On the 22nd of March this year, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on rules promoting the repair of goods. In other words, they published the first draft of what people have been calling the ‘Right to Repair Directive’.  


‘Right to repair’ means giving people the freedom to fix broken items in whatever way they see fit. That means you should be able to fix things at home or bring them to an independent repairer rather than having to send it back to the manufacturer who made it in the first place. Right to repair also means making repair available, convenient and affordable. 


While the EU proposal is not finalised, it is clear that a lot of work has gone into it already. In this post, we will go through what the directive covers, what it means to you, and where it could be improved.

What is in the Proposed Directive Right Now?

The main development in this directive is a requirement for producers to offer to repair their products if asked. However, this part of the legislation only applies to a limited set of specified products such as washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, hoovers and a few others  This list may expand by the time the directive is enforced to include, for example, smartphones. This is a step in the right direction and means that you will now be able to get your hoover fixed even if it is out of warranty.


One solution the directive proposes to improve the availability of repair services is the creation of an online platform for the repair of goods. Every member state of the EU will be required to have a website where citizens can search for a repairer of broken items. The platforms will have  to enable search results by location of repairer, type of product (e.g. washing machines, radios etc.), and conditions for repair (e.g. how long it will take or whether there are temporary replacements available). Ireland already has a repair directory in the form of repairmystuff.ie so we are ahead of the curve, though it will require an additional option to filter by repair conditions to meet the requirements of the EU law. 


Another measure in the Right to Repair Directive is that repairers will now be required to give you a standardised repair information form if you request it. This will have to include information like the name and location of the repairer, how much the repair will cost, how long the repair will take and what kind of repair they are doing. This form will be standardised across the EU, which means that you can request the form from 2 or 3 different repairers and compare like for like. One issue with this is that the person requesting the form may have to pay for it, particularly if the repairer has to physically examine the item to estimate how much it will cost and how long it will take. 

Where Could the Directive be Improved?

A key concern of the Right to Repair campaign is that this proposal fails to address the affordability of repair. Replacement is often the cheaper option. This is down to a number of factors, such as the item being manufactured in a country where labour is cheaper, the spare parts needed for the repair being expensive, and the need for broken items to be shipped to certified repairers and then shipped back to the consumer. 


This brings us to another area for improvement with the directive. One of the measures in the directive is that repair should be prioritised over replacement for products within the legal guarantee (e.g. inside the 1 or 2 year warranty you get at the shop). Unfortunately this is conditional in that repair should only be prioritised according to the directive if it is cheaper than replacement. If repair is only prioritised when it is cheaper, and replacement is usually the cheaper option, then the end result is that repair will rarely be prioritised. 


Another big limitation of this directive is one we have already covered; only 8 product categories are currently included in the obligation to repair items which are out of guarantee. In other words, unless something is within warranty, the ‘right to repair’ only applies if the thing you are trying to repair falls into one of these 8 categories. This is a big limitation, but as discussed there is a process in place for adding products to the list of categories. 

In a Nutshell

While it is true that the directive is a huge step in the right direction, there is another consideration. If this directive passes in its current form, it could be years before the above limitations within it are fixed. This is because once the EU passes a policy, it tends to fall to the bottom of their agenda and it can take quite a while for it to become a priority again. 


This is why we feel it is important  to make sure that the directive is as good as it can be before it gets voted on. The Rediscovery Centre has already made a submission to the Irish government about this, which you can read below. The organisation ‘Right to Repair Europe’ have also done incredible work to try and get these changes added to the document before it is voted on. We find out on the 26th of October whether our voices have been heard. 

If you are active in this area, now is the time to contact your MEPs and ask them to vote for certain changes to the document. Right to Repair Europe have prepared a list of proposed changes that would make this policy more effective at making repair a universal right!