EU acts on impossible repairs and greenwashing claims


The Dutch consumer watchdog Consumentenbond has welcomed last week’s vote by the European parliament which will stop manufacturers limiting the life of their products by making them impossible to repair, but says more can still be done.

Last week MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on design features that limit a product’s life or lead to goods malfunctioning prematurely, such as printer settings that require replacing ink cartridges before they are empty, or that stop working after a time. 

MEPs also agreed that manufacturers should not limit a product’s functionality when it is used with spare parts or accessories, such as chargers, made by other companies. The legislation fell short, however, from including new rules on self-repairs.

‘We also think the legal guarantee period should be extended to force manufacturers to produce longer-lasting products, because they will be responsible for any malfunctions and repairs during that period, which is costly for them,” Consumentenbond spokesman Gerard Spierenburg told Dutch News. 

Spare parts and manuals should be widely available and repairing goods should be made attractive to consumers, for example by reducing taxation on repairs, he said. In addition, he said, “making repairs more difficult, for example by locking a device with the help of software or by using specialised tools, should be prohibited.”

The new rules also concern digital products, including smartphones’ operating systems. Consumers will have to be informed of the minimum period during which updates, including security updates, will be provided, as well as the impact of updates on the devices’ functionality, for instance on the battery or app performance.

The final text of the directive will have to be agreed with EU governments, represented in the EU Council. 

Both parliament and council agree that generic environmental claims, such as ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’ or ‘climate neutral’ to advertise products or businesses should be banned if they are not supported by evidence. 

But there are widely differing opinions within both bodies on whether claims that are based solely on carbon offsetting schemes, rather than actual greenhouse gas emission reductions, should be banned. 

Last year, environmental groups launched a lawsuit against KLM, arguing that adverts promoting the airline’s carbon offsetting scheme were misleading.

The expectation is that talks between parliament and council will be concluded by the end of the year.

These measures are complemented by another proposal, presented in March by the European Commission and still at an early stage of discussion, which aims to crack down on misleading definitions about how ‘sustainable’ products and services are.

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