EU: Political agreement reached on right to repair initiative

The EU institutions reached a political compromise on the right to repair initiative at the end of last week, thereby setting another milestone for the circular economy. The new Right to Repair Directive (R2RD) will amend the legal warranty rules laid down in the Sale of Goods Directive and introduce new rights and obligations for the time after the legal warranty period has elapsed for certain in-scope products. Further tools to make repair more attractive to consumers include a European repair information form and a European online platform for repair. Even if not all proposals by the Commission, the Parliament and the Council were approved in the trilogue negotiations, the new directive will impose a number of new obligations on sellers, manufacturers and repairers of goods to which they need to adapt their business practices.

The new provisions

The trilogue negotiations were relatively brief in view of the EU institutions’ diverging positions on this file (read more in our blog post), which is probably due to the pressure to reach an agreement before the upcoming EU elections. The final wording of the compromise text is not yet available, but according to the Council’s press release and the Parliament’s press release, the institutions reached the following agreement:

  • Under the amended Sale of Goods Directive, consumers will still have the right to choose between repair and replacement when a product is broken or defective, i.e. the Commission and the Parliament did not push through their plans to prioritise repair within the legal warranty if it is cheaper than replacement. Importantly, the Parliament’s proposal to extend the legal warranty obligations to producers also did not seem to have had success based on what is known about the compromise so far. However, consumers will be incentivised to choose repair. For instance, if the consumer opts for repair, the seller's liability period will be extended by 12 months from the moment when the product is repaired, and this period may be further extended by the Member States.
  • The R2RD also introduces further rights and obligations for the time after the legal warranty period has elapsed for products for which EU ecodesign legislation lays down reparability requirements and which are listed in an annex that will be extended over time (e.g. washing machines, refrigerators, or vacuum cleaners, but also smartphones). Consumers will be able to request manufacturers to repair such products for a reasonable price. They will also have the option to borrow a device whilst their own is being repaired or to opt for a refurbished product as an alternative. Moreover, manufacturers of in-scope products will be obliged to provide information concerning spare parts, make them available to all parties in the repair sector at a reasonable price and may not impede the use of second-hand or 3D-printed spare parts by third-party repairers.
  • At the Parliament’s request, the Member States will have to introduce at least one additional measure to promote repair, such as repair vouchers and funds, information campaigns, repair courses, or a reduction of taxes on repair services.
  • Repairers (including sellers and manufacturers, but also third-party repairers) may offer a repair information form to consumers (e.g. with information like repair conditions, time to finish the works, prices, replacement products), but according to the press releases this form does not seem to be mandatory as initially proposed by the Commission. However, if repairers choose to provide a repair information form to consumers, they will be bound to the conditions set in the form for at least 30 calendar days and they must provide the form free of charge. The R2RD includes a template of this form in an annex.
  • Finally, at the Council’s request, the R2RD introduces a pan-European online platform for repair with national sections to facilitate repair.

Some proposals that were too far-reaching from the point of view of the affected companies did not prevail in the trilogue negotiations. Overall, however, companies active in the production, sale or repair of goods will still be subject to a wide range of new obligations and liability risks to which they need to adapt their business models and processes. This includes, for instance, efficient repair logistics and contractual provisions in the supply and distribution chain to allocate responsibilities.

Next steps

The provisional agreement still needs to be endorsed and formally adopted by both the Parliament and the Council before being published in the Official Journal and entering into force 20 days later. Even if the R2RD then still needs to be transposed to national law within 24 months, affected companies should already familiarise themselves with the new provisions to ensure compliance. We will keep you updated on the details of the R2RD and its implementation once further information becomes available.