. Modern devices require modern skills, and old repair shops usually only repaired old devices. Your story, on the other hand, has nothing to do with mom and pop repair shops. You switched over to manufacturer (out of) warranty repairs. That has never disappeared completely and now the costs of those repairs are not subsidized by the price of the product. It’s completely out of pocket.

      I may end up moving to the EU in the future, and I will definitely look into opening a repair shop.

      1. >I may end up moving to the EU in the future, and I will definitely look into opening a repair shop.

        In 1920s there were people in the West who moved to Soviet Union looking for a better life, just sayin.

      2. View a few of Louis Rossmann’s videos and you’ll understand that independent repair shops face quite a different challenge: not that the product is not repairable, but the manufacturer has cut off the supply to replacement parts.

        1. When you change the product every year and make a new model that is not parts-compatible with the previous one, you never have to keep an inventory of spares because there’s never enough of any model on the market that people of that model could demand you to keep an inventory of spare parts for them. All you have to do is respect the warranty: replace or refund, and that’s it. It keeps people from developing a second source industry around your widget.

      3. >there’s nothing stopping new repair shops from opening

        I tried to get my camera fixed in a “we repair everything” shop. Even the instructions could be found online. The trouble is, the fix for the camera would take 4 hours of work, which would cost more than buying an identical working camera second hand online. They wouldn’t even bother to give me a quote, just a straight up “nope”.

        I ended up doing the repair myself. After all, if I broke it, I could just buy another. I estimated that for the cost of having it repaired, I could actually buy a NEW camera of similar specs. With the labor costs and taxes today, anything that cost less than $500 new is not worth repairing outside of warranty. You can find the same item second hand for the price of the fix.

    2. >Those 100€ included stocking parts to your neighbourhood repair centre

      No such thing.

      >Training technicians and all that jazz

      No such thing. It’s still the same “mail the appliance at us, and if we choose so, we’ll send you a new one back”. It’s just a more expensive blender that is _technically_ repairable but nobody is going to do so, and it doesn’t cost that much more to make – it just makes them more profit on people imagining so.

  6. I hope they’ll go on by detailing how the right to repair should work, rating is not enough, what if a company totally conforms to the maximum rate but charges enormous sums for a minimal repair (like Apple)?
    It should be done by literally stating that any consumer has the right to repair his own devices by any means he finds fit.

    1. but you do, the problem usually is when people still expect support from the manufacturer afterwards.
      go figure.
      I know that as soon as that seal is broken I’m on my own.
      That and any IP within isn’t really mine, I’m just licensing it.

      totally fine with it, chucking a brand new 4TB portable drive while typing this :)
      No more warranty for this(in the US you could still get away with it)

  7. I too think that the propositon from the european parliament is extremely welcome.
    I wish they would also do something regarding the hijacked CE marking.
    Something along the lines they did with champagne etc. Perhaps

      1. CE marking is an administrative marking that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the EU.
        It is, I believe however, used unscrupulously on goods that don’t have conformance as meaning ‘Chinese Export’. As the marking is so similar and may not be done for nefarious intentions, it is however misleading unless the EU version is handy to compare. So whilst the use of ‘hijack’ doesn’t doesn’t literally make sense in terms of its definition, I think it meets nonetheless my intention & is in the same vain as the real marking being usurped for its own purposes. Hope that helps…

        1. It’s self-applied and thus not worth taking notice of – if I were to make lethal mains-voltage products at home in my garage, I could CE mark them and sell them – all I have to do is make *myself* happy they conform. Which in reality means the only people conforming to the tests etc are likely to be large manufacturers with a reputation to lose. I certainly don’t know anyone who thinks the CE mark is of any value here in the UK, but it is interesting to see how that clearly has been hijacked now you mention it!

      2. Basically yes. The CE is misuded – especially from China made products. The CE is scanned and the printed on that product…hijacked. The EU has been too lax with China – mainly due to the exports to China and money makes policy.

        1. James is right, CE is self applied. It is really a complex matter, but even the tests can be self performer for some aspect ans some situation.
          Let’s say you produce a consumer electronics gadget. You can actually perform the CEM testing yourself to comply to a standard recognized by the EU. You keep all the test data, documentation and report, and if the authorities asks for them you have the obligation to prove you made sure the product does comply.
          For other aspects (for instance machine safety I think) you have to contract a recognized institution to perform the tests for you.
          The China Export thing is just a urban legend, they just put the regular CE parking like everyone else, by printing it on the box.
          As to if they actually made the tests and do comply with regulation, that is probably false. They don’t care because UE authorities will never perform legal actions to an Aliexpress seller and manufacturer.

          1. Worth noting, however, to the geniuses thinking they are the New Jeff Bezos because they do dropshipping, that as they are actually putting the product into the EU market they share responsability to check for EU compliance with the manufacturer. They have to ensure the testing is done or to do the tests themselves.
            I doubt the EU will take legal action to a kid selling cheap arduinos, but if someone dies because he used a 230V powered drill that was an electrical hazard, the dropshipping seller could very well be considered responsible.
            Think about those mains powered heating shower heads for instance….

  8. This is excellent news and will save resources.
    The next thing is that urgently needs to be legistated is when products/services are sold in any Country , then they company must pay taxes in that Country.

