Spare parts and repairs: An obligation in Europe?

To reach the objectives specified in its Green Deal, Europe has taken measures favouring a circular economy: new energy labelling, eco-design standards, the right to repair, availability of spare parts, etc. France is the first European country to impose a reparability index on 5 electric and household appliances since 2021. More information in this article.

 

Electric and household appliances: New rules in Europe

In March 2020, the European Commission published its plan of action for a circulareconomy with special ambitions concerning the lifespanofproducts. In order to reduce waste and encourage consumers to purchase ecologically, the plan considers labelling on the product lifespan, operator manuals, an index of reparabilityvalid across the EU, and a right to repairs, including the availability of spare parts and access to repairs.

On the 25th of November 2020, the European Parliament voted in favour of a “right to repairs” to make repairs systematic, profitable, and attractive.

For this, spare parts for products must be available within a reasonable waiting period and at an attractive price. This is the meaning of the ecodesign regulations

which fixes the minimum requirements of energy efficiency or even reparability and recyclability for certain products put on the EU market (dishwashers, laundry machines, etc.) and which also imposes new rules on manufacturers since the 1 March 2021:

  • Spare parts for refrigeration devices (refrigerators, freezers, wine cellars, etc.) must be available for 7 years after purchase.
  • Spare parts must be available for 10 years after the purchase of washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers.
  • Manufacturers must assure the delivery of spare parts within a waiting period of 15 days.
  • Manufacturers must provide to consumers a list of spare parts available on the internet.
  • Manufacturers have the obligation to clearly explain through the documentation the defects that may occur, how to carry out repairs, and their cost.
  • Manufacturers must guarantee that the parts of the appliance can be replaced with classic tools.

More information: The new measures of eco-design: explanations

Obligation in France to provide information on spare parts

Despite the actions led by France to fight against programmed obsolescence, today there is still no obligation to provide spare parts, only to provide information on the waiting period or the availability date of spare parts.

In practice, it is the manufacturer or the importer who informs the seller who must inform you about the availability of spare parts. This obligation applies only to purchases made in stores, not online purchases for example (even if the seller is free to make the availability of spare parts a commercial argument and to indicate it on their site).

There is no obligation to provide information on the unavailability of spare parts.

Changes from 2022 onward

  • The seller will be held responsible to inform the consumer on the availability but also the unavailability of spare parts. If no information is given, the spare parts are assumed to be unavailable.
  • The manufacturer or importer will have 15 days (not 2 months) to provide spare parts.
  • For certain electronic and electric products, spare parts will have to be available for at least 5 years after they are placed on the market.
  • In the case of repairs of certain electronic and electric products, second-hand replacement parts can be used.
  • Any technique, including software, which makes it impossible for a device to be repaired or reconditioned by a repairer other than one authorized by the brand will be prohibited.
  • Any practice that limits the access of a repairer to spare parts, user manuals, technical information, or other tools, equipment, or software permitting the repair of the product will be prohibited.

 

France, the 1st European country to impose a reparability index

To incentivize consumers to purchase more durable goods and manufacturers to design more reparable products, France requires since the 1 January 2021 (Law no. 2020-105 of 10 February 2020 concerning the fight against waste and a circular economy) the display of a reparability index on 5 electronic products and electric home appliances:

  • Washing machine (on the machine door)
  • Smart phone
  • Portable computer
  • Television
  • Electric lawn mower

This index informs you on the ability to repair the concerned product. Whether you bought these products in a store in France or on the internet, on a French website or a foreign one, if it is directing its activities towards French consumers, you should now see the reparability index displayed on the product or on its packaging and at the point of sale or next to the price for online sales.

The index is a uniform, coloured pictogram displaying a rating from 1 to 10: 1 meaning your device is not reparable, 10 meaning it can be easily repaired. The index is established according to a calculation grid defined by the Ministry of Ecological Transition: availability duration of spare parts, delivery waiting period for the spare parts, their price compared to the selling price of the product, the ability to disassemble, etc.

Good to know: It is the manufacturer, the importer, or the distributer who assigns this rating and communicates it the seller, who must display it. The DGCCRF will therefore have to carry out checks to verify the veracity of the self-assigned rating.

The repairability index should spread to other product categories starting in 2024. It will evolve towards a durabilityindex integrating new criteria like robustness or weakness of products.

The right to repairs in other European countries

Many European countries are currently considering this subject of circular economy and spare parts. An overview of the rules in various European countries, thanks to the ECC-Net.

 

The city of Vienna has established a “repair voucher”. This way consumers can have used devices repaired (including smartphones) for which the city pays a part of the cost. 

 

Belgium has reduced its VAT tax rate to 6% for small repairs of bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.

 

The seller must assure the provision of spare parts during the estimated lifespan of the product.

 

In Ireland, there is no obligation for the seller to inform the consumer about spare parts, but the law specifies that spare parts as well as adequate after-sale service must be provided by the seller for the period mentioned in the offer, description, or advertisement made by the seller.

The VAT tax rate for small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens has been reduced to 13,5%.

There is no obligation to inform consumers on the availability of spare parts, but the seller must inform the consumer if the goods are no longer produced.

 

Luxembourg applies a reduced VAT rate of 8% on small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.

 

In Malta, if products purchased by the consumer need maintenance or replacement of parts, this replacement of parts and the appropriate repair service must be available within a reasonable waiting period after the delivery date. The seller or manufacturer can be released from this obligation by alerting the consumer by writing before the conclusion of the contract that he does not provide replacement parts or repair services.

Furthermore, Malta applies a reduced VAT rate of 5% for small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.

Poland applies a reduced VAT rate of 8% on small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.

 

In Portugal, the consumer has the right to after-sale assistance/service, including the supply of spare parts during the average estimated lifespan of the products.

Portugal applies a reduced VAT rate of 6% for small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.

The manufacturer must assure the supply of replacement parts during the estimated lifespan of the product.

 

In Slovenia, at the moment of a contract’s conclusion, the seller must provide a specific guarantee for certain technical goods that provides instructions for assembly and use, and which commits the seller to repair defects free of charge during the guarantee period.

The manufacturer must also, in exchange for payment, repair products and supply spare parts for at least three years after the expiration of the guarantee period. This after-sale service is guaranteed by the manufacturer itself or a third party.

The manufacturer must provide information on the unavailability of spare parts for 4 years after the delivery of goods.

Finally, Slovenia applies a reduced VAT rate of 9,5% on small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.

Sweden has reduced the VAT rate of 25% to 12% for repairs (shoes, clothing, household appliances, bicycles, etc.).

Craftsmen are allowed to offer repairs on large electric appliances at prices up to 50% less expensive than the actual cost – the difference is paid by the state.

The Netherlands have reduced their VAT rate to 6% for small repairs on bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, and household linens.