Irish consumers will soon have extended rights to have broken products such as smartphones repaired by manufacturers rather than dumping and replacing them following a successful European vote on Tuesday.
Although aimed in particular at white goods such as washing machines, the initiative will also include bicycles and phones and is designed to feed the circular economy and reduce waste.
The law would oblige goods producers to repair certain products even if they fall outside of the scope of a legal guarantee. They would have to carry parts and make repairs at a reasonable cost.
It would also compel them to carry out free repairs within a legal guarantee period unless too expensive, impossible or inconvenient to consumers.
Tuesday’s vote secured almost universal political support, passing by 590 votes to 15 against, with 15 abstentions.
Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe who supported it said according to the European Environmental Bureau, extending the lifetime of white goods specifically would save four million tonnes of greenhouse gasses annually, the equivalent of removing two million cars off the road.
The European Commission has estimated consumers lose almost €12 billion per year by choosing to replace goods that could have been repaired.
“It will lead to a saving in greenhouse gas emissions so it all ties into the European Green Deal which is about reducing the environmental impacts of what we do,” he said.
In practical terms, he added, it will help broaden repair options for consumers and not replace or threaten the viability of existing independent repair services.
“[Producers] cannot refuse to repair it if someone else has repaired it previously,” he said.
The law is expected to come into force in about early 2025 once a final agreement is thrashed out. Last month, the Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee adopted the “right to repair” position for consumers, with 38 votes in favour, and just two against.
MEPs have supported incentives for consumers to choose repairs over replacement within the product’s liability period, such as extending its guarantee period by one year for doing so.
They will also seek agreement from member states to promote repairs with financial incentives including vouchers and national repair funds.
Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) will likely become the statutory body to oversee the legislation. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman said it “supports any improvements in legislation which help consumers with the day-to-day issues they may face”.