Business

EU brings in 'right to repair' rules for appliances

Washing machine Image copyright Getty Images

Household appliances will become easier to repair thanks to new standards being adopted across the European Union.

From 2021, firms will have to make appliances longer-lasting, and they will have to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years.

The rules apply to lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges.

But campaigners for the "right to repair" say they do not go far enough as only professionals - not consumers - will be able carry out the repairs.

The legislation has been prompted by complaints from consumers across Europe and North America infuriated by machines that break down when they are just out of warranty.

Owners are usually unable to repair the machines themselves - or find anyone else to do it at a decent price - so are forced to buy a replacement.

This creates waste and fuels global warming through the greenhouse gases created in the manufacturing process for new machines.

In the US, around 20 states are said to have right to repair legislation in progress.

Under the European Commission's new standards, manufacturers will have to make spares, such as door gaskets and thermostats, available to professional repairers.

These parts will have to be accessible with commonly-available tools and without damaging the product.

Campaigners say individual consumers should also be allowed to buy spares and mend their own machines. But manufacturers said this would raise questions about risk and liability.

Image copyright Getty Images

Instead, manufacturers will have to ensure that key parts of the product can be replaced by independent professionals.

If British firms want to sell into Europe after Brexit they will have to follow the new rules, which apply from April 2021.

'Massive step'

It is estimated that the new standards will ensure that appliances have a longer life. The rules also include provisions to make appliances more energy efficient.

For example, star ratings for the energy efficiency of appliances will be ratcheted up. Current regulations are seen to be outdated, with more than 55% of washing machines sold in the EU ranked A+++ on the label.

The move could directly save €20bn on energy bills per year in Europe from 2030 onwards - equivalent to 5% of EU electricity consumption.

Chloe Fayole of environmental group Ecos said: “From the US to Europe, people are demanding their right to repair things they own because they’re tired of products that are designed to break prematurely.”

Libby Peake from the UK Green alliance told BBC News: “These new standards are a massive step in the right direction and could result in nearly 50 million tonnes of CO2 emissions savings.”

But Stephane Arditi of the European Environment Bureau said: “When repair activities stay in the hands of a few firms, we’re missing an opportunity to make it more affordable and readily available.

“Small independent repairers can make a great contribution to the economy and our society. We need to help them do their job.”

The government says that after Brexit the UK will continue to "match and even exceed EU eco product regulations" as part of its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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