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With a delay of almost six months, the European Commission is finally coming up with plans to regulate the right to repair. Under the proposal, for products that break down within the warranty period, sellers will be obliged to opt for repair, unless it is more expensive than offering a new product. For certain products that break outside the warranty period (including washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, vacuum cleaners and, soon, smartphones and tablets), the seller must offer repair as an option. Consumers may also demand that their broken product be repaired if it is technically possible.

The plan also requires online platforms in all EU countries to connect consumers with repairers and sellers of repaired goods near them.

Cheap products excluded from the scheme

The plan has been met with criticism.

Martine Postma of Repair Cafe International is happy that there will finally be more focus on repair, but immediately points out the limitations of the proposal. “Mandatory opting for repair, except when it is more expensive than offering a new product? There you go already. That immediately leaves out a whole range of low-cost products.”

She explains why. “Repair is manual work, where you mainly pay for labour. Let’s say a repairman costs 45 euros an hour; then you’ll understand that repair with this scheme will never be an option for a 13-euro kettle, or a 7-euro battery-powered milk frother. That while precisely these kinds of cheap products often break down quickly.”

Pity: repair manuals will not be made public

Martine therefore regrets that the proposal does not oblige manufacturers to make repair manuals public. “Then Repair Cafes and ordinary consumers would be able to repair those kinds of products much better and thus use them for longer.”

Right to Repair Europe is also critical. The lobby organisation speaks of a missed opportunity to achieve a universal right to repair. “This proposal does not address the burning issues of affordability of repair and of anti-repair practices.”

Bright spot: recognition for civic initiatives such as Repair Cafes

Yet Right to Repair Europe also sees bright spots. For instance, in the paragraph on online repair platforms, the European Commission explicitly writes that these need not only focus on professional repairers, but can be extended to include community-led repair initiatives.

“We welcome this proposal as a first step to support citizens looking for repair options or circular venues for their old devices. This is also an important step towards recognising the role of independent repairers, and giving them access to parts and information”, Right to Repair Europe writes on their website.

According to the European Commission, online repair platforms may also highlight community-led repair initiatives, such as Repair Cafes

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