Manufacturers spend billions in research and development to bring the most advanced products to market. But what happens to these products when a defect appears within the legal warranty, or after it has expired? The EU's Right to Repair Directive, on which the Council and the European Parliament have recently reached a political agreement, seeks to provide an answer to this.

Promoting sustainability 

The overall objective is to make repair more attractive than replacement. Market participants who have so far relied on replacement and/or pushed new generations of the same product as fast as possible into the market will have to change their business model. Generally speaking, the new directive aims to reduce the costs and difficulties faced by consumers in getting their products repaired, particularly when those products are no longer covered by the warranty, thereby promoting sustainability and reducing waste.

Most importantly, the Right to Repair Directive will introduce new obligations on manufacturers of goods which are subject to  so called “repairability requirements” under EU law. Currently, these are focused on electronic products such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, but also servers and data storage products as well as mobile phones and tablets. 

Hence, manufacturers of consumer electronics will be most impacted by the new EU legislation. As repairability requirements are developed for new product groups, the scope of the obligation to repair will progressively be extended, meaning further product groups will be added to the current list. 

In addition, the Right to Repair Directive is set to amend the legal warranty rules laid down in the Sale of Goods Directive, albeit to a lesser extent than originally envisaged. While consumers will retain the choice between repair and replacement, they shall be incentivised to choose repair (e.g., by way of an extension of the legal warranty period should they opt for repair). Furthermore, 

Relevance for the tech sector

Even though some proposals that were too far-reaching from the point of view of the affected companies did not prevail in the trilogue negotiations, the new legislation will likely have wide ranging effects on the tech industry. 

When the new Right to Repair Directive comes into effect, manufacturers will be prohibited from using contractual clauses, hardware or software techniques to obstruct repairs. In-scope manufacturers will also be obliged to: 

  • repair products to which repairability requirements under EU law apply, 
  • publish information about their obligation to repair, and
  • offer spare parts and tools at a reasonable price.

Those obligations may even extend to further market participants like importers and distributors.

Providers of connected products (i.e. IoT devices) and related services will also need to comply with the recently enacted Data Act and share users’ IoT data with third parties to facilitate the maintenance and repair of the connected products (read more in our blogpost on the EU Data Act). Under the Data Act, these data must be made available on FRAND terms and the third party may have to pay to access that data.

What happens next? 

The co-legislators will now have to formally adopt the agreed text before it is published in the Official Journal of the EU.  Even if the R2RD then still needs to be transposed to national law within 24 months, affected companies should already familiarise themselves with the new provisions to ensure compliance.

Read more in our recent ProductLiabilityLinks blogpost: EU: Political agreement reached on right to repair initiative