European Union: Study On Built-In Obsolescence Of Electrical And Electronic Devices

Last Updated: 11 September 2017
Article by Koen T’Syen

On 12 May 2017, the Minister of Economic and Consumer Affairs Kris Peeters and the Minister for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Growth Marie-Christine Marghem released the results of a study on built-in obsolescence which they had commissioned in the aftermath of the VW Diesel scandal (the study is available here). The term "built-in obsolescence" refers to any technique used by manufacturers to limit deliberately the lifetime of a product, thereby accelerating its replacement.

The primary aim of the study was to investigate to what extent manufacturers program the obsolescence of their electrical and electronic devices. Although the study found little proof of programmers actually building-in obsolescence, it notes that it cannot be ruled out that built-in obsolescence actually exists. Moreover, the study finds that consumers are genuinely frustrated when the actual lifetime of the products which they purchase does not correspond to their expected lifetime. Therefore, the study's scope was expanded into investigating possible measures to extend the lifetime of products. This is noteworthy given that, at least conceptually, there is a significant difference between combating built-in obsolescence and extending the lifetime of products.

According to the study, the main obstacle to extending the lifetime of electrical and electronic devices is that their repair may be technically difficult and/or too expensive. For some products, the environmental benefit of repair can be non-existent or negative. With this in mind, the study puts forward possible measures to achieve three key objectives that contribute to extending the lifetime of electrical and electronic devices:

  1. promote eco-design and sustainable purchases by consumers;
  2. promote a better use of products; and
  3. promote the repair of products.

The study notes that the first objective can be achieved most effectively by: (i) requiring manufacturers to specify the expected lifetime of the products based on an objective assessment method; and (ii) extending the statutory warranty period (in a variable way depending on the expected lifetime of the products concerned). In addition, the study advocates extending from six months to two years the time period during which a specific type of defect, namely the lack of conformity of the good supplied with the good ordered, is presumed to exist at the time of delivery.

According to the study, the second objective can be achieved only by setting up an information campaign to create awareness amongst consumers.

Furthermore, the third objective can be achieved most effectively by requiring manufacturers to: (i) specify the level of reparability of their products based on an objective assessment method; (ii) specify the period during which they commit themselves to supply replacement parts; and (iii) make replacement parts, product plans and tools necessary for replacement to be available at a reasonable price.

All three objectives can be furthered by information campaigns and measures to stimulate a functional economy. The notion of a "functional economy" is an innovative economical model (IEM) aimed at optimising the costs and revenues of manufacturers by selling the service provided by a product rather than the product itself. In this model, the manufacturer remains the owner of the product. As a result, he is encouraged to extend the product's lifetime, foster reparability and ensure the optimal use of the product by the consumer. Other possible supporting measures put forward by the study are: (i) reducing the VAT rate for the repair of products; (ii) reducing the social security costs for the repair of products; and (iii) enabling consumers to deduct the costs of repair from their tax bill.

Referring to calculations of the European Commission, the study notes that strong measures incentivising more repairs of products could create up to 1,300 jobs in the repair industry in Belgium. However, approximately 450 jobs would disappear in other sectors such as production and distribution, which would result in a net job gain of about 850 jobs.

Ministers Peeters and Marghem have already announced that they will further investigate the proposed measures. Meanwhile, Minister Peeters is working on an extension of the warranty obligations of sellers (see VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume 2017, No. 1, p. 11, available at

Separately, on 22 January 2016, members of the French-speaking Christian Democrat party (cdH) had already submitted a Bill to the Chamber of Representatives to combat built-in obsolescence (Wetsvoorstel tot wijziging van het Burgerlijk Wetboek en van het Wetboek van Economisch Recht, teneinde ingebouwde veroudering tegen te gaan/Proposition de loi modifiant le Code civil et le Code de droit économique, visant à lutter contre l'obsolescence programmée – see VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume 2016, No. 1, p. 3, available at It remains to be seen whether it stands any chance of becoming law.

It is interesting to note that, on 4 July 2017, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on a longer lifetime for products, in which it calls on measures to extend product lifetimes (available here). Moreover, in December 2016, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed a Benelux Directive on the practical application of the circular economy in which they agreed to cooperate closely in the period 2017-2020 in order to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions