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Leading parliamentary committee adopts Right to Repair directive

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A leading committee of the European Parliament adopted on Wednesday (25 October) its version of the Right to Repair directive, including bicycles in its scope, as well as other options to help consumers with a defective product.

The Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee adopted its position on the Right to Repair directive with 38 votes in favour, two against, and no abstentions.

The directive will be debated and voted on at Parliament’s plenary session from 20 to 23 November. Meanwhile, the EU Council of Ministers might reach a position as early as November and inter-institutional negotiations are currently scheduled for early December.

On top of extending the right to repair to bicycles, the draft Parliament position also aims to ensure favourable conditions for an independent repair market and prevent manufacturers from hindering repairs.

The Right to Repair proposal, presented in March by the EU Commission, introduces the obligation for manufacturers to repair their products over a certain period, as well as to prioritise repair over replacement in case of a defective product under the legal warranty.

“Although we would have liked to see more in the extension of the warranty, the one-year extension after repair and the possibility to contact the manufacturer directly are big wins for consumers,” commented Green lawmaker Anna Cavazzini.

Warranty extension

Within the period of zero to two years, all goods have to be repaired in case there is damage.

However, after two years, the general concern was that producers might not have spare parts and repair facilities that are forever available for the repair of a product. Thus, the initial Commission proposal limited the scope of repair after two years to certain product categories aligned with the Ecodesign regulation.

These products, which include household washing machines, hoovers, and smartphones, must be repaired by the manufacturers even if the statutory warranty does not cover them.

“They do have to be repairable within a period of ten years, and certain spare parts have to be on hold for these kinds of goods. It makes therefore sense that there is also a Right to Repair for a consumer for ten years on the basis of these requirements,” explained centre-left MEP René Repasi, who spearheaded the file.

The position of the leading committee considered it necessary to include bicycles in the product category.

Replace or repair

According to the Commission, consumers opting for replacement instead of repair lose approximately €12 billion per year. The EU executive promoted the idea of establishing a hierarchy between remedies within the legal guarantee period.

Now, the draft Parliament position introduced a “criterion of significant inconvenience”, allowing a consumer to choose a new product in case this is more convenient in a concrete situation.

Other exceptions instead of offering free repair within the legal guarantee period include cases where it is more expensive than replacement or it is factually impossible.

To incentivise consumers to choose repair, a repaired good holds a one-year guarantee period after the two years and a possibility to receive a good for loan during the period of repair.

The parliamentary committee agreed that the repair time should not be limited to a maximum of 15 calendar days, as initially suggested, but rather that the product should be repaired in a “reasonable time” to consider situations of scarcity for spare parts and summer breaks.

In the future, consumers should also be able to contact the manufacturer directly for the repair of the product and will no longer have to contact the retailer.

Independent repair market

In its draft position, the leading parliamentary committee wants to ensure access to affordable spare parts for independent repairers. Moreover, independent repairers and end users should get access to blueprints and information.

The main challenge that independent repairers face is that spare parts are either scarce or very expensive.

“We now included in the provision that, first of all, there is going to be a possibility for the market surveillance authorities to check on prices. Spare parts that are not reasonable or that are discriminatory in their pricing can now be prohibited by market surveillance authorities,” said Repasi.

Excluded from the position is access to highly specialised diagnostic tools to examine products before they are repaired due to the concern of breaching trade secrets.

The draft Parliament position also introduced an obligation for EU countries to create financial incentives for consumers to use repairs, such as repair vouchers or national repair funds.

Reducing bureaucratic burden

Unlike the Commission’s proposal to introduce a mandatory repair form for those who want to provide a repair service, the leading committee voted that the repair form should be a voluntary option to reduce the potential bureaucratic burden on SMEs and businesses.

On the topic of a platform for repair services, the Commission’s idea to collect the data on repair service providers to help consumers find local repairers, the draft Parliament position preferred keeping private solutions that are already in place, with member states promoting such private initiatives where there are none in place.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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