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CheckMag | The EU's updated right to repair rules are the breath of fresh air consumers and the planet need

The EU has a solid history of making decisions that actually make sense for consumers and the environment (Source: COE)
The EU has a solid history of making decisions that actually make sense for consumers and the environment (Source: COE)
The EU has a solid history of making decisions that actually benefit the consumer and the EU Right to Repair Directive (R2RD) may finally curb environmentally damaging and anti consumer practices employed by tech companies to keep their revenue streams flowing.
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Whether it’s Sonos, Apple, John Deere or even Polish trains, companies have intentionally discouraged repairs or killed support for products entirely in the name of profit.

One of the most high profile of these companies is Apple, with a long and turgid history of intentionally slowing down iPhones, blocking 3rd party parts and repair centres, making self repair prohibitively expensive and supplying first party parts at a cost that often exceeds the value of the device being repaired.

Tim Sweeney of Epic accused Apple of “malicious compliance” and although he was referring to their compliance with the EU’s Digital Markets act, the same statement could be applied to a number of Apple's decisions to comply with “right to repair” practices.

The non-genuine part warning is a prime example of holding consumers to ransom over something that should be easy to replace (Source: Apple Support)
The non-genuine part warning is a prime example of holding consumers to ransom over something that should be easy to replace (Source: Apple Support)

But it doesn’t stop there. Tesla was hit with an antitrust lawsuit last year for similar practices, and Nissan recently dropped support for its 2016 Nissan Leaf app with effect from the 1st April 2024, citing the shutdown of the 2G network. A shutdown that Ofcom is unlikely to actually complete until 2033. The excuses for prematurely ending support for devices often don’t match up with reality.

Disposing of consumer goods before they reach a “reasonable” end of life not only impacts the consumer, but has a significant environmental impact. The European Commission estimated that  261 million tons of CO2, 30 million tonnes of resources are consumed and 35 million tonnes of waste are generated in the EU each year by replacing goods that could otherwise be repaired.

The EU seems to be making sensible decisions that benefit not only the consumer, but the planet as well. Europeans already get a 2 year warranty on all consumer tech products, but the EU will also force manufacturers to repair products for a reasonable price after the 2 year warranty period has ended. 

In addition, they will force manufacturers to release documentation that can assist with repairs, allow the use of original and 3rd party parts and repair centres, as well as curb practices that retire devices early through software updates. Something that may explain why Google is suddenly offering 7 years of software updates with its new phones.

Like the laws around standardising the USB-C port on consumer devices, many of these decisions make so much sense that it makes you wonder why tech companies have been able to get away with these practices for so long. Society needs to change the throw away culture and year on year upgrade cycle that tech firms have instilled in us for the last decade, and these new EU laws are a significant step in the right direction.

EU member states have 24 months to write the legislation into law, and thankfully many US states are also catching on to the idea, with California joining Minnesota and New York in bringing “right to repair” legislation into law.

It remains to be seen how these companies will react and whether we will see continued “malicious compliance” in the pursuit of higher profits. At the very least, it is good to know that governments and organisations are trying to do the right thing for the environment and preventing consumers from being held to ransom by big tech.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 06 > The EU's updated right to repair rules are the breath of fresh air consumers and the planet need
David Devey, 2024-06- 9 (Update: 2024-06- 9)