The UK government has said it will introduce rules later this year that will enshrine in law the “right to repair”.
Under the new regime, manufacturers of (mostly) white goods will be forced to open up their supply chains to consumers and independent repair shops, giving them access to spare parts.
The legislation also includes measures that compel manufacturers to offer maintenance information to consumers, allowing them to read the manual and actually fix their machines without having to reverse-engineer them.
The measures are intended to address planned obsolescence. The government said it expects white goods to last for up to a decade, rather than the average of seven years described by the Whitegoods Trade Association.
Unfortunately, the legislation as written does not encompass other hard-to-repair tech products, such as laptops and smartphones, where manufacturers routinely lock up access to spare parts and schematics.
The independent repair sector has repeatedly complained about difficulties accessing replacement components for broken kit, forcing them to rely on a limited supply of parts harvested from donor machines. This has, in turn, raised the cost of performing repairs, and forced consumers to replace defective products that would otherwise be easily fixed.
Additionally, the draft legislation, which is expected to come into force in the summer, will replace existing EU energy efficiency labelling standards with the aim of making things clearer for consumers.
The incumbent Brussels-made standard – which has A+, A++, and A+++ ratings – will be replaced with a simple A-G scale, and manufacturers will purportedly have to meet higher targets in order to achieve the most coveted A rating. Separately, the EU emblem will be replaced with a Union Jack – because Brexit.
This new energy-efficiency standard would only apply in Great Britain. Northern Ireland, which is still largely aligned to the EU single market, will continue to use Europe’s labelling scheme.
The government claimed the measures will reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and the UK’s carbon emissions by 1.7 mega-tonnes by 2050. Consumers are expected to save on average £75 on their energy bills each year.
Commenting, Philip Dunne MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said this planned legislation was a step in the right direction, although he criticised the lack of ambition, particularly when it comes to the recycling and repair of personal electronic devices.
“Earlier this month, the Environmental Audit Committee recommended that the government extend any right-to-repair regime to encompass a wider swath of products. Although the government expressed a vague level of enthusiasm, this has not translated into concrete legislation proposals,” Dunne said.
“There should be no contest: consumers should have every right to fix items they own. Making spare parts available is the first step in creating a circular economy where we use, reuse and recycle products. We must stop using and disposing quite so much: we must take action if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.”
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “Our plans to tighten product standards will ensure more of our electrical goods can be fixed rather than thrown on the scrap heap, putting more money back in the pockets of consumers whilst protecting the environment.
“Going forward, our upcoming energy efficiency framework will push electrical products to use even less energy and material resources, saving people money on their bills and reducing carbon emissions as we work to reach net zero by 2050.” ®