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The EU wants to introduce a ‘right to repair’ for phones and tablets by 2021

The EU wants to introduce a ‘right to repair’ for phones and tablets by 2021


Part of plans for the union to become climate neutral by 2050

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An illustration of the EU flag.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The European Commission has announced plans for new “right to repair” rules that it hopes will cover phones, tablets, and laptops by 2021. If successful, these rules will mean these devices should remain useful for longer before needing to be recycled or ending up in landfills. The plans were introduced as part of a wide-ranging set of product initiatives that also cover textiles, plastics, packaging, and food with the aim of helping the trading bloc become climate neutral by 2050.

As well as introducing new “right to repair” rules, the EU also wants products to be more sustainably designed in the first place. Under the new plan, products should be more durable, reusable, upgradeable, and constructed out of more recycled materials. The EU’s hope is to reward manufacturers that achieve these goals. Finally, the EU is also considering introducing a new scheme to let consumers more easily sell or return old phones, tablets, and chargers.

Similar rules were introduced for household appliances last year

The EU introduced “right to repair” rules for household appliances like televisions and washing machines last year. Now, the organization wants to expand the amount of products covered by its eco-design laws to include these consumer electronic devices, less than 40 percent of which are thought to be recycled in the EU, The Guardian notes.

Questions remain about how many of these initiatives will work in practice, and the EU’s official announcement doesn’t appear to address them directly. For example, will companies be forced to allow customers to repair their own devices, or will they be allowed to force customers to come to them directly? The legislation is still in its early stages, and it will need to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament before it can become law.

Along with working to make devices easier to repair, the European Parliament recently voted for the commission to introduce a common phone charger across all devices. It’s a move it hopes will lead to less e-waste when consumers can reuse their existing chargers across more devices.