Introducing a draft directive on the right to repair
On 22 March 2023, the European Commission presented its long-awaited draft directive on consumers’ right to repair of their consumer products. The new legal act leads to a significant expansion of manufacturers’ responsibility for products in Europe. In future, consumers will be entitled, in addition to their warranty rights against the seller, to directly assert claims against the manufacturers of products. As part of the EU Commission’s ambitious ”Green Deal” project, the draft is intended to lead to more sustainable use of resources and create an easy and inexpensive way for consumers to have products repaired.
What products are involved?
The directive is intended to cover a wide range of products that are used by almost every consumer. These include household appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, but also products such as smartphones or tablets. Consumers will have the right to repair if a product has a defect for which the seller is not liable under statutory warranty provisions. This can be the case if the defect was not yet present at the time the goods were handed over to the consumer or if the defect only becomes apparent after the warranty period has expired. It will not matter whether the consumer has caused the defect himself/herself.
The draft establishes an obligation on the part of manufacturers to repair the products they market. Manufacturers therefore remain responsible to a certain extent for the functionality of their products even after the expiry of the warranty period. Although they do not always have to offer repairs free of charge, considerable costs will probably be entailed simply in providing the necessary infrastructure even if they use subcontractors to fulfil their repair obligations.
Besides offering repairs themselves, manufacturers will have to ensure that independent repairers have access to spare parts and to the information required for the repairs. The aim is to allow consumers to freely decide who they wish to have carry out the repairs. This means that manufacturers must establish their own infrastructure for repairs while also enabling other companies to offer comparable services that compete with their own repair services.
In order to protect consumers from overpriced repair offers, manufacturers and independent repairers will be obliged to provide an estimate of the repair costs at a consumer’s request. In addition, the directive will oblige Member States to set up an online platform that allows consumers to locate product repairers and sellers of remanufactured products.
European legal acts to be adapted
According to the draft directive, Directive (EU) 2019/771 on certain aspects of the sale of goods governed by contract law, Directive (EU) 2020/1828 on representative actions for the protection of consumers’ collective interests and Regulation (EU) 2017/2394 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for consumer protection laws are to be adapted.
What practical implications does the draft have?
The European Commission’s draft directive must first pass through the European legislative process and be implemented in national regulations. However, it is already foreseeable that manufacturers will be faced with considerable additional financial and logistical expenditures. Because consumers will have a right to claim repairs directly from them, manufacturers will have to establish their own repair facilities. Due to their obligation to also enable competitors to carry out repairs, manufacturers will also have to develop ways to offer their own repair services in a competitive form without unduly hindering competitors. Establishing the corresponding infrastructure will entail considerable costs for manufacturers, which they will have to pass on to consumers. This means that manufacturers will have to establish their own repair infrastructure, including a long-term stock of spare parts.