Fix It Again, Sam: EU OKs Rules to Make Gadgets and Appliances Repairable

(CN) – One small step for man, a giant leap for refrigerators. The European Union’s 28 states have approved regulations to force refrigerator manufacturers to make fridges that can be easy to repair, and therefore longer-lasting.

The European Parliament is expected to adopt the rules for refrigerators in March. EU officials are looking at similar measures for a host of other consumer goods, from smartphones to dishwashers.

The “repairability” measure for refrigerators was hailed as a major breakthrough and the first rules of their kind in Europe.

“This could set an important precedent for more products to be scrutinized in the near future,” the European Environmental Bureau, a network of environmental groups, said in a statement.

The Bureau said the rules faced stiff opposition from manufacturers and hesitation from the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.

“Waste from electronics is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. Enabling consumers to repair and reuse all electronic products is a must and will help save millions of tons of natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions while saving consumers money,” said Chloe Fayole with the European Environmental Citizens’ Organization for Standardization, or ECOS. Her group is pushing for a European right-to-repair, as campaigners call their repairability movement.

Fayole said it was important for the EU to be “even more ambitious” and apply similar rules to lighting appliances, televisions and monitors.

Manufacturers are under a lot of pressure because they allegedly make it difficult and expensive to fix products or replace key components, in order to drive up sales.

The repairability measures were born out of an EU mandate called the Ecodesign Directive, which requires consumer goods sold in Europe be made as energy-efficient and environmentally good as possible.

Also this month, the EU reviewed repairability rules for lights, electronics, dishwashers and washing machines, according to environmental groups.

The proposed rules for fridges say people should be able to disassemble critical parts without fear of damaging the refrigerator and be able to do so with commonly available tools, according to the European Environmental Bureau.

The group said parts of refrigerators are often glued together or welded, which makes replacement of failing parts very difficult.

(Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.)

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