EU Considering Enacting Right-To-Repair To Return Power To Consumers, Protect The Environment

from the hopefully-not-too-little-too-late dept

Right-to-repair laws are still a work in progress, mainly due to industry opposition. The wants and needs of millions of device/vehicle owners don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world full of interloping industry leaders, as noted DIY repairman/nightclub owner Rick Blaine once sourly noted.

Allowing people to actually own the things they’ve purchased seems like a foreign concept to US tech leaders, even though that was the status quo long before goods went digital and the DMCA was enacted. Why should people be at the mercy of those whose profits depend on walled gardens, closed loops, and well-funded lawyers issuing cease-and-desist orders at the drop of a proprietary screwdriver? Well, as someone else sourly noted, those with the gold make the rules.

While we struggle through with some piecemeal replacements for our assumed rights of ownership here in the US, it appears the European Union is going to get serious about handing customers back their purloined rights. As the New York Times reports, a right-to-repair is up for discussion — not so much because of the impact on customers, but because of the impact on the environment.

The “right to repair,” part of a wide-ranging policy package known as the Green Deal that was introduced this month, is the latest example of the European Union’s ambitions to promote more sustainable economic growth and to prevent waste. It extends standards brought in last year that put “right to repair” obligations on the manufacturers of some large appliances.

“The linear growth model of ‘take-make-use-discard’ has reached its limits,” Virginijus Sinkevicius, the union’s environment commissioner, told reporters in Brussels as he presented the “Circular Economy Action Plan,” which includes the “right to repair” initiative.

“We want to make sure that products placed on E.U. market are designed to last longer, to be easier to repair and upgrade, easier to recycle and easier to reuse,” he added.

Obviously, providing people with a right-to-repair (and the information to make those repairs) will help curb the amount of dangerous chemicals and minerals being dumped into the ecosystem. Planned obsolescence has been the status quo for years, with repair prices and restrictions making it far easier to replace items than repair them. This has added up to serious environmental damage. It has also added to problems around the world where rare minerals are mined under the direction of governments who use their profits to finance war, rape, and numerous other atrocities.

But it will also give people back something they’ve historically enjoyed: the ability to tinker with and repair their purchased products without being locked out by proprietary tools and methods that are shared with only certain gatekeepers to ensure steady purchases of new products and the speedy destruction of anything slightly out-of-date.

Here’s how the EU’s proposal [PDF] puts it [all emphasis in the original]:

Empowering consumers and providing them with cost-saving opportunities is a key building block of the sustainable product policy framework. To enhance the participation of consumers in the circular economy, the Commission will propose a revision of EU consumer law to ensure that consumers receive trustworthy and relevant information on products at the point of sale, including on their lifespan and on the availability of repair services, spare parts and repair manuals. The Commission will also consider further strengthening consumer protection against green washing and premature obsolescence, setting minimum requirements for sustainability labels/logos and for information tools.

In addition, the Commission will work towards establishing a new ‘right to repair’ and consider new horizontal material rights for consumers for instance as regards availability of spare parts or access to repair and, in the case of ICT and electronics, to upgrading services. Regarding the role that guarantees can play in providing more circular products, the Commission will explore possible changes also in the context of the review of Directive 2019/771.

This would be a step up from the EU’s aggressive recycling requirements, which demands companies selling electronics recycle at least 65% of the total weight of goods sold (i.e., recycling 65 tons for every 100 tons of goods put on sale). As it stands now, zero companies have met that requirement, which has been in place since 2012.

This would hand power back to consumers. It won’t make it easier for companies to hit recycling targets, but it may alter the market for new goods, making it more financially feasible for device makers to slow the rollout of new products and extend the life of those already on the market.

If enacted, it will drastically change the way electronics manufacturers do business in Europe. It may see some drop out of the market completely. But expect a lot of opposition from the companies affected as this legislative proposal moves forward. If there’s one thing companies like Apple and Microsoft can agree on, it’s that customers shouldn’t be allowed to cut them out of the repair/modification/replacement chain.

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Comments on “EU Considering Enacting Right-To-Repair To Return Power To Consumers, Protect The Environment”

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Anonymous Coward says:

OMG more socialist propoganda. Don’t you socialist big government globalists have something better to do? You are not talking about power to people, you are talking about more government control and less control for inventors and innovators that create superior technology. You are advocating for the Chinese system, aren’t you? You think China should be the model for America. No thank you very much. Allow the market to decide with their pocketbooks, that’s America. We don’t need your Chinese like regulations here. Fuck you and your socialist communist ideology. You should be quarantined or exterminated, like the filthy rat fucks you are.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Tell the truth – you are being paid to advocate for the Chinese. It’s the Chinese that want to steal American technology, and that’s the real purpose behind this article. They are the ones that want the technical details of America technology, because their repressive society does not produce innovators. That’s why you advocate against copyright and patent too. You are infected with Chinese communist ideology, you hate America and Americans. When you say power to the people what you really mean is power to the Chinese communist party.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Glen says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So avocating private ownership is communistic in nature. The mental gymnastics you have to go through to get to that is stunning.

And the Chinese really wouldn’t want a libertarian for a voicebox. Advocating for a weak central government isn’t high on an authoritarian list.

You may want to go back to whateverChan… It will feel safer to you.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"Like the United States, China is a capitalist country."

Ironically China’s markets are often more capitalist than US ones, regulations forcing the grassroots entry level open. As long as you remember to kowtow to the emperor life is good for the farsighted entrepreneur.

Meanwhile all too many US companies are focused almost exclusively on shady bottom-feeder tactics to retain their competitive "edge" (looking at you, John Deere) rather than just trying to be the better choice.

It certainly didn’t use to be this way. And the reason it all went to shit was a simple one; american politicians gave the corporate sector everything they asked for. Everything.

Only problem with that is that corporations aren’t beneficial. Their interests are, and always will be, 100% dedicated to earning their shareholder money every fiscal quarter. No matter the cost to themselves or others. And here we are.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I know you’re not an intellectually honest person, but it would be interesting to talk with you at some length and find out what kind of strange fever dream boogeyman you are thinking of when you say "socialism".

Here, for example, the argument is that free market principles be applied to after market repair of good, and that competing companies be allowed to offer a repair service outside of the original manufacturer. Also, that ownership be in the hands of private individuals and not via government-granted monopolies. How that’s "socialism" is something to be broken down, because the amount of reality that has to be changed and distorted for that to make any sense must be impressive.

Bonus, regarding your silly screed: most of the original manufacturers will be using parts solely manufactured in China, while competing repair shops would be free to source elsewhere if they prefer. So, in attacking "Chinese socialism", you’re demanding that everything be handed over to the Chinese under a government enforced monopoly.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Socialism

Nah, it’s fun to engage with this case. All "right to repair" means is that a government granted monopoly is removed and free market principles allowed to operate. So, this "libertarian" is arguing against the free market and for government control.

I will point and laugh, but it’s fun in the meantime to see if he realises what he’s actually arguing.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Socialism

"Don;t fprget that "libertarian" is also a popular flavor for corporate propaganda."

Not too hard to realize once you discover that most actual libertarians DON’T go online and advocate for totalitarian communism in the mistaken belief they’re really proclaiming market economy.

The reason I have a hard time just naming the moron a troll is because there is a worrying amount of republicans who appear to hold identical views openly.

I’ve always considered the market a bit of a religion, but it’s pretty obvious – and ironic – that the ostensibly most religiously inclined party in the US – the republicans – would be calling the focus point of their official religion a communist over the "loaves and fishes" trick.

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