Europeans get 'right to repair' for some electrical goods

A person walks past a shop offering the repair of electronic equipment and domestic appliances in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years. The new 'right to repair' comes into force across the 27-nation bloc Monday, March 1, 2021. The posters read: ' Repair - 24 hours'. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A person walks past a shop offering the repair of electronic equipment and domestic appliances in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years. The new 'right to repair' comes into force across the 27-nation bloc Monday, March 1, 2021. The posters read: ' Repair - 24 hours'. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN – Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years, to help reduce the vast mountain of electrical waste that piles up each year on the continent.

The "right to repair," as it is sometimes called, comes into force across the 27-nation bloc Monday. It is part of a broader effort to cut the environmental footprint of manufactured goods by making them more durable and energy efficient.

“This is a really big step in the right direction” said Daniel Affelt of the environmental group BUND-Berlin, which runs several "repair cafes" where people can bring in their broken appliances and get help fixing them up again.

Modern appliances are often glued or riveted together, he said. “If you need specialist tools or have to break open the device, then you can’t repair it.”

Lack of spare parts is another problem, campaigners say. Sometimes a single broken tooth on a tiny plastic sprocket can throw a proverbial wrench in the works.

“People want to repair their appliances,” Affelt said. “When you tell them that there are no spare parts for a device that’s only a couple of years old then they are obviously really frustrated by that.”

Under the new EU rules, manufacturers will have to ensure parts are available for up to a decade, though some will only be provided to professional repair companies to ensure they are installed correctly.

New devices will also have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools when they really can't be fixed anymore, to improve recycling.