Provisional agreement on the text of the proposed Right to Repair Directive was reached by European Union institutions on 1 February 2024. Read on for an overview of what this means for producers, retailers, repairers and other actors in the supply chain, alongside a summary of next steps.

The Right to Repair Directive (the Directive) forms part of a larger environmental initiative aiming to extend a product's life cycle and support a circular economy. In short, it will establish a new right to repair obligation on producers to repair products covered by a number of ecodesign regulations. It also will amend the existing rules on legal guarantees under the Sale of Goods Directive to extend the legal guarantee by 12 months where a consumer chooses a repair over a replacement, alongside other measures to encourage repair.

The text of the provisional agreement has not yet been published and is expected to become publicly available in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we have listed some highlights of the agreement on the text based on what we know at this stage.

A new right to repair obligation on producers

The Directive will require producers to carry out repairs outside of the legal guarantee for products covered by repairability obligations under certain EU ecodesign regulations listed in an Annex.

  • Products in scope: We are waiting to see the text of the provisional agreement for the final list of ecodesign regulations in scope; however, we expect this to be largely unchanged from the European Commission's proposal that contained ecodesign regulations applying to certain white goods (including household washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators), vacuum cleaners, electronic displays, and mobile phones and tablets (among others). The Directive also allows for the Commission to add more products to this list over time.
  • Repairrequirements: The Commission's original proposal tied the scope of repairs required to be offered by the producer to the repairability requirements under the relevant ecodesign regulations (e.g., the components covered and the periods of time that spare parts need to be available etc.). Producers can charge for the repair; however, indications are that a "reasonableness" requirement has been introduced. We will be checking the text of the final agreement to see whether the exemption where repair would be impossible proposed by the Commission has been retained.
  • Spare parts obligations: A number of obligations surrounding spare parts also have been agreed – such as requiring information on certain spare parts to appear on a website, making them available to all parties in the repair sector and preventing certain practices that can hinder repair – including contractual clauses or certain software- and hardware-related barriers (among other things).
  • Loan devices:The European Parliament's press release (see below) refers to measures that could require loan devices to be provided to consumers while they wait for repair in certain cases and to enable a consumer to opt for a refurbished unit as an alternative. We will be checking the provisional agreement to understand the detail of these measures.

Amendments to the existing legal guarantee

Under the existing Sale of Goods Directive, the seller is liable to the consumer for any lack of conformity which exists at the time when the goods were delivered and which becomes apparent within two years of that time. In the event of non-conformity, the Sale of Goods Directivesets out a hierarchy of remedies, allowing consumers to initially choose between repair and replacement (with certain exceptions).

  • Hierarchy of remedies stays the same: The Commission's legislative proposal sought to change the existing hierarchy of remedies under the legal guarantee established by the Sale of Goods Directive to make repair the default option (see our April 2023 blog here). However, it's understood that the provisional agreement has kept the existing hierarchy intact – such that consumers will continue to be able to choose between a repair or a replacement (allowing for certain exceptions).
  • But repair still incentivised: Instead, to encourage consumers to choose repair over replacement, the legal guarantee under the Sale of Goods Directive would be extended by 12 months following a repair, with Member States having discretion to further extend this period under national laws if they so wish. We are waiting to see the text of the provisional agreement to understand the exact mechanics around this and to see if other changes will be made to the legal guarantee.

Any other changes?

  • European Repair Information Form: Under the Commission's proposal, it would be mandatory for repairers to provide a standardised European Repair Information Form to consumers when they request a repair. This form would include certain information on repair conditions, such as timing and price. The provisional agreement makes this form optional to cut red tape for repairers. However, if repairers provide this form, the conditions set out on the form will be binding on them for a set period. We understand a template form is included in an Annex to the Directive.
  • Online matchmaking repair platform: To encourage the utilisation of repair services, an online platform will be created to allow consumers to find local repair shops and other related services. The provisional agreement would require this to be designed and operated at a European level, with national sections.
  • Other measures to encourage repair: Member states would be required to support at least one measure to promote repair – such as repair vouchers and funds, information campaigns or a reduction of the value-added tax rate on repair services, among other options.

What's next?

The text of the provisional agreement now needs to be formally approved by the full European Parliament at plenary, and then by the European Council. It will then be signed and published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force 20 days later. We expect this process to be completed before the European Parliament elections in June 2024. Member States will then have 24 months to transpose the requirements into their national laws.

Where can I find out more?

Press releases following the provisional agreement:

We will be posting more information about these reforms on ourProductWise blog when more information is available, so continue following to learn more.

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.