The EU Commission’s commitment to establish a “right to repair” as part of its Circular Economy Action Plan has led to much speculation about what exactly that might entail. While the Commission has not yet revealed many details of its plans, it has confirmed it is considering implementing a “repairability scoring system”, similar to the repairability index recently established under the French CE law.
On 17 March 2021, the following question was posed by a member of the European Parliament to the Commission:
Last November, Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the Commission to introduce a legislative proposal regulating the ‘right to repair’. In pursuit of a more sustainable single market, the Commission presented its new Circular Economy Action Plan, pointing to the further development of the ‘right to repair’.
- Is the Commission considering the solutions that have already been implemented in some Member States, such as the ‘repairability index’ introduced by France?
- How does the Commission envisage the coexistence of national systems alongside an EU-wide system that is yet to be defined?
- Is the Commission considering setting up a system similar to that in place for energy efficiency, with a scale of colours and letters, to make it easier for consumers to understand?
The Commission has now responded to these questions (on 25 May 2021). Unsurprisingly perhaps, its response gives very little away. The Commission merely stated that it is currently working to identify the most effective approach, and that a colour-coded labelling system is being contemplated. Further, the Commission ducked the important second question and simply indicated that it intends to consider how an EU-level law will operate in the context of existing, similar obligations in place at the member state level, and that this will be fleshed out in an impact assessment which will be published prior to any proposed legislation. The Commission’s full response is as follows:
As part of its commitment to establish a ‘right to repair’ the Commission is considering different solutions that place consumers in the position to choose reparable and durable products, including the possibility to introduce a reparability scoring system comparable to the index introduced by France.
To this end, the Joint Research Centre has performed an extensive study on reparability and the development of a scoring system for repair and upgrade of products. An additional study on the effects of reparability scoring on consumer behaviour was carried out in 2020, of which the outcome was published in February 2021. Colour coding was one of the analysed options for the presentation of reparability scores. The study on consumer behaviour concluded that providing reparability information through a scoring system is effective in guiding product choices of consumers towards more reparable products.
Based, among others, on the outcome of the abovementioned studies the Commission is considering different means to implement a reparability-scoring index. A possible proposal would be preceded by an impact assessment which, in accordance with the better regulation guidelines, would also consider the added value of EU action as opposed to action at the national level.
Plainly the second question is a key question and it would be wholly impractical for companies supplying goods across the EU to be faced with a patchwork system of scoring and labelling requirements. Whilst the Commission may not wish to admit it just yet, it seems inevitable that the Commission will have to introduce a harmonised system that will eventually trump any inconsistent member state scheme.