The right to repair movement is rapidly growing, and Europeans are at the forefront, looking to computer repair services providers and manufacturers to deal with the issues that stem from the current approach of replacing electronics unnecessarily.

See, all the fancy electronics and appliances in your house? Not all of them can be repaired. Maybe no one knows how to do it, maybe they don’t have the tools to do so, maybe someone does but you can’t reach them, or, in the most cynical take on this topic, it was designed to never be fixed. Attempts at repairing are held back, and this results in more replacements, which leads to more waste.

As a result, support for the “Right to Repair” legislation is gaining ground, with environment ministers across the region voting on proposals that would mandate manufacturers to make their products more durable and easier to repair. The new standards, should they be applied, would apply to all sorts of electronic devices, lighting, as well as home appliances.

iFixit, a computer repair services provider and right to repair advocate, noted the initial vote on refrigerators, held back in December 10, was a good step forward, a hopeful first start for the EU’s review of the Ecodesign Directive. The vote was passed, noting that spare parts for refrigerators must be replaceable with easily acquirable tools, and without inflicting any damage on the refrigerator itself.

iFixit says that spare parts and repair information should be accessible to more than just professional repairers, but everyone, as not doing so robs consumers, repair cafes and independent technicians of their options for repairing stuff. It’s a positive step, they say, but they also point out that the EU and the world should never have moved away from the right to repair in the first place.

Manufacturers have fired back, with BBC saying that the proposed rules would be too strict and would curb innovation, and that improper repairs could lead to the products becoming dangerous. The BBC’s counter-argument noted some statistics:

  • According to a study, from 2004 to 2012, the percentage of major household appliances that went defunct within five years jumped from 3.5% to 8.3%.
  • An analysis of junked washing machines at a recycling plant noted how more than a tenth of them were less than a half-a-decade old.
  • Another study estimated that, due to the CO2 emitted during the manufacturing process, a durable washing machine would generate 1.1 tonnes less CO2 over 2 decades compared to a short-lived cousin.