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

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.

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.

Comments

Good for Europe, but I’ll bet we Americans will get the specially sealed "us only" phones while Europe will get the fixable ones.

I’d doubt it if doing so requires drastically different designs.

Nop, it’s super profitable thing to produce "disposable phones", so I bet there will be different designs. Also, im happy to live in EU and enjoy a lot of smart politics. My favourite is complete killing of GSM routing. We have our home tariffs all over the EU.

When phone’s with swapable batteries where a thing (eg the original Samsung note series) I found it extremely useful to just be able carry a spare battery and swap it out during the day

Good. Other places should follow their lead.

Removable batteries and longer software support would be a good start. I could easily use my OnePlus 6 for 4 years – the only limiting factor would be the battery degradation – if I could replace it myself, it would be great.

Why do you need to be able to replace the battery yourself?

Just take it to a OnePlus store or authorized OnePlus repair shop and they’ll swap it for you while you wait.

That’s what I did it with my iPhone 6s. I think it was 39€ for parts and labour and it took something like 30 minutes. Couldn’t be easier and my 4,5 years old iPhone runs like a champ, latest software and all.

If EU insists on making batteries user swappable like in the old Nokia phones, we’ll lose waterproofing, we get less battery capacity or chunkier devices as the use of space inside the device won’t be as efficient (no, you really don’t want a thicker device) and we can also say bye bye to solid non-creaking build quality of current phones.

lol. galaxy s5 was actually thinner than the s9, and the s5 active was slightly thicker. lots of phones had both swappable batteries and waterproofing. and you don’t even need ‘swappable’ batteries with a slide-off back. you just need to not glue the damn thing together. it’s not hard to design things with easy disassembly in mind, they just don’t want to. that might not be a lot to you, but the cost and inconvenience is a barrier to getting it done. especially with a lower end device where that cost is a significant portion of a new one. (also pretty sure there’s no such thing as a ""oneplus store."") lowering barriers and making people aware your can do this will mean more people will hang onto phones longer. and they’ll be more likely to sell or give them to someone else when they do get a new one. it’s your imaginary thinner phone more important than reducing the amount of valuable materials we throw out needlessly in the name or corporate profits?

Absolutely.
I don’t think the weird objection to becoming more climate neutral is about thinner phones and waterproofing, but more in defence of their favourite hardware manufacturer (who apparently can do no wrong).
That, is a really weird thing to do, lol.

Fuck that.

As mentioned above waterproofing is only the matter of design. Just look at something like gopro..

lolwut my 2 year old samsung s5 survived a dip in water

Longer software support is going to be a huge problem for most Android OEMs because they aren’t making any money even now and it’s a considerable effort to provide the updates, especially if you have dozens of models to support.

About the last bit of the article, about the bits and how, i think it’s normal given it’s just a plan for a new directive now. Basically they are announcing what they plan to do, then there is a lot of steps involved, but given their commitment on environment recently it should be ok.

If this were to simply require an OPTION, okay.

But if it’s a requirement, it’s going to lead to compromises that tilt in a direction that many or even a majority of consumers don’t actually want.

it’s going to lead to compromises that tilt in a direction that many or even a majority of consumers don’t actually want.

How do you know this with certainty?

people don’t want to be able to do simple repairs themselves or lower the cost of having then done? they don’t want to be able to easily extend the useful life of a device by heart slapping a new battery in it?

Yes, it may be difficult to understand for some of you, but normal consumers really don’t want to do simple repairs themselves.

You can already extend the life of your iPhone by getting the battery replaced by authorized repair shop or Apple Store or by mailing it in. It’s not expensive.

It’s really a zero issue.

Demanding desktop PC like repairability from mobile devices will lead to chunky and shitty devices nobody wants and it will hinder innovation. Some device categories like smart watches are practically impossible to make properly repairable – the amount of tiny electronics inside them is staggering. Do you want to wear a hockey puck on your wrist? No you don’t.

What we need (in addition to effective recycling) is affordable repairs/replacements for typical issues: batteries and cracked displays. Consumers do not need to be able to perform them, it’s enough if a certified repair shop can do it in reasonable time for a reasonable cost.

Just gonna refer people to your answer since it also would have been my answer.

The idea that "tinkerers" make up a sizable portion of the consumer market is a myth.

It’s not about tinkerers though. It’s about normal people who want to use standard chargers, and extending the battery life of their phones easily and cheaply.

Requiring a standard charging solution would stifle innovation.

I honestly don’t believe that most people see a huge difference between buying a power bank and being able to buy and swap out batteries — and also that most would prefer the former solution if told that replaceable batteries would likely compromise the build quality of their devices.

If removable batteries were a huge selling point, some company would be catering to that market.

eu already requires a standard charging solution and that is a Good Thing. Go back to hiding under your bridge.

No – it is not a good thing. Go drink your Kool-Aid.

so… you want to go back to every manufacturer having their own incompatible chargers? nokia running 6v over a 3×1mm connector and samsung doing 5.5v over a 39 1/2 pin dock, such innovation!
you people are the tech equivalent of rednecks rolling coal.

I want each manufacturer to make the best decisions that suit their product – not having to make compromises to shoehorn in some mandated tech.

Wires and pins is not the scourge you seem to think it is.

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