  9. At a guess, the main concern of the public with regard to electronic devices will be simple repairs: replacement of battery, memory modules, SSDs, possibly phone screens, etc. Repairs that almost anyone could do with a small screwdriver and a minimum of technical knowledge. High ratings would probably be obtained by those sort of repairs being simple. The difficulty level of more complex repairs ought not to affect the repairability rating very much.

    I wonder how John Deere items would fare. You may recall the stink where repairs had to be done by official JD dealers and such. Third-party replacement parts would not work on JD items. I don’t know if this is still the case, but a law would have to deal with such things; i.e., repairs that are easy but *must* be done by a manufacturer-certified company.

    Wonder if the law would apply to household appliances and/or cars.

    1. The law must cover appliances and , perhaps cars – the latter being a bi of a problem due to the onboard electronics.
      The question is howto deal with special cases . Some appliances have built in “destruct” dates. – and funnily enough there is a good reason for that.

  10. Repairability is fine and dandy, but it should also be guaranteed that the parts are available to independent repairers. The directive seems vague about this, I could only find this:

    > 30. Calls for the revision of the Ecolabel Directive in order to improve consumer information on the reparability, availability and affordability of spare parts and DIY options;

    DIY -> So they have at least given it some thought.

    I bring this up because Apple and others have recently made moves to restrict the availability of certain spare parts to their own repair shops and lock out independent repairers. They are also introducing id’s in components, so your device stops working with a replacement part because the id is not matched.

    Products may get a high score for repairability, but since you are forced to have it repaired by the manufacturer, you can be sure the price will be in the stratosphere and most consumers will not bother.

  11. Repairability is fine and dandy, but it should also be guaranteed that the parts are available to independent repairers. The directive seems vague about this, I could only find this:

    > 30. Calls for the revision of the Ecolabel Directive in order to improve consumer information on the reparability, availability and affordability of spare parts and DIY options;

    DIY -> So they have at least given it some thought.

    I bring this up because Apple and others have recently made moves to restrict the availability of certain spare parts to their own repair shops and lock out independent repairers. They are also introducing id’s in components, so your device stops working with a replacement part because the id is not matched.

    Products may get a high score for repairability, but since you are forced to have it repaired by the manufacturer, you can be sure the price will be in the stratosphere and most consumers will not bother.

  12. I’d make it apply to the packing too. Anything that has a low repair-ability score, must be packed in crap bubble packaging, where all the package contents must be 100% recyclable.

    Picture the macs being sold in cheap cardboard bubble packs, printed on grey, unbleached cardboard.

    disposable products should be sold with at least fully recyclable packaging. There should also be a fee levied on both the seller, and the purchaser. 10% of the cost of the item, to go to a recycling fund. the seller must refund the fee to the purchaser, if the producer can meet certain recycling requirements.

  13. The potential pit fall is people like trouble free experience, and if there is inconvenience and bother with getting an repair many will just throw the item away. Everyone is talking about levies and being punitive but that just simply leads to people begrudgingly complying with the regulation. A carrot approach may be better to get people and companies to adopt better practises. Maybe an slight relief on sales tax or either forgoing the tax.

  14. Repairable devices? Replaceable batteries? I don’t know. I’ll believe it when I see it!

    Meanwhile I’m still “thanking” the EU for the fact that for every device in the house that still uses a traditional, consumable battery I need a screwdriver (usually the one that is currently hiding under a pile of some half-finished project) just to replace that battery!

    Remember the days when battery compartments had covers that just clipped in and out by thumb?
    I want that back.

  15. We like to be able to fix items that are/were an investment. You repair your house. You would have a TV repaired when it represented a few months of wages. There was a time when we repaired socks. But most items we own nowadays are not investments. If the TV is the wrong color we throw it out without a second thought.
    Lets face it, we don’t buy a new phone because it no longer works but because it has a model number one less than the neighbour’s phone.

    1. Some of this “right to repair” is people wanting to find instructions on how to replace a broken screen. They aren’t troubleshooting, which is a big cost to repair.

      I have never not had the right to repair. I could open something up and try to repair it, try to figure out what needs fixing. But that means I understand electronics, and how dense it’s gotten . That $500 printer I got in 1982 was repairable, and likely cheaper than buying a new one. But it never broke. Things today are so much smaller, and cheaper. They are designed to be built, not repaired. I might try to replace a surface mount IC, but I know the parts may not be available.

      Most people don’t want to go back to simpler times when we had few electronics and it was expensive.

      1. It’s an interesting complication. The difference between fix it yourself, authorised repair centre, qualified repair centre and OEM. If I fix something at home I don’t expect my warranty to survive that. I might want the details and parts to do it, but I don’t have any right to demand it. If I can fix it, ace. But I think the point of this is not me, the point is to give people the choice of who they go to for repair. And that’s a quandary. As a manufacturer I don’t want other people faffing with my hardware and certainly won’t warranty it, and rightly so. And why should I supply parts to someone who will undercut me and do half the job I would?

  16. Shouldn’t this cover the right to refill ink and toner cartridges as well?

    (Assertions by printer makers that these restrictions are to assure print quality and prevent damage to the printers ring hollow.)

    I can hardly wait for Tesla to require you purchase Tesla-branded electricty only from them to recharge their cars.

    Or when Exxon cuts a deal with Ford to include a DRM chip that requires you to refuel only with Exxon gas.

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