Many consumers opt for more sustainable forms of consumption, choosing to repair their goods instead of replacing them.
Several associations specialising in the repair of certain types of goods have opened and the number of so-called repair cafés is growing in various communes.
The circular economy seeks to preserve or even increase the value of products and materials, as well as promote their reintegration into continuous cycles, thereby preventing waste. Repairs and maintenance with the aim of preserving value are important in this economic model.
There are still many repair-related issues, though, be it in terms of guarantees, the liability of volunteers providing repair services, or the availability of spare parts, for example.
National legislative framework
In Luxembourg, the legislative framework that applies to repairs is governed in part by the Consumption Code, namely for matters relating to trader-consumer relations.
It regulates the guarantees applicable at the time of repair and the pre-contractual information that must be made available to the consumer.
An FAQ section answers most consumers’ pressing questions regarding repairs.
In addition, Luxembourg’s right of establishment defines which professionals are authorised to offer specific repair services.
Any trader wishing to offer repair services for payment must be in possession of the correct authorisation.
The applicable conditions to obtain such authorisations vary according to the products the trader intends to repair.
European legislative framework
At European level, discussions regarding various related laws and proposals are ongoing, namely concerning product-related matters and the provision of the necessary means to consumers that allow them to make more informed decisions.
Since March 2021, instructions both for installers and end users and freely accessible websites of manufacturers, importers or authorised representatives must include information such as:
- access to professional repair services, including webpages, addresses, and contact details;
- relevant information to order spare parts, whether directly from the manufacturer, importer or authorised representative or via channels they provide;
- the minimum period during which spare parts must be available;
- the minimum duration of the guarantee for the devices offered by the manufacturer, importer or authorised representative; and
- the possible implications of any repair undertaken by the user or a non-professional for the end user’s safety and its impact on the warranty.
This applies to the following goods:
- refrigerating appliances (Regulation (EU) 2019/2019);
- household washing machines and household washer-dryers (Regulation (EU) 2019/2023);
- dishwashers (Regulation (EU) 2019/2022);
- refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function (Regulation (EU) 2019/2024).
Availability of spare parts
In 2019, the European Commission adopted the Ecodesign Regulation, which sets forth provisions imposing the availability of spare parts for certain goods for a specific minimum period after the purchase of said goods. Moreover, access to information relating to the maintenance and repair of goods must be ensured.
The availability of spare parts varies depending on the product, the type of spare part and the individuals who can get them.
In addition, manufacturers shall ensure that spare parts may be replaced using common tools and without causing irreversible or permanent damage to the appliance itself.
The list of spare parts and the ordering process shall be publicly accessible on the website of the manufacturer, importer or authorised representative no later than two years after the first item was put to market and until the end of the minimum period of availability of those spare parts.
Foreign national legislative framework
The Repairability Index in France
The French Repairability Index was adopted in January 2021.
Its aim is to combat product obsolescence and prevent resource waste.
A score from 0 to 10 is awarded to products to inform consumers about the ease with which they can be repaired. The higher the score, the easier the product is to repair. The criteria used to award the score are: the price and duration of availability of spare parts, the ease of disassembly of the product and the availability of technical documentation.
5 types of equipment are concerned:
- Window washing machines;
- Electric lawnmowers.
There is no single definition of planned obsolescence, and currently, no legal standard has established a reference definition.
Luxembourgish legislation has not defined the concept of “planned obsolescence”. Some sources have proposed definitions, however, including the notion of planned obsolescence as being “the introduction of a hidden electronic device into a product, programming it to stop working after a certain period of time or use” (David Raes).
The problem of planned obsolescence arises mainly in certain household appliances or printers which stop working prematurely. More recently, the issue has also been noticed in certain electronic devices (e.g. the shortened lifespan of smartphone batteries).
Planned obsolescence is sometimes seen as one of the foundations of consumer society, along with advertising and credit. Indeed, “planned obsolescence is responsible for consumers’ need to renew their products”.
However, it raises issues related to ethics and to the relationship of trust between sellers, manufacturers and product end users.
Moreover, it puts the spotlight on environmental issues, namely regarding resource scarcity and waste management.
Luxembourg’s legislation does not explicitly prohibit planned obsolescence.
Some national and European legislation provide legal tools that could influence consumer law or ordinary contract law, though, such as:
- the hidden defect warranty;
- the legal guarantee of conformity;
- pre-contractual information obligations;
- rules concerning unfair trading practices.
French law, on the other hand, has enshrined a definition of “planned obsolescence” in its Consumption Code and condemns the practice, setting forth sanctions such as imprisonment and a fine of up to 5 % of the company’s turnover.
Right to repair
Currently, there is no formal right repair.
There are ongoing discussions concerning the matter at a European level, but many issues remain to be clarified and an impact assessment will be required before any legislative initiatives are undertaken.
Circular economy / Circular society
The circular economy reflects a holistic approach that considers the impact of a product at every stage of its life cycle.
It seeks to preserve or even increase the value of goods and materials, promoting their reintegration into continuous cycles, thereby preventing waste.
As a result, in this economic model, repairs and maintenance are important to preserve value.
The provision of information and awareness-raising among consumers and other stakeholders concerned by the issue of repairs are therefore essential to promote this systemic approach, which will also allow consumers to become more involved in the development of a more circular economy and society.