News & Insights

EU plans to strengthen consumers’ rights for repairing defective goods

The European Parliament and the Council of the EU have recently announced their provisional deal on a stronger “right to repair” for consumers with a view to creating a more sustainable and circular economy.

Businesses selling goods and services to consumers need to comply with consumer protection laws, and this should be reflected in the terms of their contracts with consumers and their policies and procedures. In the UK the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) consolidated a number of pieces of early legislation, some of which originated from the EU.

The EU’s new plans will affect UK businesses operating in Europe and the UK may follow suit with similar legislation of its own, particularly as growing awareness of environmental damage may mean increasingly more consumers prefer to have their products repaired rather than simply buy a replacement.

Generally, consumer protection law gives consumers various automatic rights in respect of the products they buy and requires the supplier to remedy any breach of these rights. For example, in the UK the CRA requires goods to match the supplier’s description and be of a satisfactory quality and fit for the consumer’s particular purpose. If the supplier breaches any of these terms, the consumer will – depending on the precise circumstances – have various remedies, including the right to a replacement or a repair. It is the trader who bears the costs of a repair or replacement. The consumer can choose between exercising their right to a repair or to a replacement, but if the option they choose is impossible (taking into account the cost to the trader), they will have to seek the other option. If both options are impossible, the consumer has a right to a price reduction or a final right to reject the product. The consumer cannot require the trader to provide either a repair or replacement if it is disproportionate to the other remedy (i.e. if one remedy imposes costs on the trader which are unreasonable compared to those imposed by the other remedy). The trader must be given a reasonable time to attempt repair or replacement. A repair or replacement must always be offered before considering a price reduction or final right to reject.

On 2 February 2024, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached a provisional deal in respect of the repair of faulty products, which is the Directive promoting the repair of goods purchased by consumers and amending the Sale of Goods Directive ((EU) 2019/771), the Representative Actions Directive ((EU) 2020/1828) and the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation ((EU) 2017/2394)). Once the directive is adopted by both the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, it will be published in the EU Official Journal, and member states will have 24 months to implement it into national law.

The deal aims to reduce waste and support the repair sector and affects UK businesses which manufacture or supply products to the EU. The directive will give consumers in the EU a right to a more attractive repair process after the legal guarantee of a product has expired. It will also have the effect of extending a product’s lifecycle through its repair. The following measures are currently included in the directive:

  • Manufacturers will have to repair common household products.
  • Consumers will have to be informed by the manufacturer of the manufacturer’s duty to repair.
  • Consumers will be able to borrow a device while theirs is being repaired, or to opt for a refurbished unit.
  • Consumers will have free online access to indicative repair prices.
  • The legal guarantee for repaired goods will be extended by one year.

Along with these measures, manufacturers will need to make spare parts and tools available at a reasonable price and will be prohibited from using contractual clauses to obstruct repairs. The EU is also proposing initiatives to facilitate repair services across the EU through online platforms, and also to introduce repair vouchers, funds or alternative incentives to make repairs more affordable.

Businesses providing products to consumers already bear considerable legal risk in their compliance with consumer laws, and this update from the EU will in time extend their obligations to consumers.

The update serves as a reminder to businesses selling to consumers to ensure that T&Cs and policies and procedures are up to date, and to start thinking about how the proposed changes may impact them and the way they operate.

If you have any questions arising from this article, please contact Katrina Banks at [email protected]