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European Appliances Face Tough Future

In what could have a massive knock-on effect in Australia, the European Union has reportedly brought in stringent new regulations that will force European appliance and lighting brands to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years.

First reported by the BBC, the new rules were signed off on 15 January this year, and following yesterdays vote, enforcement will begin from April 2021.

The rules apply to lights, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges and could impact brands such as ASKO, Miele, Smeg, Electrolux and Beko as well as Siemens and Bosch which are sold in Australia.

ChannelNews has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for comment on the EU regulations and the possible adoption of the conditions in Australia.

In response, the ACCC said the issue was discussed at the Meeting of Ministers for Consumer Affairs on Friday 30 August 2019.

“Ministers noted the discussion paper presented by the Australian Capital Territory on the consumer rights issue of ‘right to repair’, including work underway globally as outlined in the paper, to support consumer and legislative frameworks around ‘right to repair’. Ministers agreed that the Commonwealth Minister would write to the Treasurer to request that this issue be added to the Productivity Commission’s forward work agenda”.

As reported by the ABC, ACT Consumer Affairs Minister Shane Rattenbury promoted a national approach to ‘right to repair’ at the Consumer Affairs Forum in August this year, which would require manufacturers to make products that could be easily repaired.

“They’re the sort of guarantees that we need to put into our consumer laws to enable the repair industry to continue to grow’ said Mr Rattenbury.

The move also calls for brands to deal with third-party repairers for the supply of replacement components, compromising with campaigners who wanted individual consumer access to spare parts for repairing their own machines.

Furthermore, these parts will need to be accessible with commonly-available tools without damaging the product.

According to the BBC, the legislation was initiated following complaints by European and American customers ‘who were infuriated’ by tech products that would break down following the expiration of their warranty.

In fact, a 2014 EU survey identified that 77% of EU citizens would like to fix their products rather than purchase a replacement.

Stephane Arditi of the European Environment Bureau said in response to the ruling, ‘when repair activities stay in the hands of a few firms, we’re missing an opportunity to make it more affordable and readily available’.

The right to repair movement may increase European appliance prices, forcing Asian made appliances to adopt the new regulations in order to remain competitive in the European market, which could extend to the Australian market.

In the USA, there are currently around 20 states, including California and New York implementing repair legislation to tackle the issue of the lifetime of purchased machine goods.

Libby Peake from the UK Green Alliance told BBC News, ‘these new standards are a massive step in the right direction and could result in nearly 50 million tonnes of CO2 emissions savings’.

The move by the EU is estimated to improve energy efficiency amongst appliances and lighting in Europe, which in turn may improve products across the world.

Currently, regulations are deemed out of date with over 55% of washing machines sold in the EU ranked A+++, the highest level for the European Union energy label.

A direct saving of $10.7 Billion in energy bills per year in Europe from 2030 could be made from the right to repair – equivalent to 5% of EU electricity consumption.

With Brexit looming in the distance, British firms wanting to sell in Europe will have to obey the new rules come 2021.

Chloe Fayole of environmental group Ecos said, ‘from the US to Europe, people are demanding their right to repair things they own because they’re tired of products that are designed to break prematurely’.

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