Giving the consumer the right to repair

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by Eric Lequenne

The two-way street of enshrining the right to repair in law

When EU decision-makers discuss the European Union’s Green Deal and regulatory moves toward sustainable practices, it’s about the supply side. That is, what do green moves mean for manufacturers and brands? What will they need to do to comply? Compliance is critical to ensure sustainable manufacturing and responsible resource use.

But it leaves out the demand side of the equation. Demand comes from the consumer who buys these goods. Consumers are on the hook for shifting to sustainable consumption. And most indicators show that they are pushing the green agenda, demanding more durable goods sourced more responsibly (and transparently).

Empowering consumers is one of the central goals of the EU Green Deal. In fact, recent legislative initiatives are known as a “Consumer Package”. Both the right to repair and green claims regulations aim to help accelerate sustainable consumption. They give the consumer more opportunities to make informed, sustainable choices and actively contribute to a circular economy. 

A driver for that empowerment is the deepening commitment to transitioning to a greener, more circular economy. This affects both the brand and the consumer in far-reaching and significant ways. For example, the brand’s obligations will be extended considerably. Under new rules, the brand will need to design and build products with durability and reparability in mind. They will also have to deliver more thorough information for consumers to access throughout a product’s lifetime.

But all of this is in service of the goal of empowering consumers for the green transition, protecting them from unfair practices, and arming them with better information. This article focuses on the consumer and bringing the Right to Repair proposal to life.

Empowering consumers with the right to repair

One of the most recent EU directive proposals concerns the right to repair goods. That is, the proposed directive introduces common rules to promote the repair of goods to ensure higher levels of consumer and environmental protection as part of the New Circular Economy Action Plan

Promoting and incentivizing the repair of goods 

The Right to Repair initiative aims to promote and incentivize the repair of goods. The initiative seeks to engage consumers with all necessary information on repair and refurbishment opportunities. It also seeks to ensure that this information is complete and easily accessible. The ideal-world scenario would require that consumers be provided with relevant information before and after sales occur. Brands would be required to reinforce consumers’ knowledge of their rights with regard to repair and provide information on what they are obliged to do to comply with this mandate.

Meeting consumers where they are: Proposed measures

The Right to Repair proposal introduces key obligations, particularly in the area of providing information to consumers. For example, repairers would be required to provide information on their services. EU Member States would be required to set up at least one online platform in their territory that helps consumers locate repair services, source temporary replacement goods, and find ancillary services (e.g., removal, installation and transportation) and other related information.

Going greener 

While the Right to Repair proposal and its accompanying Green Claims proposal are discussed in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, most brands are not waiting for the proposal to become law. With consumer demand for transparency and verifiable sustainability at an all-time high, most companies plan to build circularity into their manufacturing and sourcing processes. 

Ultimately, compliance requirements are likely to come on several fronts for the supply side of the equation. And having better visibility and control over the complete supply chain creates efficiencies and cost savings. By creating connected products, traceability becomes easier, as does achieving verifiably green targets. Going greener is a two-way street and a win-win for brands and consumers alike.

Learn more from our guide on EU policy and rights for consumers.

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