Beyond Throwaway Culture: Empowering Consumers with the Right to Repair

Beyond Throwaway Culture: Empowering Consumers with the Right to Repair

Author: Ema P. Končan


Premature disposal of consumer goods wreaks havoc on our environment. To put it into perspective[1], it’s equivalent to emitting 261 million tons of CO2, gobbling up 30 million tonnes of resources, and heaping 35 million tonnes of waste onto our already burdened landfills. But it’s not just the planet paying the price; consumers collectively lose a staggering €12 billion annually, simply because they opt to replace goods instead of repairing them. This isn’t just a matter of environmental concern; it’s a financial and ethical dilemma the EU has finally decided to address.[2]


On Tuesday 23 April 2024, European Parliament adopted the directive on the so-called “right to repair” for consumers. The new rules reinforce the right to repair, aim to reduce waste and bolster the repair sector by making it easier and more cost-effective to repair goods.


The cornerstone of the new legislation rests on four key principles advocating for repair over replacement:


  • Obligation of manufacturers to repair a product after the legal guarantee period

The new regulations ensure that manufacturers offer timely and affordable repair services while also informing consumers about their right to repair. If a product is repaired under warranty, consumers will enjoy an additional one-year extension of the legal guarantee, encouraging them to opt for repair instead of replacement.


Even after the warranty expires, manufacturers are obligated to repair commonly used household items—such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and smartphones—that are technically repairable under EU law. This list of repairable product categories may expand over time. Additionally, consumers have the option to borrow a replacement device while theirs is being fixed. If the product is beyond repair, they can choose a refurbished unit as an alternative.


  • Access to spare parts, tools and repair information for consumers

The regulations are designed to bolster the EU repair market and lower repair expenses for consumers. Manufacturers will be required to offer spare parts and tools at fair prices and will be barred from employing contractual terms or hardware/software tactics that hinder repairs. Specifically, they cannot restrict independent repairers from using second-hand or 3D-printed spare parts, nor can they decline to repair a product solely for economic reasons or because it was previously repaired by another party.


  • Incentives to opt for repair

In a bid to make repairs more accessible, each member state will have to adopt at least one measure to encourage repair. These measures may include initiatives such as repair vouchers and funds, informative campaigns, provision of repair courses, or backing community-driven repair hubs.


  • Assisting consumers in finding local repair services and shops selling refurbished goods

To simplify the repair process for consumers, a European information form will be available. This form will assist consumers in evaluating and comparing repair services by providing details such as the nature of the issue, repair costs, and estimated duration. Additionally, a European online platform, with individual sections for each nation, will be established. This platform will serve as a central resource, aiding consumers in locating local repair shops, vendors of refurbished goods, purchasers of faulty items, and community-based repair initiatives like repair cafes.


What’s next?

In conclusion, once the directive receives formal approval from the Council and is published in the EU Official Journal, member states will have a period of 24 months to incorporate it into their respective national laws. This pivotal step marks a significant advancement towards promoting sustainable practices, and fostering a thriving repair economy across the European Union.


[1] Data provided by the European Commission.

[2] In fact, this piece of legislation responds directly to citizens’ demands, as expressed in the Conference on the Future of Europe, namely launching a “repair” platform; introducing measures to promote a right to repair and access to spare parts; taking EU action to incentivise consumers to use products for longer; and addressing planned obsolescence and ensuring the right to repair.