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France will issue repairability scores for gadgets from 2021

Created at 18.January 2021, 13:22 | Category: News

Starting January 1, electrical equipment will be required to display a “repairability index”

Smartphone repairs
French government moves ahead with ambitious plan to cut waste, encourage repairs (Source: imago images / agefotostock)

France will require repairability ratings for gadgets starting this year, becoming one of the first countries to implement a circular economy labeling system to help cut environmental waste.

Starting January 1 2021, sellers in France of electrical and electronic equipment including online sellers will be required to display a “repairability index” on their products.

The French government decree provides for gradual implementation, starting with the following categories of products: washing machines, smartphones, laptops, televisions, electric lawn mowers (battery, corded, robot), according to a French government Notification Detail sent to the European Commission.

The index is designed to help consumers know if a product is repairable or not. Various criteria have been put in place, such as the price of spare parts necessary for the correct functioning of the product. Whenever relevant, the product should also offer a usage meter, similar to an odometer. The index will be displayed as a label, poster or any other appropriate form.

“This index aims to inform the consumer regarding how easy it is to repair the product concerned,” the French government said. “This measure thus aims on the one hand to compensate for the asymmetry of information between consumers and manufacturers or distributors concerning the repairability of products and, on the other hand, to encourage manufacturers to integrate repairability criteria into the design of their products, thus tending towards products that are more durable because they are more robust because they are ‘eco-designed’.”

Consumer groups praised the initiative, but said there were missed opportunities on several topics, including design, advertising and software obsolescence.

“Advertising often pushes us to consume more than we need and is at the core of an unsustainable model,” Adèle Chasson of Repair.eu said. “Software obsolescence is the cause of growing frustration among consumers who cannot use their devices anymore because of incompatibility between hardware and software, or updates that cause the product to slow down. The French bill only partially tackles the issue.”

New rules for electrical gadgets, home furnishings and packaging

The rules will require manufacturers to make spare parts available to the seller or repairer within 15 working days. The repairer will also have the obligation to offer the customer spare parts from the circular economy.

France hopes the new measures will discourage manufacturers of phones and tablets from slowing down or deteriorating devices prematurely via the use of software updates.

Repair
Plan could make France world leader in sustainability (Source: Ministère de la Transition écologique)

The rules also address longstanding concerns around packaging. In early 2020, the French government took the lead in adopting a package of laws designed to speed the country’s transition to a circular economy and accelerate the change of production and consumption model in order to limit waste and preserve natural resources, biodiversity and the climate.

The “anti-waste law for a circular economy” was promulgated on February 10, 2020, and several of the decrees will go into effect on a staggered schedule over the next few years.

It classifies 130 articles sold in stores and online that should be removed from stores or recycled or reused. It also aims to ban planned obsolescence and permit products to be repaired. France hopes the rules will transform its throw away economy into a circular economy.

In addition to the “repairability index” rule, another aspect of the law entered into force on January 1, 2021. It prohibits the free distribution of plastic bottles by government agencies, and limits their use of plastic bottles at sports events. It also bans plastic confetti, polystyrene boxes, and ends the manufacture and import of single-use plastic bags.

Starting January 1, 2022, plastic wrapping of fresh fruits and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kilograms will be prohibited. Establishments open to the public will be required to be equipped with at least one drinking water fountain accessible to the public. Press publications and advertisements will be shipped without plastic packaging. Non-biodegradable plastic tea and herbal tea bags will be prohibited for sale. Plastic toys, offered free of charge to children as part of menus, will be prohibited. Sticking a label directly on fruits or vegetables will be prohibited, unless these labels are compostable and made in whole or in part from bio-based materials. The French state will no longer buy single-use plastics either for use in its workplaces or in events it organizes.

The law also plans to move towards the goal of 100% recycled plastic by January 1, 2025. Ultimately, the law provides for the end of the marketing of single-use plastic packaging by 2040. To achieve this, reduction, reuse and reuse and recycling objectives will be set by decree. These objectives are spread over four periods, allowing a gradual ban on single-use plastics.

France’s environmental rules build on EU Parliament resolution

The new repairability requirements adopted by France build on EU Commission requirements set in 2019.

In October 2019, the EU Commission adopted 10 ecodesign implementing regulations, setting out energy efficiency and other requirements for the Refrigerators, Washing machines, Dishwashers, Electronic displays (including televisions), Light sources and separate control gears, External power suppliers, Electric motors, Refrigerators with a direct sales function (e.g. fridges in supermarkets, vending machines for cold drinks), Power transformers, and Welding equipment.

The European Commission estimates that this package of measures will deliver 167 TWh of final energy savings per year by 2030. This is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of Denmark. These savings correspond to a reduction of over 46.million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and could save European households on average €150 per year, the EC said in a press release.

But in November 2020, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution urging the European Commission to go farther — much in the direction France has just taken.

According to point 11 of the “Facilitating Repairs” chapter, the EU Parliament “Calls on the Commission to establish a consumers’ ‘right to repair’ with a view to making repairs systematic, cost efficient and attractive, taking into account the specificities of different product categories along the lines of the measures already taken for several household appliances under the Ecodesign Directive.”

The European Parliament (EP) also insisted on increasing support for second-hand goods markets. To that end, they called for measures to tackle practices that shorten the lifetime of a product, and endorsed sustainable production and common charging systems to reduce electronic waste.

Whether the rest of the EU’s 26 countries will act to match France’s ambitious new plan remains unclear.

Still, most Europeans want to see government action. In a survey by the EC, it was found that 77% of Europeans thought it was important to make an effort to have broken appliances repaired before buying new ones.

Though the EU ecodesign measures only apply to products placed on the Union market, it is likely that many other countries will adopt the EU standards given that the EU is the world’s second largest marketplace after the U.S. (Posteo News)