European Right to Repair (cepInput)

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The Commission plans a right to repair. It is intended to encourage consumers to use products longer and to oblige companies to extend the life of products as well as to guarantee better reparability. The Centrum für Europäische Politik (cep) warns of a conflict between consumer and environmental protection.

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“The EU plans do not necessarily lead to more consumer rights,” says cep consumer rights expert Patrick Stockebrandt, who analysed the plan with cep environmental experts Götz Reichert and Svenja Schwind. A “right to” could become an “obligation to” repair if certain warranty rights were abolished. This could lead to acceptance problems, whereby consumer and environmental protection would unnecessarily come into conflict. Stockebrandt pleads for better consumer information. “The existing approaches of a warranty statement or a European repair index are more likely to enforce consumer rights. They promote competition and improve the information situation for consumers,” says the cep jurist.

“Whether better reparability is desirable from an environmental perspective varies depending on the product,” emphasises Reichert. “For example, it may be more environmentally advantageous to replace an old product with a new, energy-efficient one.”

According to Svenja Schwind, a right to repair “is no guarantee to automatically lead to positive environmental impacts over the life cycle of a product.” This depends on market reactions of producers and consumers. The scientists fear that innovations may be held back by a longer product life.

The German Federal Consumer Protection Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) recently pleaded for a German right to repair in order to overcome the “throwaway society”. However, a German solo effort has been criticised. An EU right to repair could prevent competitive disadvantages for German companies. Schwind agrees: “Uniform EU-wide requirements, for example in the environmentally friendly design of products, can prevent direct disruption of the functioning of the EU internal market. For this is precisely what could result from different, national requirements for the cross-border movement of goods.”