Sustainability drives new ‘right to repair’ rules for household products in latest update of EU ecodesign legislation


On October 1, 2019, the European Commission (THIS) has adopted a set of ecodesign measures which, for the first time, include repairability and recyclability requirements for household products. These requirements aim to contribute to the EU’s circular economy objectives by improving the lifespan, maintenance, reuse, upgrading, recyclability and waste management of devices.

The package of measures was adopted following a long process of consultation and discussions with the industry. It contains ten separate implementing regulations adopted under the EU Ecodesign Directive (2009/125 / EC). Eight of these regulations repeal and replace existing implementing regulations that have been in place for several years, expanding existing energy efficiency requirements and adding new repairability and recyclability requirements, while two product categories fall within the scope. The regulations cover: household refrigerators; washing machine; dishwasher; electronic displays (including televisions, monitors and digital displays); light sources and separate control devices; external power supplies; electric motors; refrigerators with a direct sales function (eg vending machines) (newly in force); power transformers; and welding equipment (newly in scope). The regulations each have separate effective dates and will come into force between April 1, 2020 and September 1, 2021 (see “Summary of Effective Dates” below).

  • The “right to repair” rules will apply to various household products such as dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, electronic displays (eg televisions) and light sources (eg lamps. domestic).
  • The proposals include obligations for manufacturers to make available: (a) spare parts up to 7 or 10 years (for some products); (b) repair and maintenance information for professional repairers.
  • Environmental protection and waste reduction are the main drivers of legislation, as opposed to consumer rights or competition concerns between repairers.
  • Manufacturers and importers will have to comply with the new requirements before the relevant start date (which varies by product type but falls between April 1, 2020 and September 1, 2021) in order to continue marketing these products in the EU.

The European Ecodesign Directive (2009/125 / EC) establishes the legal framework for the new requirements. Under the Ecodesign Directive, the EC is empowered to define requirements to improve the environmental performance of energy-using products through implementing regulations. The Ecodesign Directive is complemented by the framework of the EU Energy Labeling Regulation (2017/1369 / EU) which aims to enable end consumers to identify the best performing energy-related products. Notably, six of the product groups subject to the new implementing regulations on ecodesign are also covered by the new energy labeling rules which were adopted by the EC earlier in 2019.

Historically, the ecodesign scheme has focused on energy efficiency requirements (e.g. power limits for products in standby mode), but in recent years it has been identified as a tool that can be used to promote other aspects of the circular economy. These new regulations are the first to introduce provisions for the repair and maintenance of consumer goods in the EU, although equivalent provisions have been in force in the automotive sector for several years. The proposed regulation distinguishes between the following three main repair requirements that manufacturers and / or importers will have to comply with when placing certain products on the EU market from April 2021:

  1. ensure that certain spare parts are available for professional repairers for a fixed period after the products have been placed on the market (for example, a minimum of 7 years for refrigeration equipment and 10 years for washing machines or washing machines household clothes dryers) and within a specified maximum delivery time (eg 15 working days);
  2. provide professional repairers (and not end users / consumers more generally) with access to repair and maintenance information; and
  3. provide certain information on freely accessible websites, including instructions for end-user maintenance, information on spare parts, length of product warranty, etc.

Of the regulations listed above, the new electronic displays regulations will undoubtedly be of particular interest to our readers. This new regulation will repeal and replace the current regulation applicable to televisions (Commission Regulation 642/2009 / EC) and has been the subject of a particularly long review process which started in 2012. According to the new Commission regulation , “Electronic display” means “a display screen and associated electronics which, as a main function, displays visual information from wired or wireless sources” (Article 2, paragraph 1). This is of course a broader definition than that included in the current regulation applicable to televisions, and also includes monitors and digital displays (Article 1, paragraph 1) while excluding “any electronic display with a surface screen less than or equal to 100 square centimeters “, as well as projectors; all-in-one videoconferencing systems; medical screens and virtual reality headsets (among other exclusions – see Article 1 (2)). the regulation does not apply to electronic displays which are components or subassemblies of products covered by other regulations adopted under the ecodesign directive, and would therefore not apply, for example, to displays integrated into computers, such as tablets, laptops or any integrated desktop computers covered by Commission Regulation (EU) No 617/2013 on computers. from the recitals as well as from the definition of ‘electronic signage’ it is relatively clear that the new requirements do not apply to mobile phones or tablets, although we would be happy to get advice from the EC on this. point.

With regard to repairs and information requirements, the annexes to the Commission Regulation on electronic displays require manufacturers, importers or authorized representatives of electronic displays to make available to professional repairers at least the parts spare parts for at least seven years after placing the last unit of the model on the market: internal power supply, connectors for connecting external equipment (cable, antenna, USB, DVD and Blue-Ray), capacitors, batteries and accumulators, module DVD / Blue-Ray if applicable and HD / SSD module. Manufacturers should ensure that these spare parts can be replaced using commonly available tools and without permanent damage to the device. In addition, external power supplies and remote controls must be available to end users for at least seven years (see paragraph 5, page 9).

Electronic displays will also be subject to “rescaling” energy labeling requirements from March 1, 2021 following a new regulation adopted by the EC in March 2019. A key new element of these labels is a QR code that consumers can use. for additional energy information.

The main driver of these changes is environmental protection and waste reduction, rather than consumer rights or competition concerns between repairers. The EC has recognized that ecodesign can play a key role in promoting the transition to a more circular economy in the EU, as the Ecodesign Directive covers all significant environmental impacts throughout the lifecycle of vehicles. products, although so far the focus has been on energy. efficiency improvements.

At this point, the “right to repair” requirements apply to major household appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, lamps and televisions / monitors. These products are considered the biggest contributors to waste and landfill when they are prematurely beyond repair at a competitive cost (rather than smaller consumer electronics like cellphones or tablets). However, the EC will likely extend these requirements to other product categories, either when existing regulations are reviewed or when new categories are considered for inclusion.

The regulations will limit the manufacturer’s obligations to ensure that key parts of the product can be replaced by independent professionals. In theory, these initiatives should stimulate competition and encourage new entrants to the product repair industry. However, on the consumer rights front, some activists have argued that consumers should also be allowed to buy spare parts and repair their own products. Manufacturers responded by citing concerns about risk and product liability, particularly the impact of such measures on manufacturers’ warranties and insurance, as well as competition concerns regarding the dissemination of information about the repairs.

The EC estimates that overall, the new ecodesign measures will save 167 TWh of final energy per year by 2030, which corresponds to a reduction of over 46 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent ( i.e. the annual energy consumption of Denmark). It is also said that these measures can save European households on average 150 € per year.

EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete explained: “With smarter energy labels, our eco-design measures can save European consumers a lot of money and help the EU to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Eco-design is therefore a key element in the fight against climate change and a direct contribution to the achievement of the objectives set in the Paris Agreement. As we move towards our long-term goal of a fully carbon-free EU by 2050, our energy efficiency and eco-design strategy will become increasingly important ”.

Repair requirements should be fulfilled by manufacturers and importers of affected products within the scope of ecodesign regulations by the relevant start date (between April 1, 2020 and September 1, 2021) with respect to both new product models placed on the market as well as as new units of existing models already on the market in the EU.

The texts of the implementing regulations were published in the Official Journal of the European Union on October 25, 2019 and will enter into force 20 days later. We will continue to monitor developments in this space.

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