The proposed Ecodesign-regulations and "the right to repair"

Environmental protection is receiving more and more attention around the globe, and European legislation is also increasingly focusing on the protection of the environment. The European Commission (the Commission) is currently working on twelve draft Ecodesign-regulations which are aimed at ecodesign requirements for various so-called energy-consuming products (the Ecodesign-regulations)[1].

There is, for example, an Ecodesign-regulation for display screens, washing machines, and dishwashers. With these Ecodesign-regulations, the Commission focuses, among other things, on the reparability of products in order to exploit a product's full potential. The Commission aims to do this by introducing a set of repair requirements which should be met by manufacturers and importers by April 2021, in order to be able to keep marketing their products in the European Union (EU).

The reason for the Ecodesign-regulations

The Ecodesign-regulations fit in with the European Circular Economy Action Plan which was adopted by the EU in 2015. This EU Action Plan aims to stimulate the EU's transition to a circular economy in order to improve the overall competitiveness of the EU, to promote sustainable economic growth and to create employment opportunities.

The Commission's recent focus on the reparability of products can be explained, among other things, by the increasing attention of environmental organisations and consumers paid to the presumed relatively short lifespan of electronic devices. Furthermore, both parties seem to argue that attention should be paid the presumed difficulty of disassembling these electronic devices in order to reuse (parts of) these devices.

The repair requirements

The Commission is introducing the set of repair requirements by adding the set to already existing ecodesign requirements for certain products. Based on the Ecodesign Directive the Commission is able to set requirements for energy-consuming products and to lay down these requirements in Ecodesign-regulations. In general, the proposed Ecodesign-regulations distinguishes between the following three main repair requirements which manufactures and/or importers have to adhere to when placing certain product on the European market.

(i) the availability of spare parts to ensure that certain spare parts are available for professional repairers for a specified period of time after the products have been placed on the market;
(ii) repair and maintenance information to allow professional repairers to access certain repair and maintenance information; and
(iii) information obligations to provide the users of the product instructions for use, including specific instructions to enable them to carry out maintenance work, on a website accessible free of charge.

The implications of the repair requirements

It seems as if the Commission has paid little attention to the interests of manufacturers and importers. If the Ecodesign-regulations are adopted, manufacturers and importers will have to take measures to ensure that the various requirements which are laid down in a complex system of the Ecodesign-requirements can be complied with. This will involve a considerable effort and investment in a short time, as most requirements will already enter into force in April 2021.

If you wish to know more, please consult Roelien van Neck and Tessa van den Ende who recently wrote an article on the right to repair and/or click here to read the entire article (in Dutch) which was published in legal journal Juridisch up to Date 2019, nr. 14.

[1] See here the list of all Ecodesign regulations. 

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