Whether mobile phones, televisions, washing machines or laptops, consumer products must function in the European Union for at least two years. This is prescribed by warranty law. How sellers deal with it if a device nevertheless breaks down during this period – through no fault of the consumer – has so far been largely up to them. You can repair it, but you can also simply offer a replacement. This, at least the European Parliament and the European Commission are convinced, has led to more and more products ending up in the garbage. Every EU citizen produces half a tonne of waste per year. In addition, there is always the – unsubstantiated – suspicion that manufacturers deliberately install weak points so that devices break down earlier. So that they can sell new equipment after the warranty expires.

Hendrik Kafsack

Economic correspondent in Brussels.

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The European Commission therefore now wants to give consumers a legal right to repair. The manufacturers would thus be obliged to repair broken devices at least during the two years of the warranty obligation, if the customer so wishes. However, this does not extend the warranty period. It continues to expire two years after the purchase of the product. In addition, there is a restriction: If the repair would demonstrably be more expensive than a replacement product, the right to repair expires.

But the European Commission goes one step further. It wants to promote the repair of household appliances even after the two years have elapsed. The EU already stipulates that many devices must be repairable for a period of five to ten years – but not free of charge after the warranty has expired. These include washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, screens, vacuum cleaners or servers. This will soon also apply to mobile phones, cordless phones and tablets. However, this often fails because it is too complicated for consumers to find a repair shop. In future, the Member States should create online platforms on which customers can find workshops. These, in turn, should provide a standard form on the cost and duration of the repair in order to make the offers comparable.

EU hopes for positive consequences for environment and climate

The Commission hopes that the legislative proposal will have positive consequences for the environment and climate. The right to repair could save the EU 15.18 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, 5.1 million tonnes of raw materials and 8 million tonnes of waste within 3 years. Manufacturers and sellers, in turn, could save €15.6 billion over this period if they repair products instead of simply throwing them away, the Commission estimates.

The Commission's proposal must be adopted by the European Parliament and Member States in order for it to enter into force. At least at the European Parliament, he is unlikely to fail. The right to repair has been demanding this for a long time. Two years ago, by a clear majority of 574 votes to 22, with 95 abstentions, it called on the Commission to submit a legislative proposal.