European Parliament urges Commission and Member States to promote longer product lifespans
On 9th of June 2017 the European Parliament voted favourably on a report outlining how the EU could help extend the lifetime of products and help boost the declining repair sector in Europe. Whilst legally non-binding, the report led by MEP Pascal Durand further helps reinforce product durability and reparability on the European political agenda, responding to the 77 % of EU consumers that would prefer to try to repair broken goods instead of buying new .
RREUSE welcomes the report’s support to help extend product lifetimes through ease of product disassembly, upgradability, availability of spare parts and much needed access to repair and service manuals for repair operators, although intellectual property is mentioned as an element to be addressed in relation to the latter. A number of Right to Repair Bills are currently being discussed in the USA in response to issues such as this one. The report also encourages greater consumer awareness on extending product lifespans and to stimulate the market for second-hand goods.
Furthermore, the importance of helping revive the repair sector in Europe is rightly highlighted, recognising that the sector comprises mostly of independent small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
RREUSE is of the opinion that whilst many manufacturers also provide after-sales repair services for their own products, independent repair operators do provide key complementary or alternative service for the consumer, especially in the case where the original product warranty has expired or that the geographical coverage of the manufacturer is insufficient to provide such a service in an adequate way. In addition, a recent independent report from the German consumer body Stiftung Warentest indicated that in certain cases the after-sales services of the manufacturer encourage the purchase of a replacement new appliance even before proper diagnostics of a fault has been carried out .
The report comes at a time where implementation of the EU Commission’s so called ‘EU Circular Economy Package’ is currently underway. Product durability, upgradability and reparability have been highlighted as priority elements of a move towards a circular economy, however, RREUSE believes that more binding measures are needed beyond those currently on the table. However, in the field of Ecodesign legislation, the EU Commission is due to publish a revised set of proposals that would regulate the ease of repair of domestic washing machines and dishwashers, following a consultation period earlier this year. Such provisions, if accepted, can set a precedent for many other product categories, moving beyond regulating primarily energy efficiency in product design.
 Eurobarometer 388 (2014) Attitudes of Europeans towards Waste Management and Resource Efficiency
 Stiftung Warentest (2017) Kundendienste für Waschmaschinen: Die Blaumann-Lotterie