IFA Berlin: 8 recommendations for electronic products with long lifespans

Allowing long-term repairs

Using products for longer reduces pressure on the environment and the climate. In collaboration with the Centre for Consumer Research and Sustainable Consumption (Verbraucherforschung und nachhaltiger Konsum, vunk) at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, the Oeko-Institut has drawn up eight points for a sustainable product policy. These should contribute to prolonging the lifespans of electrical and electronic products.

Strengthen the Ecodesign Directive’s repair requirements

The experts fundamentally welcome the new requirements of the EU Ecodesign Directive for longer service life, particularly with regard to availability of spare parts and access to repair and maintenance information, although so far these requirements only apply to five product groups.

“We call for the new repair requirements to apply to all electronic and electrical products,” says Siddharth Prakash, an Oeko-Institut expert in sustainable consumption. “And all spare parts should be held in stock for at least ten years.”

Delivery times of 15 working days for spare parts are also too long for many consumers, and should be cut to five working days. “This can make a vital contribution to encouraging more repairs in practice,” Prakash emphasises, “resulting in better conservation of raw materials so that the European Union achieves its resource conservation targets.”

Introduce an independent register of repairers

In addition, all European Member States should develop an independent register of “competent repair providers”. So far the regulations require manufacturers to keep their own registers listing the specialised firms they have authorised until such time as the respective Member State has set up such a register.

The Oeko-Institut and vunk therefore call for Germany to establish a national register of repair providers, which would allow other competent stakeholders such as repair initiatives and repair cafes with relevant skills to enter their details. “Smaller and medium-sized repair firms and initiatives must not be disadvantaged in obtaining spare parts and repair-related information,” insists Friedhelm Keimeyer, deputy head of the Institute’s Environmental Law & Governance division.

Other key components for longer lifespans

The other recommendations made by the Oeko-Institut and vunk are aimed at strengthening the rights of purchasers of electrical and electronic products. To achieve this, existing civil law must be developed further and tailored towards product longevity.

“To enable consumers to take longer or shorter product lifespans into consideration when making their purchasing choices, mandatory minimum service life labelling must be introduced. The statutory limitation period on purchasers’ rights should also be extended considerably,” emphasises Prof. Dr Tobias Brönneke, Head of the Centre for Consumer Research and Sustainable Consumption (vunk) at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences.

Other key aspects, according to the authors, are to extend the rights of environmental associations to initiate class actions for breaches of consumer protection, and to prolong the reversal of the burden of proof in the event of defects.

The recommendations were an outcome of the research project “Further development of anti-obsolescence strategies including legal instruments” commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

Core recommendations of the Oeko-Institut (in German): “Weiterentwicklung von Strategien gegen Obsoleszenz einschließlich rechtlicher Instrumente” [Further development of anti-obsolescence strategies including legal instruments].