Activism

Top European Right to Repair Wins 2020

Looking back on 2020, it’s hard to avoid the bad times—but good things can grow, even under heavy rain. The challenges of isolation and a disrupted supply chain led to a boom in home repair. All those repairs saved money, prevented e-waste, and got people back to remote working and distance learning.

While products are not always repairable, 2020 was a year in which European policymakers—and citizens—acknowledged repair as an essential consumer right and an environmental necessity. Let’s catch up on Europe’s most promising repair news of the year, where they’re at right now—and where they might be headed.

March 2020: The European Commission publishes the Circular Economy Action Plan.

What is it? According to the European Green Deal, the key objective is to be climate neutral by 2050. The CEAP details how exactly the Commission intends to reach that goal. It addresses a wide range of sectors—including textiles, construction, packaging, and batteries—but is most ambitious in regards to electronics.

In order to reduce waste, products should be designed to last—if it won’t last, it shouldn’t be sold. Longer-lasting products might include lifespan labels, service manuals, or be part of an EU-wide repairability index. Forcing the market to compete on repairable and durable will give consumers more power, and more options, to shop green.

To be sure, there are a lot of details to work out. But change in small, effective steps is still good change. One of the CEAP’s key measures is to develop ecodesign regulations for smartphones, tablets, and laptops—2019 already brought new ecodesign regulations for washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, and TVs.

Activists demanding the Right to Repair in Brussels
A petition, guerilla actions, and a letter to the European Commission—together, the Right to Repair movement was heard!

Will the CEAP grant the Right to Repair? The CEAP does explicitly mention establishing a new ‘Right to Repair,’ including the availability of spare parts, and access to repair. A right to update obsolete software is being discussed, too. These measures would immediately apply to all products sold on the market, without being limited to specific products like ecodesign regulations are.

November 2020: The European Parliament votes for the Right to Repair—and stands behind citizen’s demands.

This particular vote is recent evidence that the EU is serious about the Right to Repair—and it increased the pressure on the European Commission to take immediate action. The CEAP is a solid base for achieving that action.

One of the next steps is getting the European Council to adopt the CEAP, and from what we know, the Council supports longer lasting devices, repair, and spare part access. The Council has also asked the Commission to propose a repairability index for electronics—which means the CEAP has a good chance of paving the way to the Right to Repair in Europe.

How do Europe’s nations support repair?

February 2020: France adopts an anti-waste law for a circular economy.

In 2021, France will become the first country with an official repairability index—part of a new anti-waste law—and we’re happy to have contributed detailed proposals (13 years of taking devices apart is a pretty handy skill!). 

A repairability index score will be mandatory for all smartphones, laptops, TVs, washing machines, and lawnmowers sold in France starting January 1st, 2021. This law also includes the promotion of used spare parts, information on the duration of software updates, and a repair fund that contributes to repair costs.

France’s pioneering program will help shape a Europe-wide index, encouraging the EU to act, and devices like smartphones to be easier to repair.

Throughout 2020: Repair was recognized as essential.

France ramped up support for bicycle repairs with a repair subsidy for French citizens. Austria’s capital, Vienna, offered up to €100 to its citizens for local repairs. And the German state Baden-Wuerttemberg announced it will provide grant funds to repair initiatives such as repair cafés.

It’s a long road to a solid Right to Repair in Europe. But there are already plenty of inroads and the different institutions of the EU seem empowered to make change happen. Our new year’s resolution is the same as last year: we’ll continue to demand the Right to Repair in the new year, and we’ll keep enabling repair across the globe.

If you’re a European citizen—or simply a supporter of the Right to Repair around the world—and you want to join us, make sure to visit repair.eu to learn how to help. Happy fixing, and happy new year!