European Parliament Just Approved Fair Parts Pricing and a Ban on Parts Pairing

European Parliament Just Approved Fair Parts Pricing and a Ban on Parts Pairing

Here's hoping these changes make it into the final legislation

Big news from the European Parliament! They’ve just made a groundbreaking vote, nearly unanimously approving the most ambitious Right to Repair proposal yet.

The latest draft of the “Common rules promoting the repair of goods” requires transparent, fair pricing and bans the software blocks on repair known as parts pairing. These provisions significantly strengthen the European Commission’s initial draft, which proposed a requirement that manufacturers continue to repair products beyond the legal guarantee period, inform consumers about their repair obligation, and contribute to a new national repair platform online.

If passed, this law would guarantee Europeans the strongest Right to Repair protections in the world. The Council of the European Union is expected to adopt a negotiating position tomorrow, and then negotiations will begin in December. (Addendum 27 November: The Council has indeed now adopted a negotiation position.)

A Huge Win for the European Right to Repair Campaign

Guess how much the control board for this 984€ washing machine cost? If you guessed close to but not over 574€, you win! Pictured, iFixit advocate Thomas Opsomer, photo courtesy of Right to Repair Europe.

When the European Commission proposed the initial draft of this legislation in March, European Right to Repair campaigners were disappointed. As The Restart Project’s Cristina Ganapini explained, that proposal didn’t “address the burning issues of the affordability of repair—despite claiming to do so—and of anti-repair practices.” By ignoring the pricing of spare parts and parts pairing, Ganapini said, the initial draft “fail[ed] to grant consumers horizontal and fair access to repair.”

So advocates went to work, to help policymakers understand the problems with that Commission draft. They submitted extensive comments whenever the opportunity arose. They staged a “Price Is Right” game in front of the European Parliament building in Brussels, asking Members of European Parliament to guess the price of spare parts. They developed a one-minute animation explaining the biggest problems with repair today, including exorbitant parts pricing and parts pairing. 

The Parliament responded with this draft, a huge improvement over the last. And then, they overwhelmingly, wholeheartedly supported it—with 590 votes in favor, a mere 15 against, and 15 abstentions.

The new rules apply to ten categories of products that are currently covered by ecodesign requirements: smartphones and tablets, bicycles (including e-bikes), washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, fridges, displays, welding equipment, vacuum cleaners and servers. 

“Today’s vote brings us a step closer to an open repair ecosystem,” said Thomas Opsomer, iFixit’s policy advocate in Brussels. “Manufacturers are no longer allowed to use parts pairing or other sneaky tricks to keep independent repairers and self-repairers alike from using the spare parts of their choice, be it second-hand parts, aftermarket parts or even 3D printed ones. This is an important milestone – making it all the more regrettable that key provisions in this supposedly all-encompassing legislation only cover a handful of products in the end.”

Negotiations Up Next

A brief primer for anyone unfamiliar with EU policymaking: The European Union has three legislative bodies, the Commission (which proposes new laws), the Parliament (directly elected), and the Council of the EU (ministers from each member state). 

Now that this legislation has been proposed by the Commission and a negotiating position has been approved by the Parliament, it awaits the adoption of a negotiating position by the Council. Then, the interinstitutional negotiation process (sheesh, say that three times fast!) known as the “trilogues” can begin, featuring a series of discussions between the Parliament and Council, mediated by the Commission. The goal is to agree on a joint text, which then will be put to a vote in both the Parliament and Council. If passed in both bodies, the text is signed and published in the Official Journal, signifying that it has become law.

Trilogues are usually lengthy ordeals, but the chief negotiator for the EU Parliament has announced that he aims to get to an agreement by the end of February. This would enable the EU institutions to deliver on Right to Repair before everything comes to a halt ahead of the June 2024 EU elections. Rest assured that advocates will continue to remind legislators of the importance of these repair protections throughout the process.

Repair Even After the Warranty Period

One of the most exciting aspects of these measures is the new obligation for producers to offer repair services even after the expiration of the legal warranty period. This innovative approach seeks to prolong product lifespans, significantly reducing environmental impacts. 

Additionally, there’s a proposal to extend the legal guarantee by an additional year following a repair. Repair advocates have mixed opinions on the value of extended legal warranties, since they generally don’t cover accidental damage (such as a dropped phone). The goal of legal warranties is to incentivize manufacturers to make more-durable products, but historically things haven’t always worked out that way—sometimes, instead, manufacturers fund a longer warranty period by cutting manufacturing costs and producing worse-quality goods. Plus, because manufacturers maintain control of the repair ecosystem during the warranty period (a weakness of this proposal that persists despite advocates’ complaints), longer warranties can also serve to cut out independent repair shops and diminish consumer choice over who performs repairs. 

Affordable, Widely Available Repairs

The European Parliament’s position aims to dismantle barriers to affordable repairs. Independent repairers, refurbishers, and end-users will gain access to essential spare parts, repair information, and tools at reasonable prices. Additionally, they call for online platforms like iFixit to play a role in connecting consumers with local repair services and refurbished goods sellers.

To further incentivize the choice of repair over replacement, the Parliament is proposing vouchers like those that have been successful in Vienna and Thuringia, as well as other financial incentives through national repair funds.

Rapporteur René Repasi gave a press conference after the vote: “This House has consistently supported consumers’ right to repair and we can finally say that we are directly responding to people’s demands. People want to expand the lifespan of their devices, but it is often too costly or difficult. We adopted a series of measures to encourage consumers to choose repair over replacement, with a special focus on supporting independent repairers and establishing financial incentives. We expect [the] Council to adopt their position soon, so we can begin negotiations to transform these measures into law and pave the way for a truly circular European economy.”

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Policy Manager for Circular Economy at the European Environmental Bureau, added: “It is high time that the EU took this step in the right direction to tackle manufacturers’ tactics to force consumers into a cycle of buying replacements for minor issues, perpetuating a systemic wastage of resources. However, restricting this to only a handful of products is a major missed opportunity to revolutionise sustainable products and expand consumer and repair rights in Europe.”

Looking Ahead: The Next Steps

The negotiating process begins with a first meeting scheduled for December 7. This phase will be crucial in finalizing the legislation, as the Council has historically been more conservative on Right to Repair than the Parliament. 

To preserve the strength of this legislation, negotiations must leave in the provisions requiring transparency about parts pricing and banning parts pairing. Advocates around the world will be watching. Want to help? Sign the petition in support of this legislation, or find your local advocacy network.