New UK Rules Say Appliance Makers Must Provide Parts for Repair

Starting this summer, UK buyers can rest assured that they will have their new equipment repaired should they encounter problems within the first decade of ownership. New regulations stipulate that manufacturers are legally obliged to provide spare parts for washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, televisions and lighting fixtures for up to 10 years.

The BBC reports: “Manufacturers must provide spare parts such as door seals and thermostats to professional repairers. These parts must be accessible with commercially available tools without damaging the product.” These rules have already been adopted in the European Union and will come into effect in the UK. as part of an agreement made two years ago. If UK companies want to sell in Europe, they will have to follow these new rules, which will go into effect in April 2021.

The aim of the new regulations is to extend the lifespan of household appliances and reduce their environmental impact, both in terms of the resources used and the greenhouse gases that are released during their manufacture. The option of repair delays their disposal and reduces the number of items sent to landfill. Economy and Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Our plans to tighten product standards will ensure that more electrical appliances can be repaired rather than thrown away, putting more money in consumers’ pockets while protecting the environment.” ”

While the new rules are widely seen as a step in the right direction, many critics think they don’t go far enough. Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the US-based Repair Association, told Treehugger the changes were “just one step”.

“The regulations only affect a small group of products, and although the products meet new design standards, the repair of these products remains functionally limited to the manufacturer. Only a ‘professional’ can have access to service materials and not directly to consumers or parts availability is being improved without any indication that the prices are fair and reasonable. ”

Disposed devices in a landfill.

Getty Images / Akiyoko

In other words, the regulations only cover part of the three basic steps of the Right to Repair movement. As explained by Libby Peake, Director of Resource Policy at UK think tank Green Alliance, these are (1) changes to the design to allow for repairs, (2) providing affordable replacement parts, and (3) ensuring manufacturers have access to official ones Repairs instructions.

Peake went on to say that the UK’s environmental review committee recently asked the government to regulate people’s full right to repair (even if they are not professionals), but said the government’s response “didn’t seem too warm on the matter “. Nevertheless, she remains optimistic:

“Hopefully this is the first step on the road to people with a real right to repair. This means that all products are built to last and that the information and spare parts are available to repair defective electronics. Improving the quality of the products in all areas The Board could have a major impact on e-waste generation – a particular problem in the UK, where we generate significantly more e-waste per capita than almost anywhere in the world. ”

Gordon-Byrne is less enthusiastic about the environmental impact of the new rules and says they will be minimal. “The ratio of electronics to weight in large devices is very low and the metal and plastic housings are already highly recyclable.” The greatest benefit is seen in an improved deconstruction of parts at the time of recycling.

The rules also contain new standards for measuring energy efficiency. So far, the A +, A ++ and A +++ rankings for devices in Great Britain have been too generous. 55% of washing machines earned A +++. It is planned to tighten this by creating a scale from A to G, with which “from 2030 onwards 20 billion euros (24 billion US dollars) could be saved in energy costs per year in Europe – that corresponds to 5% of the EU -Power consumption “. UK officials estimate that higher efficiency standards will save UK consumers about £ 75 (USD 104) a year.

What happens on this side of the Atlantic, the United States has taken a different approach. “Instead of dictating changes to the designs, we are seeking state legislation that requires manufacturers to make their service materials widely available on fair and reasonable terms,” ​​said Gordon-Byrne of the Repair Association. “Independent businesses and consumers will be able to get involved in the repair of their own property, keep it in use, and keep it out of the waste stream. To date, 25 states have begun considering legislation on the right to repair. ”

Changes need to be made in both global manufacturing standards and allowing individuals to tinker with the items they purchase. Do we otherwise even have them? In the meantime, it’s good to see this topic on the news. Gordon-Byrne concluded, “I see great value in EU regulations that are pushing global manufacturers to have more repairable goods in a global market. Perhaps this will lead to regulatory changes here in the US. For now, we welcome any small step forward . ”

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