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The European right to repair is almost complete but will be less ambitious than the European Parliament intended. The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament reached a preliminary agreement on the subject on 2 February. The law will come into force after both institutions formally adopt it.

Extra year warranty after a repair

According to an EU press release, the new law makes it more appealing for consumers to have broken items repaired. For instance, manufacturers will soon be obliged to have broken items that are still under warranty repaired if the customer wishes this. When the warranty has expired, manufacturers must offer repair as an option – at a reasonable price and within a timely manner. Furthermore, products will receive an extra year of warranty after a repair. At the same time, consumers still retain the right to opt for a new product if it breaks within the warranty period.

A European repair form should provide clear information on conditions, prices, deadlines, etc. The use of this standard form will not be compulsory but optional. There will also be a European online platform to help consumers and repairers connect.

No restrictions on using second-hand or 3D-printed parts

Under the new law, manufacturers must make spare parts available at a reasonable price to all parties involved in repair. Also, they must refrain from preventing independent repairers from using second-hand or 3D-printed parts.

The Agreement says nothing about other items essential in repair, such as repair manuals and specific tools. The European Parliament wanted all these items, in addition to spare parts, to be made available to all repairers and the actual end-users; including Repair Café repairers.

The Agreement is vague on the cost of repairs

The Agreement remains vague on the cost of these repairs. What constitutes a ‘reasonable price’ can be interpreted in various ways by different parties. Furthermore, it states that manufacturers must provide the repair form free of charge while simultaneously allowing them to charge consumers for diagnosis. Finally, the Agreement does not address the European Parliament’s wish that more countries follow Austria and France’s example to create repair vouchers and other financial benefits to make repairs more appealing.

For now, the right to repair only applies to a few product categories: washing machines, dryers, bicycles, refrigerators, welding equipment, screens, servers, smartphones/tablets and vacuum cleaners. That list may be extended with new products at a later date.

Martine Postma: “Repair Cafés remain necessary as low-threshold help for problems with items.”

Repair Cafés remain needed as front-line help for problems with items

Immediately after the news about the right-to-repair law appeared, several Repair Cafés received visits from journalists wanting to know whether Repair Cafés would still be needed. Martine Postma of Repair Café International has no doubt they will. “Repair Cafés remain necessary as low-threshold front-line help for problems with items. It is great that we will soon be able to take a broken vacuum cleaner to a professional repairman for a reasonable amount. But in many cases, this is not even necessary. Repair Cafés get a lot of vacuum cleaners that have lost some suction power. Often, there is simply a clog in the hose or a filter that needs replacing. Or, even simpler: that it needs a new dust bag. With such issues, you do not want to trouble a professional repairer.”

Martine hopes and even expects that the Right to Repair Act will attract more professional repairers. “I see these as an essential enrichment of the repair infrastructure. So, it is an addition to the Repair Cafés, not a replacement. In the Repair Café, you see that repairing is a great option. You get help with simple repairs and advice on how to take care of an item. With their help and maintenance advice, you can significantly extend a product’s life. And, when something major is wrong, the professional repairman will step in. That’s how it should be.”

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